4 Black Hat SEO Tactics To Avoid
If your web presence is important to you, then you’ve no doubt realized the importance of Search Engine Optimization. Your competition is using it, so if you want to keep up in an ever-changing marketplace then you’ll need to do so too. But be sure that the methods you use are above board. White Hat SEO involves honest, legitimate methods of ranking your site, while Black Hat SEO involves slightly more morally shaded tactics. While you might think that these search engine shortcuts are the perfect way to grow your online presence, the reality is you’re likely to do more harm than good and your brand will suffer for it. Here are some of the main Black Hat search engine optimization strategies that you should steer clear of.
We get it – writing great content is hard. It can a lot of time, effort and money to fill your site with top quality copy, so you might think it’s a good idea to just reuse a particular piece for several different domains you own (or slightly alter an existing article found elsewhere on the internet). Search engines frown upon duplicates while prioritizing unique content. Meaning, you’ll be much better served making the extra effort to create new and engaging web page copy and articles.
Duplicate content on one domain can also cause some issues for search engines and make it hard for them to know which piece of content to rank. It also means that if other sites are linking to yours, they won’t be sure which page to link to. When you have several identical (or very similar) pages, an effective way of maximizing SEO is to mark the duplicate articles with the canonical tag or the original article. This will direct the search engines toward your preferred version and ensure that your SEO won’t suffer.
Links to your site are one of the main things search engines consider when ranking a page. Gaining links organically is a time-consuming process, and of course, it’s also unpredictable. You can create quality content or humorous social media posts, but there’s no way of knowing whether something will go viral or not. If you build your brand the right way, however, the links will most likely start to come. Some companies, though, decide that they don’t want to wait, and actually pay people for links. Like most shortcuts, this method has its drawbacks. While it may work in the short term, you’re extremely likely to get discovered by Search Engines eventually, or reported by your competitors. You’ll then be handed a penalty, which will dramatically affect your search ranking and leave you worse off than when you started.
Smart use of relevant keywords is one of the most simple yet still effective methods of optimizing your site for search engines. Keyword stuffing refers to the practice of overloading your content with these words and phrases in the hope that it will lead to an improved ranking. While in the early days of SEO this was largely effective, nowadays Google and other search engines are wise to these techniques and will mark down your site as low quality. If you’re going to benefit from keywords you’re going to have to sprinkle them into your copy where relevant, without going overboard.
This method is linked to keyword stuffing and allows for text to be hidden on a website in an attempt to manipulate search rankings. This can be done in a number of ways, such as using white text on a white background, changing the font size to zero, or hiding the text behind pictures. This allows you to fill the text with these keywords without having to worry about the quality and readability of the content.
Gaming the system is still a risky move. Chances are, if you use enough invisible text you’ll be found out, and penalized or even banned for it. In this case, as with many other Black Hat techniques, the risks outweigh the potential benefits. If you really think that too much text will affect the user experience negatively, consider having a small portion of your content visible, with the rest accessible via a ‘read more’ button. If the rest of your site is largely legitimate, this shouldn’t reflect negatively on your website with Search Engines.
White Hat is the Way to Go
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a successful SEO campaign isn’t either. Getting first page results won’t happen overnight, so if you’re going into it with unrealistic expectations you’re going to be disappointed. Over time, the companies (and disreputable agencies) using these Black Hat tactics will be found out and penalized. Through creative and unique content, well-constructed meta data, innovative analysis and a willingness to evolve constantly, you can start to make some serious progress while maintaining a clear conscience.