The world of SEO can get very confusing very quickly, all thanks to the vast amount of varying information out there – a good chunk of it being utterly rubbish or even harmful. Most of the time, it’s not intentional, it just so happens that the writer themselves is an amateur trying to imminent an expert or they have fallen into the trap of misinformation; it may even be the case that the information was once perfectly acceptable but has since turned to the dark side (on that note, do always check when articles were updated before reading them).
So how do you navigate the SEO sea? Simple, you stick to the age-old good practices and avoid anything that makes you think ‘oh that’s a bit too cheeky’. In other words, stick to white hat SEO and avoid black hat SEO – but what does this mean?
What is black hat SEO?
Black hat SEO is an unethical practice which aims to get a site ranking higher in the SERPs (search engine result pages) without actually helping the user. Tactics such as cloaking, keyword stuffing, link buying and hidden text are all examples of black hat SEO. Google and other search engines will penalise sites which use black hat SEO tactics.
What is an example of black hat SEO
The example I like to use when asked about black hat SEO is cloaking – the practice of showing different content to the user than what is shown to the search engines. The aim of this practice is to get search engines to pick up all of the hidden content and display the site for the terms mentioned there without ever showing the end user that content. This is a very common tactic used by spam websites to show users the spam content but hide it from search engines and to get the spam content to show up for irrelevant terms.
Black hat SEO vs white hat SEO
Whilst black hat SEO involves using shady tactics that aim to trick search engines rather than actually produce useful content for their users, white hat SEO is the complete opposite – it’s the correct way to do SEO. White hat SEO is all about providing high quality useful content that aims to help the end user.
Examples of white hat SEO are:
- Producing high quality informative content that answers the user’s search intent
- Offering high quality services/products
- Having a mobile friendly site
- Fast website load speeds
- Using descriptive keywords
- Having a site that is easy to navigate
Now that we have a good understanding of black hat and white hat SEO, let’s dive into the SEO techniques you need to avoid at all costs.
SEO Techniques to avoid
Keyword stuffing is the practice of cramming as many keywords as possible into your content in an attempt to get search engines to rank your content for all of those keywords. Whilst using keywords within your content is definitely a good practice, overdoing it to the point that it reads unnaturally and worsens the user experience, is frowned upon by search engines. Not only are they less likely to rank your content highly but they will also penalise you for it.
At first, you may be worried because your content is full of keywords and may be wondering at what point does using keywords cross the line into keyword stuffing. The good news is that if your content reads naturally you will be just fine. On the other hand, if your content reads like a scammy advertisement with keywords placed everywhere, you probably should rewrite it to avoid being penalised. Either way, it should be pretty obvious whether you’re keyword-stuffing or not.
As explained earlier in this article, cloaking is a black hat SEO technique that involves presenting different content to search engines than what is presented to users. While this tactic used to be a viable, it’s now banned by Google and other search engines. If you practice cloaking, your site will be penalised.
What’s important to note is that showing users different content based on location is acceptable. You just need to make sure that Google can see all versions and you’re not showing users something different than what Google can see. If you’re unsure about how Google see’s your website, you can use Search Console to find this out.
Another note – if your page looks different than what Google sees because you recently updated the content on your page, this is absolutely fine and doesn’t risk being flagged as cloaking. Just wait for Google to get round to crawling the page or you can submit the URL directly to them on Search Console to get it crawled and indexed faster.
Doorway pages are a black hat SEO tactic that many people don’t mention too often when talking about SEO techniques that should be avoided. This is likely because it’s not as common anymore but it’s still a mistake that some people may make so it’s worth touching upon quickly.
Doorway pages are keyword-stuffed pages that don’t provide any real value for the user. Their sole purpose is to rank highly on SERPs and gather loads of visitors to the site. As should be clear by now, every aspect of this is black hat SEO and should be avoided unless you fancy being penalised by search engines.
Link buying/Link Farming
Link building is an important aspect of SEO and, as most good things in life, is incredibly hard to achieve. That’s why so many people many be tempted to build links either by buying them or by farming them. Unfortunately for them, this behaviour is yet another black hat SEO technique that should be avoided.
Link buying simply refers to purchasing your links – this can take the form of any transaction where you are offering something in return for a backlink to your website. Whether this be a payment or service.
Whereas, link farming refers to the creation of websites for the sole purpose of having them link back to your main site. Websites like these will often have poor quality content on the frontend and scatter links to another website throughout.
Both of these practices are in direct violation of Google’s guidelines and can result in your site being penalised.
While not exactly a black hat tactic, posting duplicate content on your website to increase your site word count or in attempt to build topical authority is a big SEO no-no. Not only will this look bad to users, it also doesn’t look great to search engines like Google.
You may be thinking, alright, what if I just alter the text a little bit to make it look different? This may work a little better but it’s still not ideal. You should aim for totally unique content on each page of your site – that is something Google and other search engines like to see and will definitely reward you for it by moving you up the search results page.
These are some of the most common SEO techniques that you should avoid if you want to stay on Google’s good side and maintain a high rank in search results. So, next time you’re tempted to try one of these black hat SEO techniques, think twice – is a temporary boost really worth a long term penalisation from Google? I didn’t think so, it’s not worth risking your websites SEO, especially when you can achieve great results from white hat SEO.
How do you get your site to page one with white hat SEO you ask?
Not sure where to start? Why not consider hiring an SEO expert to do the hard work for you? I have over 14 years of experience in delivering exceptional results for businesses of any size. If you want to find out more about the services I offer, check out the SEO services page, or if you want to have a quick chat about how we can work together to boost your rankings, don’t hesitate to give me a ring.