This post originally appeared on tBL member Joshua Lyon’s blog Joshua Lyons Marketing Blog and is republished with permission. Find out how to syndicate your content with theBrokerList.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing organic traffic to your website from search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing etc.). There are two different types of SEO which are off-site and on-site SEO. Blackhat SEO is the term used when talking about SEO practices that are frowned upon, and potentially unethical. There are many different blackhat SEO tactics that you should avoid if you don’t want Google to penalize you. In this blog post, we discuss some of the most common blackhat SEO tactics to avoid.
What Happens if You Use Blackhat Tactics?
Before we go into the various blackhat SEO tactics you need to avoid, you should know what happens if you use them. When you choose to use blackhat SEO tactics, you risk experiencing both short-term and long-term penalties. So, although it may be easier to use one of the tactics below, it still is not worth it. The time you save will end up costing you months, and at times even years, of work to recover.
Lower Search Engine Results
The least severe penalty you may receive is a lower search engine ranking. When you use blackhat SEO tactics on a post or page, Google will normally lower its rank in search results. This will likely be a permanent penalty on just that webpage, unless you fix it and they reindex the page. But, keep in mind, this is the most common procedure for smaller offenses.
However, if you continue to use blackhat tactics on multiple webpages, your whole website may have challenges ranking well for weeks. In other words, every page on your website will have a lower ranking until you fix the poor tactics. Some websites get lucky and only have difficulties for a few days after making these changes. But, some do have challenges long after they fix their website to only have ethical tactics.
Long-Term Difficulty Ranking Well
There are situations where websites can’t rank well for months if they commit severe penalties. Even some of the largest corporations and websites have been penalized for months due to their blackhat SEO tactics. For example, Overstock.com and Home Depot were removed from the first page of search results for two months. These massive companies could have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars due to these penalties.
To show how serious Google is about penalties, they even penalized themselves on their Google Chrome site for two months because they purchased backlinks. And although you may not lose hundreds of thousands of dollars by being removed from the first page of Google, any loss should be avoided. If you practice blackhat SEO repeatedly, you can eliminate exposure for your website for months.
Permanent Removal from Search Results
Worst case scenario, if you use blackhat SEO tactics, your website may be removed from search engines permanently. Websites that do not fix their blackhat tactics may receive a permanent removal of their website from search engines. This can result in a decrease in website traffic as much as 94%. For example, if you consistently copy and paste someone else’s content (which is a tactic we mention below) on your website and make no effort to remove it, Google may remove your website from their search results. Even if you resolve all issues and request a re-indexing and they add your website to results again, you will likely rank very low in results. So, it’s best to not practice unethical SEO practices at all and only use tactics Google approves of.
Buying Harmful Backlinks
A backlink is a form of off-site SEO, and is the result of someone linking from another website to your website. Google has an incredibly complex algorithm that evaluates the quality of websites based on a number of factors. They even evaluate the quality of the website where your backlink is found, as an indicator of the quality of your website. If a link to your website is found on a high-quality website, Google will likely rank you higher. On the other hand, if a link to your website is found on a low-quality website, Google will likely rank you much lower.
Purchasing backlinks from a “link farm” is a bad way to generate backlinks and it can be very dangerous, as it’s against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Paying a popular blogger to provide a link to your website will probably be fine, but paying the owner of a suspicious website to list your link on their site would not be wise. Don’t cause the decrease of your website ranking due to acquiring poor quality backlinks. Rather, make sure the backlinks you acquire are from reputable websites that Google respects. If you have questions about this, feel free to shoot us a message.
It’s also worth pointing out that Google likes naturally occurring links to your website. It’s much better to just have high-quality content or provide good services so people will leave non-paid links to your website. They could do this by linking to your website from their blog, or from their social media pages. Google will notice this, Google will like this, and it will help increase your website rankings. If you create readable content that is worthy of being shared, you won’t need to purchase backlinks.
Other Blackhat SEO Tactics
There are many other blackhat SEO tactics that will decrease your website’s ranking on Google, and other search engines. It’s important to steer clear of these tactics if you wish to have a high-performance website that ranks well.
Keyword Stuffing and Unrelated Keywords
Keyword stuffing is the inclusion of an unnatural number of keywords. When you’re practicing on-site SEO and you choose a keyword to include in your content, make sure you don’t overuse that keyword. Also, failing to use important keywords in your content will tell Google you shouldn’t be highly ranked. As a result, it will lower your chance of people finding your website.
Google takes the quality of your content into account when they determine how to rank your website. Therefore, avoid keyword stuffing and targeting unrelated keywords for your page or blog post. As an example, this post is targeting the keyword phrase “blackhat SEO tactics”. We should make sure to use that keyword phrase throughout this post. But, we shouldn’t include it in every header and paragraph. That would be overkill.
