In July this year, Gary Illyes, Webmaster Analyst at Google dropped a bomb on the SEO world. He said: “We’re going to go back to the kind of ranking algorithm we had ten or so years ago. This is probably going to shock a lot of people because it’s inclusive of what we’ve called Black Hat tactics”.
Well, we have to read between the lines. You are still advised to use White Hat SEO. However, some tactics that were considered as vintage ‘Black Hat’ techniques before are not penalised by Google algorithm now. What are they – we will discuss later.
What is Black Hat SEO?
According to Wordstream, “Black hat SEO refers to a set of practices that are used to increase a site’s or page’s rank in search engines through means that violate the search engines’ terms of service”. So essentially, Black Hat techniques are unethical ways of optimising websites and mainly used by computer hackers, virus creators and those who carry out illegal actions on the computer.
Through Black Hat SEO, you may see an increase in site traffic initially. But in due course, your site may be badly affected and you see a rapid drop in site’s ranking and traffic. There is even the fear of your site being banned or completely de-indexed from Google and other search engines; and you have to start all over again from scratch.
What techniques come under Black Hat SEO?
In late March 2016, the researchers at the Imperva Defense Center investigated a sophisticated SEO campaign that was successful in upping the rankings of certain websites consistently. The finding was interesting – among other techniques, they used extensive Black Hat techniques like SQL injection, comment spam and exploitation of thousands of third-party applications and websites.
Google and other search engines constantly update their algorithms so that such websites are penalised. Below we have listed some key Black Hat techniques that should be avoided:
- Content Automation
- Doorway Pages
- Hidden Links
- Negative SEO
- Keywords Stuffing
- Sneaky Redirects
- Paid Links
- Blog Spamming
- Comments Spamming
- Guest Posting
- Duplicate Content
- Link Manipulation
- Auto Generated Queries to Google
- Duplicate Domains and Sub-Domains
- Web Pages with malicious content.
The Big Question: Can You Ethically Use Black Hat Techniques for SEO?
We can, however, work around some of the Black Hat techniques mentioned above to make them ethical. Let’s see how that can be done.
IP delivery: You can create specific localised content to offer to a country specific IP address.
Redirect 301: All out-dated content can have a 301 redirect to a new webpage or your homepage.
Micro sites: Use popular short-term keywords to create micro sites. These sites can be abandoned later on.
Cloaking: Heavy flash animations can be hidden from Google and you can simple display the text-only version for easy accessibility and search-ability.
Keyword stuffing: In SEO, keyword stuffing is unethical but you can do this ethically. The process is known as folksonomy, wherein your user does the tagging. It also includes social classification and social indexing where more meta data is created with more and more keywords acceptable to search engines.
Hidden text or CSS pagination: Another ethical way to use Black Hat SEO is to create CSS-based websites with JQuery effects, such as CSS pagination – which help to display few content portions and hide a large text portion in layers.
Scraping: You can create similar or mirror websites of your website.
Page jacking: Though duplicate content is a strict “NO” in SEO, a popular Black Hat technique in an ethical way is to offer your website content under a creative Commons License with attribution.
False headlines: If newspapers can do it, why not Black Hat SEO? You can use deceptive headlines in your website content to grab attention and increase traffic. But do not overdo it.
Blog links and Blog spam: Create a network of legitimate blogs with backlinks to your site. These should be quality blogs. For blog spamming, install a WordPress blog without Akismet spam protection and add few posts to it. Now when spamming of comments start, parse the comments and publish only those which have keywords related to your site. Rest, you delete it.
Brand jacking: Positive reviews work but do you know even bad reviews or false reviews work fine for your website’s performance? Create a page for bad reviews of particular products or services and let consumers voice their concerns.
Automation of Tweets: Twitter automation is not wrong but should not be done in excess. You can automate repeating and rescheduling of tweets and RSS feeds for your website and blog.
Doorway Pages: It is wrong to create a page with lots of keywords so as to make visitors enter the page and then automatically redirect them to a separate page. Rather, create a page with relevant and rich content. The doorway pages can be interesting pages that redirect to the main landing pages.
Paid links: It is unethical to pay to get links published in articles, blogs or advertisements that rank high on search engines. But when you buy links or sell paid links, the ethical practice is to include “nofollow” on the links. The links then appear just like proper ads to users and search engines.
Black Hat techniques are like the Sirens in Greek mythology – deadly attractive. They give your site immediate gains for some time but soon, Google and other search engines penalise your site and push it down the rankings to obscurity.
So the safest bet is to have patience and work on the SEO of your website gradually through White Hat techniques. You may also use tweaked Black Hat techniques as mentioned above.