23 Important Black Hat SEO Techniques to Avoid
Background and Definitions
Black-hat and white hat are terms derived from Western movie convention where the good guy would wear a white hat that contrasted with the bad guy’s Black-hat. However, there are instances where this doesn’t apply, such as Paladin in Have Gun – Will Travel.
The terms have been adapted to describe SEO techniques approved by the search engines’ terms of service (TOS) and those that violate them.
encapsulated by spamdexing, entail manipulating how search engines perceive the relevance of a Web page in a way that is often inconsistent with the search engines’ guidelines. Hidden text, cloaking, and blog comment spam are examples of Black-hat SEO.
White hat SEO techniques
involve providing users with quality content that is accurate, relevant, and well-organized. Using relevant keywords in the title tag, h1 tag, and anchor text of inbound and internal links are examples of white hat SEO.
Black-hat SEO has a negative reputation, and rightly so: It’s a shady set of deceptive practices that degrade the user experience and are adopted mostly to make a quick buck. To keep a business legitimate and afloat on the Web, avoid Black-hat SEO techniques and embrace white hat SEO techniques.
1. Unrelated Keywords
Don’t: Add irrelevant keywords to the copy for extra page hits.
Example: “Kanye West would use our Dyson vacuum cleaners if he owned cats.”
Do: Keep the content focused on a specific topic so users find what they are searching for.
Example: “Our Dyson vacuum cleaners effectively suck up dust, dirt, and pet hair.”
2. Keyword Stacking and Keyword Stuffing
Don’t: Repeat keywords to the extent that it reads like gibberish in a sentence or image alt text.
Example: “Picture frames picture frames pictures pictures pictures.”
Do: Write sentences that make sense, have a reasonable keyword density, and that use semantically related words instead of endlessly repeating keywords.
Example: “Our photo framing services can accommodate large formats to ensure everyone gets the big picture.”
3. Tiny Text, Hidden Text, and Hidden Links
Don’t: Put illegible text at the bottom of the page, make the text the same color as the background, or format text or images that are visually undetectable as links.
Example: “This is a short sentence full of illegible gray text.”
Do: Write content that is intended to be read, contrast the text with the background color, and make links obvious.
Example: “The Canon G10 camera has both the features of professional cameras and the convenience of portable point-and-shoots.”
Don’t: Present search engines with one set of content and site visitors with another, tricking visitors from search engines into experiencing a page of substantially different content.
Example: A user searches for “happy octopus”, clicks on a search result that appears to be about sea creature psychology, and is greeted with pornography.
Do: Be honest and create Web pages that visitors want and expect to see based on the description on the search engine results page (SERP).
Example: A user searches for “Hello Kitty” and is taken to the official website of the franchise.
5. Doorway Pages or Gateway Pages
Don’t: Haphazardly stuff pages with keyword phrases with the primary goal of achieving a high ranking and then automatically redirect visitors to a separate page.
Do: Create landing pages and information pages for humans that are rich in content.
Example: A sugar manufacturer detailing the advantages of raw sugar over high fructose corn syrup.
6. Bait-and-Switch or Page Swapping
Don’t: Get a Web page indexed and ranked and then change the page entirely.
Example: Clicking on a result in the SERP takes the user to a page that is completely different from the keywords used for searching and the description provided in the SERP.
Do: Update Web pages regularly while keeping the overall topics of the pages intact.
Example: An article about The PIrate Bay, a torrent site, is updated with news related to the trial, verdict, and media response.
7. Duplicate Content or Mirror Site
Don’t: Copy a substantial amount of content from another website, with or without permission.
Example: A website reprints an authoritative article found elsewhere to increase the number of visitors.
Do: Quote in small chunks, cite sources, and write original content.
Example: An article about the sound quality in various models of headphones cites reviews of headphones found on other sites.
8. Spam Blogs or Splogs
Don’t: Blog using software that generates garbled text with keyword phrases for the sole purpose of getting visitors to click on ads.
Example: “Caffeinating the Mountain Dew with MSG is a summer treat safer than Guinness.”
Do: Put time into your blog posts to write something coherent, novel, and fresh.
