Misdemeanors are frequent, even in the SEO world. It turns out that it’s possible to trick the search engine. So what does fooling Google look like? Keep reading!
When doing SEO for your website, you need to remember about numerous on and off-site activities. All of these to ensure reaching maximally high positions in the search results. We’re sure that you’ve heard about keywords that, together with link schemes, play the first fiddle. It might seem to you that it’s extremely effective to apply keywords as frequently as possible or provide links to your page on numerous external portals. Sounds like an ideal recipe for top Google positions, doesn’t it? However, you’re on very thin technical and ethical ice. Google is a smart robot that doesn’t approve of dishonest activities. What is black hat SEO and why is it better to stay away from it? How to make sure that your page doesn’t get a Google penalty? Let’s find out!
Black, white, or maybe a grey hat? Which one do you choose?
SEO activities can be subdivided into on and off-site ones, respectively meaning actions that take place on the website and outside the platform (e.g. link building). On the other hand, it’s possible to distinguish three main SEO tactics. The first one is white hat SEO which means complete compliance with the rules described in the guidelines prepared for web developers. Although this technique is the most time and patience-consuming, the results are long-lasting and impressive. It comprises activities that make the website attractive not only for the search engine robots but also for real users. The more eye-catching and appealing the page, the better. If you aim at white hat SEO, forget about spam. Quality content encourages users to share the page with others which make the website a more reliable and valuable source of information for both visitors and Google robots. Methods chosen by people advocating white hat SEO include optimization of the website code or structure and creation of friendly URLs. White hat SEO is considered to be the most professional approach.
The second tactic is black hat SEO which means activities that aren’t in line with Google standards. It’s not something you should do if you care about long-lasting results. Let’s start by discussing the origin of this term. It’s associated with western movies where antagonists usually wear black hats. Black hat SEO activities involve techniques that are inadvisable and dangerous for the website. Contrary to white hat SEO, when choosing this solution, you can expect a rapid improvement of Google positions of your keywords and website. This happens because the website is tailored to the search engine, not to users. It may also be the case that even without interfering with the website structure your activities will be categorized as black hat SEO, for example, because of link schemes that we’ll discuss later on in more detail. Very frequently, the effects are impressive and quick, however, this idyll only lasts until the search engine robots realize that they have been cheated which usually happens when the algorithm is updated. It’s worth noting that the algorithm is updated regularly, even a few times a month. To put it simply, the time you have to benefit from such dishonest activities is limited – generally, your happiness caused by rapidly growing positions doesn’t last too long and may result in your website being penalized.
The third tactic is grey hat SEO, meaning activities that are neither white nor black hat SEO. Although it’s hard to establish the exact boundary, this technique is somewhere in between. Something that was acceptable in one situation, may be completely unacceptable in another. This solution is rather risky as in the long run it may involve Google penalties </b.and that’s something you want to avoid.
What is black hat SEO?
Black hat SEO activities can be divided into two categories: on-site and off-site. The first ones involve website modifications such as unnatural keywords placed on the page or hidden content. This makes the message quite unclear which definitely has a negative impact on the user experience. Duplicate content or texts hidden in graphics and alt descriptions are other issues. On the other hand, off-site black hat SEO activities are related to a huge amount of external links placed on various pages that have nothing to do with your site.
What are the most popular black hat SEO tactics? The list includes:
- Cloaking meaning displaying different content to users and search engine robots (on the same page). It can be frequently seen in meta tags that confuse users because they aren’t related to the real website content. Flash elements shown after entering a given website are another place for cloaking.
- Keyword stuffing means multiplying keywords in an unnatural way in all possible places on the site. Key phrases are placed in titles and descriptions, alt texts, headers, and the page content itself.
- Text hiding involves publishing texts written in a small font or having the background color so that they aren’t visible. It’s also about placing text outside the screen, in HTML comments, or behind graphics.
- Automatically generated content which involves using tools that create texts from a database of sentences and words. It can be compared to throwing a couple of words into a blender, mixing everything, and obtaining content that is completely confused but still contains all the keywords.
