In one of our recent blogs, A Quick Guide to SEO: What It is and How to Build a Strategy, we go over the basics of search engine optimization and give you a couple of pointers. We’re taking that a step further and going over the opposite: what NOT to do and how to avoid black hat SEO.
Black hat SEO refers to the practice in which a business goes against search engine guidelines and tries to manipulate the system so that they rank higher. This is unethical and doesn’t tailor to the user experience. Search engines like Google are able to tell when you’re using these tactics and will penalize you. Here are common techniques that businesses have used that are considered black hat SEO strategies.
The text on your website needs to include keywords in order to rank with search engines, but using too many or useless keywords works against you. This practice is known as keyword stuffing, and it creates a negative experience for website visitors. Keyword stuffing doesn’t happen on accident—people will deliberately insert keywords to where the text sounds unnatural. For example, if a business sells jewelry, keyword stuffing could look like:
We sell the best jewelry in the jewelry industry. We sell jewelry and repair jewelry. If you need jewelry or jewelry repair, contact one of our jewelry experts to talk about your jewelry.
Obviously, no one talks like that in real life, and it’s clear that the writer is stuffing keywords into the website text to boost their SEO. In reality, this practice only results in a lower ranking.
Invisible keywords, which is changing keyword colors to be the same color as the website’s background, will also hurt your search engine ranking. This practice is sneaky and won’t cause website visitors to have a hard time reading the text, like with keyword stuffing, but it still creates a poor user experience—especially if the invisible keywords don’t relate to that page’s content. When a user clicks on a link that comes up in an online search, they’ll expect to find the information they’re looking for on your website. If you’re using invisible keywords, however, the user will only see the visible text and not what was relevant to their search. Google will recognize that you’re tricking website visitors and penalize you for doing so.
Duplicated content/useless website pages
More website pages mean more opportunities for keywords and higher search engine ranking, right? Not if the content on those pages doesn’t contain any new or useful information. An example of this would be creating separate pages for different business locations or cities your business serves. These pages may not be found in the menu bar, however, and are used as links instead on a home page, something known as a link farm. The majority of the text on each page is the exact same, with only the location being swapped out. This is a shady way to include more keyword-enriched text on your website, and Google can detect this easily.
Redirects to irrelevant pages
Another sneaky way to get extra website clicks is to use redirects. When used correctly, these are not a negative thing—using them for deceitful purposes is when you’ll run into issues. When a user clicks on your link, it will redirect them to an irrelevant page just so that page will rank higher in search results. Not only is this shady, it’s also annoying to the user, as they’ll have to click elsewhere in your website to find what they were originally looking for. It’s more likely that after being directed to a useless page, they’ll go back and click on a different business’ link. Google recognizes that you’re manipulating the search results for your pages, and they’ll lower your ranking.
While we can advise against using black hat SEO practices, you ultimately make the decisions for your website. We only offer white hat SEO suggestions to make sure you rank high on search engines like Google and are creating a good website user experience. Contact That’s My Idea Marketing to get started.