The challenges that come with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can often feel daunting.
SEO is a marketing channel that tends to be largely misunderstood and the SEO tactics one employs can often see the difference between a webpage appearing in a consumer’s line of site or getting lost on pay 7 of a SERP (search engine result’s page).
However, in the quest to increase a webpage’s ranking in a search engine, there are some marketers who employ older SEO techniques that are today considered unethical and these are called ‘Black Hat’ practices.
Black Hat SEO tactics need to be avoided, not least of all because their use often fall foul of a search engine’s terms of services and can result in a site being banned from that search engine and affiliate sites. So where some might consider the short term SEO gains that Black Hat practices offer as beneficial, the detrimental risk that their use places on one’s website presence online is simply too high.
So what Black Hat SEO tactics should you be avoiding? Here are 4 of them:
Keyword stuffing was the leading SEO strategy to kill a site. It was the practice of filling a web page with keywords that crawling bots used by search engines would find and consider high traffic keywords - and boost the ranking of a website. Keywords were even hidden so that they could not seen by a website user, but could be detected by search engine crawlers. However, these keywords were in fact irrelevant to the actual site.
The reason marketers did this was to combat the impact of those keywords that were actually relevant to one’s brand but simply didn’t have a high percentage of search volume.
Ultimately, keyword stuffing usually results in poor user experience which today harms a sites ranking because search engines have become much cleverer in detecting websites whose pages use irrelevant terms.
Lesson to be learned: When designing your SEO strategy, the first step is to build a comprehensive keyword strategy that retains authenticity but tactical enough to include any keywords or phrases that will best showcase your products or services on your website and that result in long term organic traffic results. Use the SEO tools that are out there, like SEMRush or Google’s Keyword Planner, to establish the SEO marketing efforts of other brands and to measure specific keyword terms to help you siphon out those you don’t need, and target those that you do.
Cloaking is principally a Black Hat SEO technique of delivering content to search engine crawlers that is different to that of what is shown to the users. It tricks users by taking them to sites that they didn’t intend to visit by disguising the real content of those sites.
Cloaking is achieved by presenting a search engine spider and a browser with different content from the same webpage. This is further aggravated by IP addresses or HTTP header information delivering the wrong webpages which results in an online user accessing webpages with content that they simply weren’t looking for.
Lesson to be learned: Don’t use keywords, titles or descriptions in your website’s content that have absolutely nothing to do with what your brand offers. This will end up in your website being heavily penalized by being severely pushed down in search engine rankings or by being banned from the index altogether.
Low Quality Link Building
The extent to which your content is being referenced by other sources is critical in improving SEO ranking. Search engines look at hyperlinks (external links) to determine a particular web page’s relevancy, so many using Black Hat SEO tactics began purchasing hyperlink placements on other websites as part of their SEO strategy.
Even today, link farms which are a group of websites that use hyperlinks to connect with one another to try and increase their search engine rankings exist. However, linking your website to sites that contain unrelated and often low quality content to try and improve online visibility is not something you want to be doing. Especially when search engine algorithms and webspam teams are penalizing this technique, by reducing your page authority and letting your search engine rankings plummet.
Lesson to be learned: Focus on strategic external links on websites that are highly credible and relevant to your industry and your brand. Further, establish relationships and authority with relevant industry influencers and other media outlets who over time will want to consider content sharing opportunities with you which in turn will result in not only higher but also relevant referral traffic back to your website.
Duplicate Content and keyword stacking
SEO tactics today are all about creating the best user experience through epic content. This wasn’t the case in the not so distant past when content creation was all about duplicating the same words or phrases repeatedly to improve SEO ranking. This became known as keyword stacking. Search engines don’t like this type of content quite frankly, and if utilized, will harm a website’s ranking – diminishing it almost instantly.
In the same way, don’t copy content from other websites. Duplicated text is easily detected by search engines and your website will be punished if this type of content is found on int.
Lesson to be learned: Create content that is authentic, that has an easy natural flow to it, slotting in critical keywords in a way that doesn’t sound forced or generic. Remember, you are writing for people, not hardware or software.
Black hat tactics and techniques are being used every day by companies hoping to get their website seen quicker and ranked higher than their competitors; but is it worth it for a short-term moment of glory? The answer is no.
If you take a gamble with any Black Hat tactics, chances are you’re likely to be penalized or worse, you website will disappear completely from search engine results pages. There are many ways to ethically boost and improve your website’s ranking and although it may take a more long-term SEO strategic approach, the results will see your efforts being rewarded rather than punished.