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Black Hat SEO Tactics to Avoid

It is quite possible that you have heard the term “black hat” used before when reading up on Search Engine Optimization. No, this is not referring to a new fashion trend among young business professionals. Black Hat SEO is referring to a set of practices that are used to artificially inflate your website’s search ranking. These tactics are typically highly deceptive and completely against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. If you consider yourself an honest and upstanding webmaster, here are some Black Hat SEO tactics that you should avoid at all costs.

Invisible Text

This practice is used by adding keyword text that are completely hidden to the user but are still able to be indexed by search engines. While you may not be able to see white text on a white background, this is still something the Google Spiders can still detect. This is a way that website designers can artificially inflate their search rankings for specific keywords.

Keyword Stuffing

Another common practice involves overusing high ranking keywords throughout your page to maximize organic traffic. Fortunately, this practice is not nearly as viable as it once was. Search engine algorithms have become much smarter and can detect when you are using keywords for the sake of using keywords. While using high ranking keywords is a common and effective SEO strategy, overusing them to the point where it decreases the worth of your copy is frowned upon.

Paid Links

While many marketers see backlinks as the holy grail when it comes to generating that much sought after SEO juice, a backlink is a lot less valuable if it is not earned. There are many websites that allow people to buy backlinks to artificially increase their search rankings. While this practice can have serious benefits for the buyer if they can get away with it, this is definitely up there on the black hat scale. Backlinks earned organically from earned media or online directories are far more valuable.

Spam Comments

If you have ever run a WordPress blog, you are probably all too familiar with spam comments. The purpose of these comments are to generate a backlink within the comment. What many people (or spam bots) do not realize are that these backlink are “nofollow” links which transfer no SEO juice what-so-ever. Out of all of the black hat SEO tactics you can attempt, this one is definitely the most pointless.

If you have comments enabled anywhere on your site, it is important to have someone monitoring them. If these spam comments are left on the site, it can hurt your website’s credibility. Luckily there are several plugins that can be used to combat spam comments.

Page Cloaking

The term “cloaking” is used to describe the practice of displaying completely different content to a human user than the search engine spiders. Websites using cloaking typically prepare two sets of content and will switch between them based on the user’s IP address. When the website picks up the IP address of a search engine bot, it will display content relevant to the search query. If the website detects a human IP address, it will typically redirect them to content unrelated to the query. Cloaking is a highly deceptive tactic and can be met with serious penalties from Google if caught. It is important to optimize your website not only for usability but also for SEO. This way, tactics like cloaking do not have to be used. For more information on cloaking, watch this video by Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team.

Duplicate Content / Article Spinning

While content is definitely king, duplicate content is a huge no-no. Whether it is the same content duplicated across the same domain or across completely separate domains, this is a practice that Google does not like. Page content must be unique to be deemed useful in the eyes of Google. If Google does not deem your content useful, it will not rank highly. Just like copying internet text for a high school essay, Google sees this practice as website plagiarism.

With search algorithms getting more complex, a practice called “article spinning” has become popular among those that was to make their duplicate content seem less duplicate. This essentially involves rephrasing words within page content so search spiders view it as a “new” post. There is even software that specializes in shuffling around content so it can be re-posted.

While black hat SEO can have some benefits for those who are willing to go over to the dark side, all of the above tactics should be avoided at all costs. If Google catches you website participating in these practices, it is possible that you can face massive search penalties or even blacklisting. If a search engine chooses to blacklist your website, you will be removed entirely. While this is not very common, search penalties are. If Google chooses to give you a search penalty, this will dramatically decrease your website’s search ranking. Needless to say, white hat SEO is definitely the way to go.

Dallas Riffle Media is a full-service marketing agency serving businesses right here in Cleveland. If you need help building an SEO strategy for your website, give us call at (216) 245-0835 or send us an email to speak with one of our SEO specialists.

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