For those just starting in digital marketing and beginning to explore the world of search engine optimization (SEO), you will quickly learn just how vital SEO basics such as keyword use and metadata can be when trying to get your brand noticed. As an Austin SEO consultant and head of an SEO Firm, one topic that I speak and advise on is black hat SEO.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Black hat SEO is a given set of practices that are used to help increase a website or page rank in search engines. However, these practices go against search engine terms of services, tend to focus only on search engines and not human beings, and can result in severe penalties and even the removal of your website from the internet.
While a few individuals may see a small increase in results from these practices with hopes for a quick financial return, these results don’t last long and are certainly not worth the penalties.
Google is Getting Smarter—Make Sure You Are Evolving Alongside It
“Sometimes, the web just evolved. Sometimes what users expect evolves and similarly, sometimes our algorithms are, the way that we try to determine relevance, they evolve as well.” – John Mueller
SEO firms place a massive influence on keywords and meta information because the end goal is to help client’s rank high on search engines. While these SEO consultants are always working to outsmart Google algorithms, it’s essential to remember that the search engine giant is always getting smarter.
As Mueller mentioned above, Google’s algorithms are evolving, and SEO consultants know this thanks to the myriad of algorithm updates that pertain directly to SEO. These algorithms including the following.
1. Panda – Originally Released on February 23, 2011
The Panda algorithm update addressed sever different “problematic phenomena” in Google SERPS, such as:
- Duplicate content – When content appears in more than one location or unique website address (URL), it is considered duplicate content by Google. Duplicate content is the same content found under more than one URL. While this may not technically equal a penalty, it does impact ranking because search engines have difficulty deciding which page version is more relevant to a give search query.
- Lack of site authority – Lack of website authority impacts trustworthiness for a user. If a website wants to avoid the impact of Panda, it’s recommended that websites work towards becoming knowledgeable and with enough authority to have a user comfortable with providing a credit card.
- High ad-to-content ratios – High ad-to-content ratio speaks for itself. Is your website loaded with paid advertising, rather than original content.
All of this to say, Panda meant that site owners had to revamp content and optimize accordingly. Moz stated that it had tracked 28 updates to Panda between its initial release and 2015.
2. Penguin – Originally Released on April 24, 2012
The Penguin algorithm update came off the heels of Panda, and it was known as Google’s effort to reward high-quality websites and reduce the number of websites that engaged in “manipulative link schemes and keyword stuffing.”
This update targeted two practices that SEO consultants check for quite regularly.
- Keyword stuffing – This is the practice of loading a website or webpage with keywords while attempting to manipulate the site’s ranking in search results.
- Link schemes – Google considers these as any links intended to manipulate a page’s ranking on Google search results. These links violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can include any behavior that manipulates both links to your site and those that are outgoing.
The Dangers of Black Hat SEO
Black hat SEO is something discouraged not only by our Austin SEO consultants, but SEO professionals worldwide because they not only put your website at risk of being pulled from popular search engines but are also responsible for creating a poor user experience by presenting your content in an unethical manner.
While these tactics may bring you short-term success, they will do more damage in the long term by presenting information to your audience in a manner that is designed for the algorithms, not the user.
News flash: The algorithms aren’t going to buy your product or service. The real individuals that make up your audience will, but only if your information is naturally provided to them.
Black Hat SEO Techniques You Should Know
While getting the help of an SEO firm can do wonders for your website, it is still essential to understand what is considered black hat SEO.
Organic Black Hat SEO
Earlier, you learned a few black hat SEO techniques: keyword stuffing and link schemes. However, there are many other organic black practices out there, and here are a few you should be aware of.
PBNs & Link Farms
Private blog networks (PBNs) and link farms are similar in the fact that they provide blogs an option to purchase massive amounts of backlinks from high domain authority websites to help boost your own domain authority and SEO ranking. While this strategy may have worked back in the day, in 2019 it has become a surefire way to get penalized.
Cloaking is the practice of coding your website to display one version of a page to search engines while simultaneously showing a different page to your visitors.
Blog Comment Spam
This is the practice of accumulating as many backlinks to your own website to generate as much traffic as possible by adding your link to comments on other sites in either large quantities or leaving completely unrelated comments with your website linked.
Local Black Hat SEO
Local black hat SEO targets the local markets or at least attempts to target multiple local markets in an unethical manner.
Fake Local Accounts
Fake local accounts are evident when a brand puts anything by the legal name of the business into a Google My Business page. This would also include adding in anything but the legal location of your business in an attempt to reach outside markets on a “local” level. A recent report in June of 2019 showed that approximately 11 million illegitimate local listings were discovered by Google. As a result, Google is making every effort to validate and take the problem of listing authenticity more seriously.
Adding unrelated categories to your Google My Business page to reach a wider audience. If you are a fitness business, there is absolutely no reason to be adding pet care into your business’s categories.
Duplicating Pages to Target Cities
Duplicating specific pages and including local terminology to target varying cities on a local level is also considered black hat SEO.
Trust Your Austin SEO Firm to Help Set You Up for SEO Success
A trusted SEO consultant can do more for your business than you may think, including:
- Collaborating on a winning SEO & SEM game plan
- Helping you understand your niche & audience better
This requires knowing what to look for in an SEO firm and consultant. Key factors to consider include having a lack of content recommendations, little-to-no communications, lack of experience, and more.