Spammy Footer Text and Links
The footer of your website can impact your rankings in search results. However, this doesn’t mean you should take advantage of it and link every webpage you have in your footer. Additionally, you shouldn’t link to external URLs in this area. Remember, Google understands the importance of user experience. When Google is indexing your website, they know to look for signs of quality for your website visitors. So, your footer should serve as a way to help your website visitors and not a method of stuffing links on your page. While more links do help your ranking, Google recognizes link stuffing, even in your footer, as a blackhat SEO tactic.
Invisible text is text that with the same color as the background of a website, so it is unnoticeable to the human eye. Many website owners do this to repeat a keyword over and over again, thinking that it will boost their search result rankings.
The truth is, using invisible text to increase the number of times your SEO keyword is in your content, is yet another fast way to lower your website’s search result ranking. As mentioned earlier, Google will rank websites with poor-quality content lower than those with good-quality content. Human eyes can’t see invisible text, but it is definitely detectable by Google… and it doesn’t make Google happy. Invisible text was actually a very common SEO tactic a little over a decade ago, but Google updated their algorithm to account for this SEO tactic. Once the update was made, many websites were blacklisted by Google. It was a very interesting, frustrating and exciting time in the SEO community.
Similarly to invisible text, you should not create your own backlinks by using invisible text. If you are mentioning a topic you have discussed in detail in another blog post, then you should create a clear and visible backlink to that in your content. Don’t jeopardize your website performance by hiding your backlink with a font color that matches the background of your page or post. At the end of the day, it just isn’t worth it.
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Many website owners practice cloaking on their websites to encourage Google to rank them higher. This is where the website developer codes their site to look one way to Google, and another to their website visitors. Most of the time, people do this to drive traffic to a page that sells products or services so they can make money. They use a popular keyword and make Google believe their page is relevant to it through coding. Usually, websites are caught using cloaking through reports from users since search engines cannot see the pages themselves. Users get frustrated when website owners manipulate them, so they take action against the site. So, it’s best to just optimize the page you wish to drive traffic to the right way.
When Google indexes a particular webpage and ranks it well, it can be tempting to add a redirect to a page you prefer. For example, if Google were to rank this blog post well, it may be tempting to redirect this page to our SEO Services page so it will get more traffic. However, this is another form of blackhat SEO. When Google ranks one page well, they expect that page to be what their users see. So, you should only use redirects when necessary.
Some necessary redirects are:
- After you change the URL of a page, but not its content.
- Creating a new webpage with a new URL to replace to old one.
- Updating the content in a blog post to be more timely and republishing it with a new URL.
No matter what, you should never redirect a blog post to your services’ or products’ pages to hopefully get more sales. This is clearly an unnecessary and inappropriate redirect, which Google will recognize.
Scraping and Article Spinning
Scraping and article spinning are essentially plagiarism. We know plagiarism is illegal, but did you know Google dislikes plagiarism as well and protects the original author of the content? They will flag any duplicate content found and will take the plagiarism into consideration when ranking your website. Even if you have permission to use the content on your own website, and you provide a link going to the original source, it can still be dangerous to duplicate copy.
Thankfully, there is a way to avoid getting a penalty for duplicating content. We discuss this in detail in our “Duplicate Content: What You Need to Know” blog post. If you’re a franchisee with permission to use website content from your corporate office, you should think twice. Is your website about to use the exact same content used on many other franchisee websites in your company? Just because corporate says you can to, it doesn’t mean you should.
Switching Out Content After Getting Backlinks
Similarly to inappropriate redirects, you should not switch out your content on a page. This most commonly occurs after receiving a backlink or several backlinks thanks to link baiting. For example, say a blogger links to your blog post because you mention a statistic they would like to give you credit for. If you get a significant amount of traffic to this page thanks to the backlink, it can be tempting to switch the content on the page to something that will drive sales. But, this is a form of blackhat SEO and it can get you in trouble. Google will soon realize you switched your content and is no longer relevant to the keywords it once ranked for.
A webring is a group of website owners that consistently link each other’s websites in their content. You can also run your own webring by inappropriately and excessively creating backlinks to your content. It is fairly difficult for Google to spot people who are in an active webring. However, it can still be considered a risky blackhat SEO tactic.
There are other forms of blackhat SEO tactics that you must avoid. Most of these tactics are common sense, meaning, if it feels wrong or tricky, it will probably upset Google’s algorithm. If you want to practice a new SEO tactic, but you are unsure of whether or not it is acceptable, always conduct research on that tactic. When a tactic is mentioned as a blackhat tactic in Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, then you must avoid using that tactic if you want good results.
If you have any questions about buying links or blackhat SEO, fill out the form below to contact us. Also, let us know if you need assistance with your SEO marketing initiative!
*** Author’s Note: We originally published this blog post in February of 2019. A lot can happen in two years, and to improve the quality of the post, we have expanded it and updated some of the information. We hope you enjoy this updated version even more than the original! ***