Whether you are totally new to SEO or a weathered professional, the concept of White Hat and Black Hat SEO is an easy one to grasp.
The concept as old as mankind, good guys v’s the bad guys, the knight in shiny armor or the Black Knight, cowboys in white or the cattle rustlers wearing black hats.
There is something that I would like you to take note of, not everything is so definitive as Black and White. Like many things in life, there is alway a little Grey.
I make this point as we will be going through some SEO techniques that today are deemed Black Hat SEO but once they were a normal part of the SEO community – White Hat SEO.
Just like the Dark Side versus the Jedi’s in Star Wars, there is a conflicting grey area where some of the bad guys were in fact once the good guys – So what turned them to the dark side?
- That force that turns White Hat SEO into Black Hat SEO is Google!
Be conscious of this fact, as what you do today, White Hat SEO may well be deemed Black Hat SEO tomorrow as Google updates their algorithm – a force onto themselves.
- We in the SEO community are not privy to their (Googles) secret coded algorithm and at best are reactionaries rather than revolutionaries.
The following are just some of the Black Hat SEO techniques that today will almost guarantee you a Google Penalty.
Google Algorithmic Penalties – What are they?
Launched back on the 24th of April 2012 – the ‘Webspam Update’ which was shortly thereafter dubbed ‘Penguin‘ has since been regularly updated, modified and tweaked – it focusses primarily on the ‘nature of links’.
Links/Backlinks formed the fundamental basis of difference which permitted Google to set themselves apart from the other search engines of the day.
It greatly enhanced the search returns and the user experience.
In acquiring links the factors of Quality and Quantity play a major factor in enhancing or impeding a sites rankings in Google.
The Panda Algorithmic update was first released in February 2011 and its main emphasis was on the quality or more so, the lack of quality of the ‘content’ on a website.
That being sites with, limited, poor and low quality content – thin sites and in particular ‘content farms’ or ‘content mills‘.
Defining such low quality sites was determined by Google in their course content “Create Valuable Content”
The effect of either one of these Penguin or Panda penalties is a reduction of your websites presence in the Google rankings, be it a small loss in rankings or relegated to NOT in 100… gone, not seen by your potential clients or customers.
Either way, it is not recommended doing things that would incur the wrath of Google!
Some Specific Black Hat SEO Techniques to Avoid
Doing so sets you up for getting a Google algorithmic or manual penalty.
Buying 1,000 links for $29.99 delivered over 5 days is “leaving an obvious footprint” for a penalty.
– Think of it this way, you rock up to Bathurst in a stock standard Toyota Camry and you suddenly rocket to the TOP 10 in the race.
– Guarantying that the officials will be checking out the vehicle for any illegal modifications!
Obviously quality trumps quantity and attained on merit from websites with recognised relevance and authority.
- For more information on “How to Build Links” refer to our article – Link Building Guide 2017
“A reciprocal link is an agreement between two webmasters to provide a hyperlink within their own website to each other’s web site. Generally this is done to provide readers with quick access to related sites, or to show a partnership between two sites.”
If you are in a genuine partnership then doing so in very limited terms is not an issue.
However, to have multiple (hundreds/thousands) of reciprocating links from all and sundry somewhat negates the intent and integrity of recommending/referring one to another.
This is an example of a technique that was arguably White Hat SEO, once upon a time.
As touched on with respect to Reciprocal Links, if there is a genuine reason for having a footer link to another partner site, then it is acceptable.
For example, you built the website and have a footer link back to your Web Design site.
The advantage of a footer link, is that effectively you are getting a link from every page of that website.
It is all a matter of degrees, one off compared to having a score of footer links to other websites will clearly put it into the Black Hat category.
This is so simple you have to laugh, the link/text is hidden due to the color of the font being the same as that of the background i.e white on white.
Another method being text that directs you to a completely different site/content to what the text led visitors to believe – generally to spammy websites.
Whilst it can be difficult for search engines to identify hidden links as in practice they can not differentiate whether the links are hidden or visible, it is nether-less not advisable to undertake such as it is an obvious Black Hat SEO technique.
So you have joined a relevant industry forum and are an active member of that community by participating, contributing new posts, engaging in posts and adding thought provoking commentary. Naturally when you do so, you may well have within your signature a link back to your website – This in itself is perfectly fine.
However, doing the same on multiple forum sites, with little to no relevance to the post and posting irrelevant comments to the Original Post then this is SPAM.
Forums with genuine member participation will quickly object to such spammy comments and the moderators would then promptly ban you from the community.
Anchor Text Overuse
Lets say for example you want to be ranked for the product search term “Western Front Tours” and you use this to link it to your website page ‘http://www.battletours.com.au/tour/anzac-day-western-front-tour‘ …See what I did there? :), but you do this over 100++ times on the page
Google can clearly see what you are trying to do as you attempt to manipulate ranking for a specific search phrase using contextual anchor text – This worked well in the past however not so well today, in 2017.
The following is an exert from my ‘Link Building Guide 2017‘ on different types of Anchor Text that could be employed to vary the nature of the Anchor Text;
- Exact-match Links
- Partial-match Links
- Branded Links
- Naked Link
- Generic or Junk Links
Duplicate Content/Content Theft
Google does have the capacity to determine Duplicate Content or as I prefer to use the term plagiarism!
Their methodology is not always accurate but it is a way in which Google can determine the provenance of a piece of content.
Being over simplistic it is no different to copying someones homework or cheating on a test.
Apart from the obvious theft, it can devalue the worth of the original content as the search engines do not want to index the same material or send people to multiple pages with exactly the same content.
In turn, the search engines will more than likely index the more unique content of your competitor.
Just don’t do it, be unique and original.
A former UK client inadvertently was hit with a penalty for Keyword Stuffing.
It was not intentional but in hindsight it should have been obvious to their previous SEO agency.
The client sold ‘Adidas Sports Shoes’ online, all legit and above board and as I said, the infringement was not intentional.
The problem arose due to the image ALT Attributes for the hundred’s of Adidas shoes on the site as every single image openly had the term ‘Adidas’.
Therefore, all that Google saw on the page was ‘Adidas’ repeated hundreds and hundreds of times.
Whilst this was a very easy fix, it was a very tedious and long process to go through each and every image and modify the ALT Attributes to better reflect the shoe make, year and model.
The more common and obvious Keyword Stuffing is the obnoxious over use of a particular phrase over and over again making the content ridiculously unreadable and an insult to your audience.
Which in turn diminishes the sites subject authority and visitor retention.
As mentioned earlier with Hidden Links, this is simplistic, just having the same color background as the font – i.e black on black.
This was one of the very first forms of deceitful intent that I came across when entering the industry.
The idea alone went against my initial belief that a website was there to promote a business.
So why have hidden content since it was of no value to your audience?
To do so purely for SEO was easily going to set you apart as untrustworthy and prove to be of no long term advantage.
Black Hat SEO Techniques
In summary, the above Black Hat SEO techniques should be obviously avoided by always keeping in mind your audience and their experience.
I repeatedly tell clients that this SEO thing is very much the same as building up your Reputation and just like in real life it is worth building up a positive reputation over time.
Over-night or instant online success is a fallacy.
That success was honestly cultivated over time.