Taking shortcuts isn’t always a good thing—especially in the world of SEO. Black hat techniques, for example, are believed to provide quick results but are frowned upon by Google.
Anyone who chooses to engage in these underhanded tactics end up harming their site’s ranks in the long run.
- Hiding Text or Links
Given the importance of keywords and backlinks in search optimization, some choose to hide these things in the corners of pages.
Although this might seem like a brilliant idea as readability won’t be affected, the search giant can easily detect (and punish) keyword stuffing and link spam.
- Keyword Stuffing
It might seem odd, but keyword stuffing still exists. With all the algorithm updates Google has gone through, this technique just won’t work anymore even in the short-term.
Also, due to its effects on content quality, it’s a surefire way of driving away visitors.
- Using Irrelevant Keywords
Instead of merely stuffing content with keywords, some black hats opt to add irrelevant keywords as well. For example, the page they’re working on is about concrete and the top keyword in another niche is “Cena”.
They forcibly mention “Cena” in concrete-related content to raise traffic.
- Churning out Fake News
It’s hard not to give in to curiosity and click on links to the most absurd news.
So, it’s no wonder that fake news are being used for SEO purposes, and yes they’re capable of quickly boosting a site’s traffic.
The problem with this is that sites that publish these stories eventually get flagged by Google.
- Copying Existing Pages
Surely, you’ve seen a page with so many visits and shares that you’re tempted to put it on your site. Well, the copy will only get deindexed by search engines.
Do it often and Google might choose to remove your entire site from SERPs. You don’t want that, do you?
- Publishing Spun Articles
What about altering the page and then publishing it on your site?
After all, it isn’t hard to use one of those free online content spinners. It still won’t do your site’s ranking any good.
Articles that are automatically spun are usually of poor quality and won’t be able to maintain reader interest.
- Posting Low-Quality Content
So you’re planning to use content that’s neither copied nor spun—but you aren’t willing to come up with anything relevant and fresh either.
You’re simply planning to prioritize keyword and link placement.
Don’t forget that since the Panda update, Google has been targeting low-quality content.
- Sending Automated Queries
Sending automated queries directly violates the Webmaster Guidelines.
It’s easy to understand why Google is against this though, as it takes a toll on their servers.
Also, while this black hat strategy may briefly improve a page’s rankings, it could get your IP flagged and blocked.
- Manipulating Google Autocomplete
This is similar to sending automated queries, but is done involving a team of actual people. Black hats hire a group that’s going to do lots of searches for a keyword that isn’t being shown by Google Autocomplete.
Those part of the group need to be from the same country and must have unique IPs.
After several weeks’ worth of these searches, the new search suggestion might appear. What’s the downside? Currently, the risk is minimal.
However, the search giant has been known to maintain a database of suspicious IPs and sites, and there’s always the chance to get flagged.
Moreover, as this tactic becomes more common, Google will come up with better ways of stopping it. Besides, hiring a group of people won’t be cheap and the results aren’t guaranteed.
Instead of investing in this underhanded strategy, you should allocate your resources on safe, reliable techniques.
- Creating Cloaked Pages
When you click on a link, you expect to be brought to the page described. With cloaking, you could be sent to a different place on the web, leaving you confused and frustrated.
If your goal is to boost your site’s rank in the long-term by establishing a sizable user base, this isn’t the way to go.
- Buying and Selling Links
Inbound links are a powerful tool in improving search visibility. Unfortunately, they aren’t easily acquired.
If you’re thinking of buying or selling links to speed up the process, you should definitely reconsider.
That underhanded approach is against the Webmaster Guidelines.
- Taking Part in Link Farms
Link farms are sites filled with unrelated links, serving the sole purpose of boosting other websites.
This is essentially the same as the previous entry on this list but done at a much larger scale.
Of course, it’s easy for search engines to find these link farms and penalize the sites benefiting from them.
- Building a Private Blog Network
Building a network of blogs is a cost-free alternative to link farms.
Some would even agree that this is a safer approach, given that there’s full control on link relevance and placement.
Still, Google can identify PBNs and penalize all websites associated with them.
Black hats don’t just buy and sell links—they try to leave links everywhere. Sites and pages with comments sections are frequent targets of these shady individuals.
Well, this won’t work these days, given Google’s emphasis on relevance between linked sites.
- Installing Malicious Programs
Malware and other malicious programs can be used to generate more hits for a page or site.
These software are downloaded without the victim’s knowledge, and are typically installed alongside an application that’s promoted as useful.
- Engaging in Typosquatting
Typosquatting is all about misleading people by setting up a similar URL (such as Yuo instead of You, using YouTube as an example).
It’s also easy to find URLs with the letter “O” switched with zero. Anyone who ends up accessing the site would be redirected to the page that needs traffic or hits.
Unfortunately, typosquatting can be used in a worse way—tricking netizens into thinking that they’re on the correct site or page, which could lead to them giving personal information.
This information can be used in other black hat techniques, such as those involving fake accounts and personas.
While Google isn’t searching the web for typosquatted URLs, this strategy still brings more harm than good. Remember that your site’s ranking depends not just on hits and traffic.
It’s affected by time on site. Surely, people will quickly close the tab and never return upon realizing the ruse.
- Hijacking Entire Websites
Sometimes you’ll come across non-profit websites that make use of the .COM domain. Those who engage in black hat may get the .ORG counterparts of the sites’ URLs.
The next goal is to convince webmasters that link to the original sites to update the URLs they use (into .ORG).
If successful, black hats get sites with enough link juice to affect SERPs.
You might think that this is one of those high risk, high reward approaches. However, it shouldn’t take too long for the owners of the original sites to get back what’s rightfully theirs—and for Google to reflect the changes.
- Hiring Hackers to Place Links
There are black hats who don’t have any problem with hiring hackers.
Through the help of these “computer experts”, they forcibly place links on sites that are sufficiently vulnerable yet offer enough credibility to be a worthwhile target.
- Submitting Fake Reviews
You can harm the competition by spreading false information about them online, such as in the form of fake reviews.
While it’d be harder for Google to distinguish fakes from valid posts, you could end up being attacked in the same way. In the end, nobody wins.
- Over-optimizing Your Site
Doing everything for the sake of improving your site’s Google ranking might actually harm it in the long run.
Over-optimized sites (especially those that make use of several of these black hat techniques) typically suffer from poor content quality. Ease of use takes a hit as well.
Always Do Things the Right Way
Black hat does have a certain appeal, particularly when it comes to speed and convenience.
However, using it only yields short-term results—and surely, you wouldn’t want something so temporary.
No matter how difficult it may seem, abiding by the Webmaster Guidelines is always the way to go.