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Say No To Black Hat SEO

Modern day SEO is a very different practice to that of five years ago. Many techniques that were once sure-fire ways to reach the top of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) could now do your website much more harm than good.

However there are still people out there who look to use underhand tactics to get websites to rank. No sooner have search engines clamped down on one spammy tactic than black hat SEOs find a new way to game the system.

This post lists some of the ways that Black Hat SEOs “optimise” websites, putting them at risk of manual or algorithmic ranking penalties.

Don’t build spammy and unnatural links

One of the most common black hat practices still used today by many trying to get quick wins in the search engines is spammy link building. This includes a wide range of ways to build low quality unnatural links in high volume.

Some of the most common black hat link building tactics include:

  • Buying links – particularly large quantities of low quality links from spammy or irrelevant sites
  • Link directories and farms – links placed on any sites which have the sole purpose of placing links
  • Followed site-wide links – any followed links in site templates which appear on multiple pages, such as footer links and blog-roll links
  • Link wheels – links placed on a number of sites which each then link to each other like a wheel, falsely bolstering the link value of each site

There are many other spammy link building tactics out there so as a rule of thumb, if the activity sounds spammy or unnatural it probably is.

Don’t use keyword stuffing and bolding

Another common black hat tactic is to overuse your target keywords on your site pages. By “keyword stuffing” on key pages, you could once increase Google’s value of your site for that keyword, increasing your chance of ranking well for the search term. Furthermore, making each instance of your keywords bold could further increase its relevance in the eyes of the search engine bots. However these antiquated techniques are no longer fool-proof ways to rank.

Google and the other main search engines are wise to activity like this and overuse of keywords will not get you the results you expect. If the search engines believe that your content is written for them and not for the sole benefit of your users your site will struggle to rank at all.

It is important that all content on your site is written with your user in mind. Naturally you will use your core keywords in your text as ultimately that will be what your site or webpage is about; just be conscious not to overuse these keywords to the point where content looks spammy.

Don’t use negative SEO tactics against competitors

Some people think that the best and quickest way to move up the rankings is to harm the strong ranking positions of competitor’s site. Don’t support this tactic.

Not only is it morally wrong, it actually won’t do your site any good. Sure, in the short term you might see your site climb steadily above your competitors but this kind of activity is not sustainable. All you will do is make websites fight back to reclaim their lost rankings and ultimately make it more difficult for you to get back there. After all, you didn’t deserve the high rankings you gained so your site will not have enough strength to fight back.

White hat SEO is the safest way to go

The quick wins of black hat tactics can be appealing to some website owners, but don’t be lured. Any results you get through these sorts of techniques will not be sustainable and in the long run your site will suffer. What’s more, if the search engines work out what you’ve been doing you will very quickly be hit with a manual penalty and could see your site removed from Google altogether.

Only entertain white hat SEO that is designed to deliver the best possible experience for your site users. This will in turn show Google that your site deserves to rank well for your target terms. If in doubt, refer to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines or check out my digestible summary of guidelines and best practice here.