Black Hat SEO Techniques That Are Killing Your Website
Those who have been in the SEO game for quite a while know that ranking well in search engines takes times and effort, which makes hacking the system all the more appealing to most newcomers.
Search engine optimization is governed by practices and rules that keep the playing field level for all participants, yet there are SEO players who try to circumvent the rules hoping to gain a quick advantage over others. These are the Black Hat SEOs, who turn to shortcuts and strategies that are disapproved by Google, as opposed to White Hat SEOs, who promote high-value content and follow the guidelines laid down by search engines.
Black Hat SEO strategies may indeed bring some successes, but most of the time these successes are short-lived, and eventually they might cut all your SEO efforts short. Google’s penalties make sure of that.
What are Google Penalties?
If you use Black Hat methods to boost your rankings in search results, being hit with a Google penalty means losing your current ranking in search engines, which can have devastating consequences for your website, especially if you rely primarily on organic traffic from Google.
There are two significant Google updates that are worth mentioning when it comes to penalties: The Penguin update and the Panda update.
The Penguin update was introduced in 2012 with the goal to identify websites that were spamming Google’s search results by obtaining links that were created solely with the purpose of boosting rankings. The Panda update had a different goal in mind, which was to prevent sites with low-quality content to get top spots in search results.
Both updates penalized sites that were not fair game, dropping their positions in search results or even removing them from search results entirely.
Google’s algorithms are continuously updated to weed out SEO practices that are not in line with SEO rules and to fine-tune search results so that they best serve the interests of Google users.
Therefore, it’s important to stay tuned to the changes that occur in the SEO landscape and avoid Black Hat SEO techniques that might kill your website.
Black Hat SEO Techniques to Avoid
To avoid any Google penalties and to keep your organic traffic flowing in, take a look at the most toxic Black Hat SEO strategies that, if used, will end up killing your website:
One of the ways Google ranks websites is through links. While in the recent past, link quantity was all that mattered, today, link quality has become a more important ranking signal. Breaking the rules of SEO link-building will hit your site with a Penguin penalty, so here’s what you shouldn’t do when it comes to links:
If Google values links, you may think that the easiest way to get ahold of links is to buy them from websites with high Domain Authorities. While this may seem logical, it goes against Google’s guidelines.
Google tracks links that might be purchased or artificial, so it’s unlikely that you can elude the rules on this matter, and once discovered, you can expect a manual or automatic penalty to be coming your way.
Reciprocal Linking Schemes
For the same reasons that link-buying is considered an artificial way to boost rankings, link exchanges that happen en masse between sites that have no relevance to each other also fall into the same category.
Contextually relevant links used sparingly and with common sense are the only ones you should use if you don’t want to run the risk of getting penalized.
Footer links are a Black Hat SEO strategy designed with the idea to get a backlink from every page of a website, since all pages will contain the footer.
The general stance, however, is that if these footer links are included only for SEO purposes and don’t serve any value to readers (which usually they don’t since they are buried in a footer), then we’re facing the same penalty concerns as with every other artificial link-building strategy.
Hidden links are another deceptive SEO technique that must be avoided because Google can easily identify if a site has hidden links or hidden text.
The problem with hiding links or texts is that they show different content to visitors than they do to crawlers, which is a serious SEO offence that is not tolerated by Google.
Websites that allow comments that get published unmoderated are often bombarded with spammy comments with links that point to completely unrelated websites.
Those who post these links think that this is an easy way to get some SEO juice for their websites. But they’re wrong for two reasons: First, these are spamming practices Google simply abhors, secondly, they are often irrelevant to the context and have absolutely no value for readers.
These comment spams can also take the form of malicious backlinks, which have the purpose of damaging the authority of a website. Therefore, you should check if there are any suspicious sites linking to your website and remove them for your website or use the Google Search Console Disavow Tool to ask Google to disregard them.
Overdoing Anchor Texts
Anchor texts are the clickable texts you see in hyperlinks. When trying to link back to a page and rank for specific terms, the anchor text will contain a related search phrase.
However, if you use the same anchor text over and over, or you’re using too many anchor texts, you’ll raise a red flag, because Google will pick on the fact that you’re trying to rank for specific search phrases.
How to build links instead: Google’s view is that links to your website should be earned, and not artificially created just to please search engines. Links earned through publishing content that has value and relevance is the best way to get ahead in search engines.
Content is another driving force of search engine optimization, which means it’s also susceptible to be hijacked by Black Hat SEO techniques.
When it comes to content, keyword stuffing, duplicate content, and hidden content are the three most common Black Hat SEO techniques that will kill your site.
Using a keyword you are trying to rank for over and over again on a page will lead to over-optimization, which means that you’re trying to impress search engines instead of offering answers to your readers’ queries.
Keyword stuffing used to work as a way to get ahead in search engines, but today Google has more methods to determine what your content is about and whether it’s valuable or not to your readers.
Creating original pieces of content is time-consuming and involves doing research, coming up with good ideas, and finding ways to serve that content in a way that is engaging and interesting for your readers. But this is a whole lot of work that many SEOs are unwilling to do, so they copy content from other websites.
But copying content from other websites is a surefire way to land a Google penalty. Google favors original content, and it sees no value in ranking well a copycat website.
Hidden content is somewhat related to keyword stuffing in that it serves the same purpose: Adding related keywords and phrases to a content with the hope of boosting rankings.
Hidden content is invisible to visitors because it’s usually published in the same color as the background, but it’s very much visible to search engines.
Hidden content is a blatant attempt to manipulate search engine results, which is one of the reasons Google doesn’t like finding hidden texts or links on your website. Another reason is that hidden content is not conducive to a good user experience, because your site shows one thing to bots and a different thing to visitors.
How to create content instead: Generating original and valuable content should be a time-consuming endeavor, and Google has the means to measure and analyze the content you’re putting out. Content that is well-researched, original, comprehensive, diverse, and engaging through images, videos, and well-structured text will have priority over content that’s drawn up only for SEO purposes.
Website security is another important parameter that Google prioritizes when ranking websites.
If your site is unsecured Google will be wary of serving it in search results, so websites that are not secured are ranked less favorably than those that do, because unsecured websites are more prone to attacks and injection with malicious code by hackers or others who want to undermine a website’s authority.
If Google finds that your site was hacked or injected with malicious code it sends a notification through Google Analytics. As for the penalties of not dealing with a website security issue, Google can block your site from search results, it can display messages to visitors that your site may have been hacked, or your site can lose its position is search results.
At first you may find some Black Hat SEO strategies appealing, but upon closer inspection you’ll realize that they’re only killing your website. There’s a reason why Google has guidelines that must be followed, so if you’re looking to rank well in search engines, you’ll have to play by the same rules as everyone else.