What NOT to do: A Look at ‘Black Hat’ SEO Techniques

SEO marketing can be a fantastic approach to improving the visibility of your website, and making sure that your website content is being seen by the right people, at the right time. It’s also an area that can be slightly tricky, and ‘bad’ SEO can be one of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of a first page rank.

What is ‘Bad’ SEO?

There are actually two distinct forms of ‘bad’ SEO. The first one really all comes down to having a poorly thought out strategy, and ‘bad’ in this instance really means ‘ineffective’. It might mean that you’re targeting the wrong keywords for your audience, for example, or you’re working with an SEO company that isn’t particularly well-versed in your industry. Fortunately, this ‘bad’ SEO can be very easy to fix.

The second form of ‘bad’ SEO isn’t always as simple to rectify. This type of SEO uses what we call ‘black hat’ techniques; sneaky SEO marketing methods that aren’t exactly in line with Google SEO guidelines.

Types of Black Hat SEO Techniques

A black hat SEO method is generally one which Google SEO guidelines specifically frown on, such as:

Keyword Stuffing: Google’s Webmaster Guidelines clearly state that website content should be made ‘primarily for users, not for search engines’. While a good keyword density is important in SEO marketing, content should be well-written and understood by both human and machine.

Auto-Generated Content: Again focusing on this idea of readability and engagement, auto-generated content fails to meet Google’s standards. Whether it’s machine-translated, or RSS-scraped, auto-generated website content is unlikely to get you on Google’s good side.

Hidden Text: Also known as ‘cloaking’, this technique involves hiding certain keywords in meta tags so they are picked up by Google, even though the actual website content is completely unrelated. Google hates this method, as it affects the suitability and relevance of their results.

Link Schemes: Google likes links to informative, authoritative, and related websites; it helps add credibility to your own site. What Google doesn’t like is random links that are included only to help improve your ranking, or make you money. Link schemes can bring your ranking right down.

Google Penalties

While it may sometimes seem tempting to bypass legitimate SEO services, and instead use these ‘quick fix’ black hat SEO techniques, keep in mind that in the long term they may actually do more harm than good. Google can dish out two types of penalty for going against their guidelines: a manual penalty which is given following a review of your website, and an algorithmic penalty, which is automated.

In many cases, a Google SEO penalty will result in your ranking dropping — typically anywhere from 10 to 100 pages. In some severe instances, your website may be removed from Google altogether. It's always best to work with an SEO consultant to make sure your digital marketing campaigns succeed!