Black hat tactics refer to SEO methods and approaches that are tricky and not appreciated (or accepted) by Google. Companies try and use black hat tactics in order to get higher rankings faster without having to put in the work or wait to see results. These methods actually trick search engine bots into believing something that isn’t true—you have more keywords on a page than readers can see, earning links by buying them and not earning them, publishing stolen content, etc. It’s ultimately a lose-lose situation, but sometimes companies are using these tactics without even knowing it, and that can get you in a lot of trouble.
Fortunately Google has caught on to many of these tactics and have been able to devalue the practices when it comes to rankings, but there are always new methods popping up to try and “beat” Google. The moral of the story: The sooner you can understand what these tactics are, the sooner you can make sure you’re not accidentally using them.
Your Old (Still Relevant) Black Hat Tactics
- Cloaking. This is the process of coding your website in such a way that the Google bots see one version but your readers see another. You oftentimes do this to deceive one party or the other.
- Keyword Stuffing. This happens when you put too many keywords on a page or within a piece of content to the point where it is unnatural. This looks spammy, is not written for readers, and may have even been automated, meaning the quality isn’t there.
- Link Farms/ Buying Links. A “link farm” is a website that is created simply to sell backlinks or participate in link exchanges. It doesn’t help readers at all, so this is a big negative. Again this isn’t something you would do by accident, but it does feed into the next tactic, which could affect you.
- Link Exchanges. Link exchanges refers to telling another website, whether that website is spammy and/or irrelevant, that you will put a link to that website on your website if they will do the same for you. Obviously, this doesn’t help readers. Buying links is also a tactic that can get you links fast, but again, it doesn’t’ work anymore. If a website is selling backlinks, they’re getting shutdown soon (because they’re a link farm).
- Hidden Text. This happens if you put white text on a white background so that the Google bots can crawl those keywords but readers cannot see them. This is something you definitely wouldn’t do by accident, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless because Google now has a way to find hidden text and penalize you.
- Doorway Pages.
Newer Black Hat Tactics Not to Miss
- Page Swapping. This refers to when publishers will swap the content from a high performing page with the content from a low performing one. This means that Google technically is ranking content that it didn’t intend to rank, so again, it’s tricky.
- Comment Spamming. This happens when you put your link in the comment section of a lot of different blogs. Usually the links are irrelevant, but even if you are putting a relevant link it can be considered black hat if you’re doing it too often (some even call that a “gray hat” tactic, which you can learn more about here).
- Parasite Hosting. This refers to hosting a website on someone else’s computer or server in order to improve SEO. In other words, readers would click on a website and then be taken to another website. The content and headline may be what the users planned to see, but the website is different.
- Typosquatting. I don’t always think of this as a black hat tactic so much as a poor business move (and a funny name), but either way, Google has made it clear that you should not be purchasing a domain of a competitor’s brand name that is spelled slightly differently. This shows that you’re trying to grab that competitor’s traffic, which isn’t fair.
- Spun Content. This is very similar to duplicate content, so it’s not that new, but it is newer than duplicating content. This happens if you look at another piece of content published on the web and then spin the words around to make yours sound a little bit different. You’re not offering any new information to readers, so this is therefore black hat (not to mention the original author will get upset).
There are certainly other black hat tactics out there, which you can check out here if you’re interested, but the items above are some of the most popular. Do you have any other black hat tactics that you would like to add to the list? Let us know in the comment section below.