Here in the United States, Thanksgiving is right around the corner! As a result, when we at TCM say “black hat,” you might immediately think of Pilgrims. That’s understandable, as images of these old New Englanders are ubiquitous in American elementary schools in the fall. But you’re likely also aware that you can use the term “black hat” to describe certain SEO practices.
If you don’t know anything about black hat SEO, the first thing we need to tell you is to avoid it at all costs. What practices qualify as black hat SEO? There are a number of them, a few of which we’ll describe below as a part of our continuing Holiday SEO Series. (Check out a previous, Halloween-themed installment here.)
As you read through the list of black hat SEO tactics detailed below, remember: Stay away from these turkeys at all costs! If you adopt any of these shady practices, they’ll definitely gobble up any goodwill you might have ever earned with Google!
What is Black Hat SEO?
Black hat SEO describes a set of sneaky tactics certain unscrupulous website designers use to try to game search engines. Those who embrace black hat SEO try to take short cuts to trick Google into putting their website at the top of the rankings. Search engines actually do have guidelines, and people who violate them attempting to gain an advantage are engaging in black hat SEO.
Rather than putting in the time it takes to develop high quality content, build links to other reputable sites, and otherwise establish solid authority for a website, these underhanded tricksters conspire to get to the number one spot without earning it.
There are some well-defined black hat SEO tactics, a few of which we’ll detail below. But as with many other shady endeavors, the term “black hat” can indicate a broad range of ploys.
If, while working on your website, you feel that you’re doing something to “trick” Google to gain an unfair advantage, you probably are. The old axiom, “I know it when I see it” definitely applies here.
What Will Happen to My Site If I Put on the Black Hat?
You want your website to rank well. We get that. If it takes a bit of underhanded string-pulling to get to the top, isn’t it worth it?
No. Absolutely not.
Search engines like Google now use algorithms that are sophisticated enough to detect black hat SEO tactics. And they have no tolerance for them.
In fact, if Google determines that you have embraced shady black hat maneuvering, the search engine will likely penalize your site. What does that mean? Google can push your site down the rankings so far that no one will ever find you. It may even pull you out of the search results altogether. Ouch. Weren’t you concocting this whole scheme to get found in the first place?
A Handful of SEO Tricks You Should Avoid
We here at TCM trust you. But, for the sake of spelling it all out, here is a list of commonly-used black hat SEO tactics you should definitely stay far away from.
We’re close to the Thanksgiving holiday, but, trust us, you won’t gain any nourishment from this brand of stuffing.
Here at TCM, we have written pretty extensively about the need to fill your website with content, adding the caveat that this content must be of high quality. Naturally, your content should be relevant to your industry and/or your company’s focus. This means that any written content you create should contain keywords that you hope your potential customers will use when conducting a search, thereby finding you online.
But remember that you should never overuse keywords, especially to the point where it sounds unnatural to the human ear. If you provide SEO services, then of course the acronym “SEO” will appear frequently in your website’s content. Users will see it on your homepage, on your “services” page, and in your company’s blog posts.
And you should use that keyword often! It’s what your business does, it’s what you want to rank for, and it’s how you will expect users to find you online.
But here’s something that won’t help you. In fact, it will hurt you. Don’t just hammer out “SEO” 5,000 times and call that a blog post. Nor should you try to be just slightly cleverer and make “SEO” every other word or every third word in your blog posts or main content. That won’t work. You’ll still get caught.
Always create content for real human users and use the most natural, human language you can. Think about how people talk to their voice assistants—in real, complete sentences. You should respond in kind.
Utilizing invisible text is a deceptive (and, perhaps even worse, lazy) method of trying to fool search engines and, by extension, users.
Human browsers might get turned off if they see all sorts of word repetition on a website. After all, a site that looks like that just screams “shady.” Invisible text tries to get over that hurdle by hiding this form of keyword stuffing. And it does so by making the text “invisible” to human viewers but still detectable to search engines.
How? By placing white text on a white background. Now it’s invisible! Seriously. You’re a real turkey if you think this gimmick will work in 2019. Don’t try it.
Seemingly the very definition of deception, cloaking is another black hat tactic that any upright content creator will avoid.
Cloaking attempts to lead both search engines and human users astray by presenting each of them with a different set of content. If you have content that you want a user to see but you don’t think you can get it to rank well, you can (but shouldn’t) cloak it in keywords that you think a search engine will find.
Using this method, you could, in theory, get Google to rank your page according to certain content that it sees while, at the same time, presenting different content to the user, such as images or even Flash content. Again, you could do this, but you shouldn’t.
In the world of SEO, it turns out that your elders were right. Hard work does pay off.
Invest your time and energy in creating great content, building a link network, and establishing your company’s identity through regular social media posts and blog writing.
Don’t try to take the easy way out. Avoid shortcuts and deception. Don’t wear the black hat. You’ll be thankful for the good results.
Do you know what else you can be grateful for? TCM’s Holiday SEO Series! Keep an eye out for future installments, including another round of black hat tactics you should avoid like the black plague! Until then, stay honest!