There’s a pretty fierce competition brewing in the digital space, and it’s between businesses that are each fighting their hardest to earn a top spot in Google’s search results. The majority of consumers today turn to the internet at least once when they have a question, want, or need that a business might be able to help them with. If they can’t find you online, then there’s a really good chance they’re going to connect with the competitor that managed to make it onto page one of Google’s search results. In order to gain better rankings, many have turned to black hat SEO methods. Below we’ll explain why you shouldn’t do that.

Just like any other competition, there are bound to be some bad apples in the mix. For all the businesses out there trying to earn a priority rank through legitimate, SEO friendly strategies, there are those that are trying to work their way around the system. Some do it on purpose, while others aren’t entirely malicious in their actions. These tactics are called black hat strategies, and no matter how or why you use them, they can damage your SEO, and your reputation.

What Is Black Hat SEO?

SEO strategies can be placed into two distinct categories – white hat and black hat. White hat SEO is all the positive things you can do to build a stronger, more visible web presence by appealing to Google’s search algorithm. Black hat methods are the tactics some employ in an attempt to “cheat the system” and boost their search engine rank with minimal effort. While black hat strategies can sometimes provide an immediate, quick boost – they almost always come with the risk of SEO penalties.

In short, black hat SEO goes against all the guidelines provided by Google and takes an alternate approach in hopes of manipulating the algorithm to achieve a higher search engine ranking. One might think that relatively little harm in a black hat tactic here or there. However, search engines have become sophisticated to the point they can pick up on very subtle cues that maybe your efforts are lacking some integrity.

It’s often the case that black hat SEO occurs on accident. This might be the case when someone who’s relatively unfamiliar with SEO attempts their own hand at building up their business online. In some cases, there’s a fine line that separates white hat from black hat SEO, and it can be easy to unknowingly cross over into dangerous territory. The downfall of black hat strategies is that you can end up causing serious, permanent damage to your SEO – something that can be near impossible to recover from.

Fortunately, Google will usually provide a warning that they’ve noticed some suspicious SEO activity and notify you that you’re on the verge of being “de-indexed”, which is essentially saying that you no longer exist in the eyes of the search engine. If you receive such a notification, one of the following black hat SEO methods might be behind it.

Black Hat Strategies That Are Hurting Your SEO

It’s possible to go on at length about all the black hat SEO methods. However, most of them are rarely an issue or employed by those with only the most malicious intent. For everyone else who might find themselves under Google’s scrutiny, there’s really only a few that are usually the culprit.

Keyword Stuffing

If using a keyword a couple of times is good, using it a dozen times must be better, right? Not necessarily. Search engines crawl your content and pick up on specific keywords, and while the strategy of overusing them may have worked a few years ago, it’s far from an effective strategy now. Search engines want to prioritize sites that provide value to their audience. Robotic sounding, keyword-stuffed content isn’t going to accomplish this, no matter how relevant the keywords are.

Some sites try to “hide” keywords, like using colored font to blend them into the background, in hopes of providing a better user experience, while still giving search engines something to grab onto. This is an underhanded tactic that’s likely to end with a penalization. Stick to a 1-3% keyword saturation for the best results.

Duplicate or Spun Content

In the world of digital marketing, there’s a major focus on content to engage audiences and build relationships. Search engines love it when you provide rich, meaty, and relevant content to your audience. What they don’t like is when you’ve taken advantage of someone else’s hard efforts and published duplicate or spun content on your site.

Trust that it’s pretty easy for search engines to pick up on duplicate content, or even content that has been spun just enough to disqualify it as plagiarism. Both your audience and search engines are going to look more favorably on you if you publish content that’s unique and offers real value.

Link Buying

Backlinks are essential to SEO. With each backlink you earn, your web of visibility grows exponentially. Following this logic, the more backlinks the better, but this isn’t always the case. Search engines look at the source of your backlinks and weigh your own credibility based on what they find. Are you being linked to from a low quality, spammy site? Have you suddenly acquired hundreds of backlinks overnight, indicating that you paid for them rather than earning them organically? Underhanded backlink strategies can cost you big time.

Clickbait

With all the digital noise out there, it’s hard to find a way to stand out and get noticed online. You want to get traffic moving in your direction, so you depend on engaging headlines and powerful images to get clicks. This in itself is not a black hat strategy. However, if those headlines or images are sensationalist, and designed to mislead your audience, you can bet your ranking will take a hit. Use powerful headlines and images that are aligned to your content to generate a surge in traffic.

Questions About Black Hat SEO or How to do it Right? Turn to a Trusted Expert

SEO is complex, and mistakes can be easily made. There’s no reason to let an honest mistake tarnish your reputation when there’s a team of digital experts at your disposal to help. At Double Up Digital, we’re dedicated to developing a strategy based on white hat SEO tactics that deliver results. Contact Double Up Digital and learn more about our approach to SEO today.

About The Author

Joel Mehler

A graduate of the University of Alabama, Joel was first introduced to digital marketing and SEO while participating in an international internship program in Barcelona, Spain. Joel maintains consistent oversight on strategy performance, client relations and day-to-day operations. Joel is an avid traveler and spends much of his free time in search of Atlanta’s next fun trend.

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