Example: “Caffeine is drug that is safe to consume in moderation, but consistently large doses over time may cause anxiety and sleep disorders.”
9. Blog Spam or Comment Spam
Don’t: Automatically post links as comments on blogs to increase the number of inbound links.
Example: “Great post! |3uy ch34p v14gr4 w1th fr33 5h199ing.”
Do: Post insightful and constructive comments related to the article or blog post.
Example: “Thanks for explaining Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’ in such detail. Have you thought about comparing it to Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of ‘The Fly’?”
10. Trackback Spam
Don’t: Abuse trackbacks with links to unrelated links on blogs.
Example: “[…] randomized keyword phrases related keyword more random keywords […]”
Do: Let blog authors know about posts being referenced from legitimate sources.
Example: “[…] read a blog post on Moleskine notebooks that brought up the […]”
11. Spam Ping or Sping or PIngback Spam
Don’t: Notify ping servers of new content several times per minute to give the illusion that content is new.
Example: Software that automates the process of notifying various ping servers of supposedly new content.
Do: Set up blogging software to ping centralized services once when a blog post is published.
Example: Populate the “Update Services” box in WordPress settings to notify pingback services of new blog entries.
12. Referrer Spam
Don’t: Advertise a website by making repeated requests using a fake referrer URL to websites that publicize referrer statistics.
Example: Scripts that automatically follow links on illegitimate sites can land spam websites in publicized referrer logs.
Do: Link to content that is relevant and allow readers to follow the links naturally.
Example: “Ask MetaFilter is a valuable resource for finding free answers to questions that are challenging to find on the Web.”
13. Link Farms
Don’t: Seek links from or link to sites with unrelated or low quality content in an attempt to improve visibility in the SERPs.
Example: A long list of unrelated links and with supporting content can be found at pagehole.com.
Do: Link to and request links from relevant and high quality websites where a connection between the two websites is logical and beneficial for site visitors.
Example: It is reasonable to ask a blogger who links to Durham, NC pizzerias to link to your page reviewing vegetarian pizzerias in Durham.
14. Cybersquatting or Domain Squatting
Don’t: Register a domain with a trademarked word in the name with the intent to profit off of the association.
Example: juliaroberts.com was originally registered by Russell Boyd. It was later handed over to Julia Roberts after it was determined in court that Boyd “registered and used the domain name in bad faith”.
Do: Brainstorm and research relevant keywords for an easy-to-remember domain name relevant to the content the website will host.
Example: aboutcandybarwrappers.com sells personalized candy bar wrappers.
15. Typosquatting or URL Hijacking
Don’t: Register a domain name that is a misspelled version of a popular website or a competitor in an attempt to mislead visitors.
Example: kipzone.com may confuse users who intend to visit kipzone.net.
Do: Make a website that becomes popular for its richness in content.
Example: Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and countless other websites made names for themselves instead of relying on popular keyword phrases or misspellings.
16. Social Networking Spam
Don’t: Target demographics on social networking sites and message people with advertisements.
Example: “Visit example.com to see pics of me and my friends ;).”
Do: Network, find people with similar interests, and exchange contact information when there is mutual interest.
Example: “Hello Frank, we met at the Web Design Meetup last week. I like what you had to say about accessibility and usability. What was that site you mentioned that had the list of usability studies?”
17. Cookie Stuffing or Cookie Dropping
Don’t: Stealthily place affiliate cookies on computers.
Example: A spammer inserts a URL to a fake image on a message board that puts affiliate cookies on the computers of forum visitors.
Do: Link to retail websites with affiliate links to earn a percentage of sales.
Example: “You can support this blog by following my affiliate links to Amazon.”
18. Hidden Content
Top of our list of Black-hat SEO techniques is hidden content. Hidden content comes in many guises but the basic principle is that within the code for the site there will be content stuffed with keywords, this content will not be visible to the end user of the site.
One way of doing this is by using comment tags.
Comment tags look like this;
<!– Comment Tag –>
The real purpose of comment tags is for developers to add in useful reminders within their code explaining what that piece of code does.