- Doorway pages meaning using several subpages that lead to the same location. To put you in the picture, imagine creating a few subpages with completely different names which suggest that you’ll be redirected to various sites, but in real life, you’re always redirected to the same page.
- Deceptive redirects mean that users are redirected to a different URL and robots have access to the original website content.
- User-generated spam meaning forum entries or comments with anchored or directly pasted links. Not moderating forums or link sections can be seen by Google as manipulation and actions that don’t comply with the guidelines.
- Link schemes mean platforms where you place links to a given site by adding them automatically to publishers’ websites in the system. They include preselling pages that are created from subdomains of one domain. They usually contain content generated automatically by using synonyms and substituting them with keywords which enables creating thousands of unique texts. Such texts are usually completely meaningless or even linguistically incorrect but they’re stuffed with links. In the case of websites that use link schemes, links are placed not in the content, but in a footer or a specially designed place on the site.
- Thin content meaning automatically generated websites that are totally useless for visitors. They’re supposed to increase the number of indexed pages. Such pages frequently contain keywords separated by commas and placed in a footer or sidebar. The content itself is short, incomplete, or even copied from other websites.
- Malicious sites that force users to click on specific links or buttons to download software. This tactic involves:
- Changing the position of website content so that users clicking on a given button actually click on another website element.
- Inserting pop-ups and new ads and replacing them with others.
- Attaching extra, unwanted files to the ones the user wants to download.
- Installing malware on users’ computers.
- Changing the search engine settings without users’ consent.
- Hacking SEO meaning taking advantage of the security vulnerabilities of CMS systems to install malware that creates redirects to other sites.
The moment when Google catches you red-handed…
Google algorithms are constantly changing and most of the techniques that were acceptable in the past should be avoided right now. Today, Google cares mainly about quality content that can truly attract real users or is helpful to them. That’s why new algorithms are dedicated to detect websites that don’t comply with the guidelines and penalize them for using black hat SEO tactics.
Well, fine, but what can actually happen to your website once Google catches it red-handed? There are a few scenarios, although each of them is rather unpromising. Here, again, it’s possible to divide penalties into manual and algorithm ones. The first ones are imposed by Google employees and you can find information about them in Google Search Console. To get rid of negative consequences, it’s enough to remove harmful links and contact the employee. The second type is much more severe as websites are penalized automatically by the search engine and their owners aren’t notified about it. In this case, determining the issue and resolving the problem is noticeably more complex.
The longer a given website is penalized, the more negative consequences it has. Such a situation has a negative impact on page impressions as the website is ranked on much lower positions in the search results. The decreases are drastic, phrase positions deteriorate and website traffic doesn’t increase either. The penalty is removed once the site owner gets rid of all harmful SEO activities. In some cases, websites can be even completely deleted from the search results.
Is the game worth the candle? Reasons why it’s better to keep off black hat SEO
Some people may not be aware that they actually use black hat SEO techniques. When dealing with SEO, it’s necessary to constantly grow and monitor Google algorithms and their updates to ensure that your website meets all the expectations. Penalties for applying dishonest tactics are really severe and it’s hard to get rid of them. Your market rivals will certainly develop and outdo your business when you’ll be trying to solve the issues and regain your regular positions in the search results.
Are there any situations when it’s beneficial to use black hat SEO? Some companies offer such services and promise to reach top Google positions in a short period of time. Obviously, you won’t be able to enjoy the success for years, however, this solution may be advantageous if a given website is created only for a short time because, e.g., it’s related to a certain contest and will be deleted once it ends.
Stay on “the light side of the force”
To sum up, it’s better and safer to stay away from black hat SEO. It’s also crucial to constantly monitor algorithm updates in order to avoid performing illegal activities unconsciously. Although white hat SEO is more time and energy-consuming, its results are more effective and long-lasting. When selecting an SEO agency you want to cooperate with, it’s worth asking about the approach and tactics it advocates.