Search engines try to serve the most relevant result that would meet the needs of a searcher. To do that, they set guidelines all websites need to comply. These search engine guidelines can vary slightly depending on the search engine. These guidelines provide the framework for best search engine optimization (SEO) practices. SEO and online marketing techniques that do not violate these guidelines help a website perform better in search engine rankings.
For most companies, marketing teams, and online marketing companies, the pressure to perform can sometimes result in shortcuts taken which can violate the search engine guidelines whether intentionally or otherwise. When this happens, there is a chance that search engines would penalize or ban the website from search results. The quest for short-term results can cause long-term damage that is often difficult to reverse. It is essential to know and understand black hat SEO so that you are aware of what you should not do to and either plan a sustainable SEO campaign in-house or to evaluate the work done by your SEO agency effectively.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Any search engine optimization practice that is considered unethical or deceptive is deemed to be black hat SEO. Technically, any violation of a search engine’s guideline can be considered unethical is consider black hat. All violations are not serious, and most search engines tend to ignore minor violations if the rest of the site’s SEO practices are ethical and search engine friendly. However, there are SEO techniques that are considered a severe breach of search engine guidelines and can result in penalization. Given below are some black hat SEO techniques you should avoid and make sure your SEO agency does not practice.
In the past, many SEO agencies advocated that the only way to acquire links was to purchase them. Many businesses were created and thrived on monetizing the purchase and sale of links. These businesses had to close or find new link building avenues after Google’s Penguin update established this was clearly a black hat SEO technique. Even in the days when this was considered a legitimate practice by many, great SEO agencies like Flying Cow Design never recommended this as a way to acquire links, but actually rely on organic link building for clients.
Just as bad as purchasing links, is participating in linking schemes like participating in link farms, indiscriminate link exchange, affiliate, and advertising links masked as organic links, hidden or invisible links, paid blogging, and more. All of these are considered deceptive and not natural linking practices and should be avoided.
Duplicate and Near Duplicate Content
Creating multiple pages with the same or extremely similar content, often with just the name of a place or a few words changed, does not add any new value and crowds search engine indexes. Also, creating different pages with only the targeted keyword being slightly different, with no difference in the message conveyed is pretty much the same as duplicate or near duplicate content. Many sites were penalized for poor quality content after Google’s Panda update rolling out, making website owners rethink content strategies. You need to make sure that every piece of material you publish on your website has some value to add and does not qualify as duplicate or near duplicate content.
Consider this: 10 writers independently write an article on the same topic with a close defined focus and message in each paragraph. Since each writer’s style and language would be different, these would all be unique pages. Not only do you now have ten pages saying the same thing, but through mixing and matching paragraphs from the various pieces of content, you could be creating tens of thousands of pages saying the same thing. This is manual content spinning. The same can be done using tools that replace words with synonyms and creating many pages with technically unique content but no unique value. This is considered a black hat technique that can result in penalization.
A common misconception is that if a keyword appears more number of times in the content, the page would eventually rank for that keyword. This misconception leads to companies and agencies keyword stuffing the content of the page which makes the content read awkward and takes away the reader-friendliness of the content. This is, at best, considered over-optimization and is also regarded as a black hat technique aimed at deceiving the search engine. Your content needs to add value to the reader and not stuffed with keywords aimed at getting search engines to rank higher.
This is yet another technique that has often been practiced by web design firms and SEOs. White text against a white background, using CSS to display text so small that it is unreadable, showing the text outside the visible area of an HTML page, hiding text behind widgets, Flash, or other components, have all been tried with short-term success by SEOs. All of these are considered black hat. Anything that is visible to search engines should also be visible to visitors and should not be hidden or rendered invisible in any way.
These are pages created only for search engines and not for visitors. For some time SEO firms used to wrongly recommend that these were the only way to rank for keywords. Any page that does not add value to visitors is unlikely to rank in search results and can at best be a waste of time and the flooding of search engine index.
Cloaking happens when websites display different content to visitors and search engines. This black hat SEO technique will result in penalization and mistrust by potential customers.
Ad Only Pages
Many times, to monetize domains and websites, pages get created that contain nothing but advertising messages linking to other sites. These are considered black hat and should not be used. Google’s latest page layout algorithm also penalizes any page that has advertising in the first fold and content displayed only after scrolling. It is important to have pages with quality content that is displayed in the top of the page layout.
These are just some of the serious violations of search engine guidelines to avoid while doing SEO in-house or working with an agency. Partnering with an agency that takes pride in white hat SEO and is aware of the guidelines is one way to ensure you build a website with sustainable SEO without the risk of penalization, regardless of future changes in search engine algorithms.
What is White Hat SEO?
White hat search engine optimization techniques are successful on-page and off-page SEO tactics to ensure your website ranks high on search engines, follows the guidelines, and provides users with high-quality content. Your content will use only relevant keywords in the content headings, tags, and anchor text for links. These white hat SEO techniques are the exact opposite of black hat SEO techniques and will ensure your website visibility improves and provides a positive user experience.
Online Marketing Services from Flying Cow Design
When you work with an online marketing firm for the SEO of your website, it is important that your partner understands search engine guidelines and avoids back hat SEO techniques. Flying Cow Design has been helping clients build a strong online presence through our design and online marketing services. When you need a website that will improve your online presence through white hat SEO, contact us about our internet marketing services.
CEO, Flying Cow Design
Attended University of Auckland
Lives in San Francisco Bay Area