Here’s an example of the comment tag being used correctly,
<!– Start of the Main Content –>
Here’s an example of a comment tag being used incorrectly in a bid to promote a hypothetical page targeting search engine optimisation,
<!—Kipzer Search engine optimisation, SEO, professional search engine optimisation company, spamming search engines –->
Another popular way of hiding content is the use of the <noscript> tag. The <noscript> tag should be used to inform a user that a script is being used but their browser either doesn’t support the script
language used or they have that function turned off.
Here’s an example of the <noscript> tag being used correctly,
<!– document.write(“Hello World!”) //–>
Imaginary Car Hire Firm do Car Hire which is very affordable so if you want to hire a car call our car hire firm because we are the best car hire firm in the world
Other HMTL tags misused in similar ways include the <noframes> tag and hidden inputs in forms.
Content can also be hidden from the end user by using CSS, excessively small text and coloured text on the same coloured background.
All of these techniques are frowned upon by search engines and if detected can mean your website will be penalised or even banned. To the untrained eye it can be very difficult to spot the use of some of these techniques which is why we offer a free website MOT test at PushON.
19. Meta Keyword Stuffing
There are two Meta tags that are generally used to inform search engines of the content on the page. They reside between the <head> tag of a page and when used incorrectly they can alert a search engine that a site is using spam techniques in an attempt to improve its ranking.
20. Meta Description
The meta description should be used to describe the content of your page honestly and concisely and be 1 or 2 sentences, 3 at most.
Here’s an example of the meta description being used in the correct manner,
<meta name=”description” content=”PushON are an Online Marketing agency providing a full range of digital marketing services throughout Greater Manchester and the North West UK. If you need Search Engine marketing (SEM), Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) or Pay per Click (PPC), we can help you. Contact us now.” />
Here’s an example of the meta description tag being used incorrectly for a page promoting a restaurant called “MadeUp”,
<meta name=”description” content=”MadeUp restaurant website is the best MadeUp restaurant website, our restaurant is better than any restaurant,great restaurant,best food restaurant,visit our restaurant” />
21. Meta Keywords
Meta Keywords should be a short list of words that inform of the main focus of the page. Meta keywords have been so misused in the past that there are few if any search engines that take any heed of them.
Here’s an example of the meta keywords being used in the correct manner,
<meta name=”Keywords” content=”Online marketing, digital marketing, search marketing, search engine marketing, e-mail marketing, SEO” />
Here’s an example of the meta keywords tag being used incorrectly for a page promoting a restaurant called “MadeUp”,
<meta name=”keywords” content=”Restaurant,restaurants,food,feed,take away food,fast food,junk food,eat,eating out,dinner,dining,meal,eating,MadeUp,steak and chips,chicken and chips,pie and chips,pudding,desert,big restaurant,small restaurant,best restaurant,great restaurant, exclusive restaurant,cocktails,wine,drink,pizza,sandwhiches”>
22. Doorway or Gateway Pages
Doorway or Gateway pages are pages designed for search engines and not for the end user. They are basically fake pages that are stuffed with content and highly optimised for 1 or 2 keywords that link to a target or landing page. The end user never sees these pages because they are automatically redirected to the target page.
Off-the-shelf SEO software often encourages the use of gateway pages as do SEO firms that don’t know what they’re talking about. Search engine spiders are being enhanced continually to detect these pages and will get ignored or worse still, flag your site up as being spam and ban you all together.
23. Link Farming
In the real world if you were to build your house in a bad neighbour hood then your house would be affected by its surroundings. The same is true of the virtual world. Link farms or free for all (FFA) pages have no other purposes than to list links of unrelated websites. They won’t provide you with any traffic and you run the risk of having your site banned for participating. Don’t participate in link farming.
This list covers the popular forms of Black-hat SEO, but all shady techniques should be avoided. If ethics alone aren’t a deterrent: Performing Black-hat SEO can lead to a damaged reputation, getting websites banned from search engines, and even lawsuits for copyright infringement.
There are plenty of ways to legitimately improve website visibility in the SERPs. It may take time for a Web page or website to become popular, but it’s a process that has a better chance of surviving in the long-term. Remember that the goal is to provide a service to visitors. Once you do that, with white hat SEO, the rest will follow.