How To Avoid Black Hat SEO Tactics (Just Say No)
Not all search engine optimization (SEO) practices benefit your website and, by extension, your business. Some can hurt your search engine results page (SERP) ranking. Even worse, some can cause search engines to punish you.
That is why SEO agency experts actively document the best and worst SEO practices.
This guide goes into depth about black hat SEO tactics, including:
- How black hat SEO compares to other SEO practices
- Why you should avoid dangerous black hat tactics
- Five concrete steps to avoid harmful SEO strategies
There’s a lot to discuss, so get ready to take notes.
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What Is Black Hat SEO and Why Is It Bad?
Distinguishing between SEO practices — including black, white, and grey hat — is fairly straightforward. These labels essentially refer to the ethical or moral alignment of the practice. In the case of black hat SEO, it encompasses anything malicious or harmful to others.
An extreme case of black hat practices is hacking your competitors’ websites or data systems for your own benefit. Any actions or attempts to deliberately sabotage or undermine others fall under black hat SEO. Practices based on cheating or exploitation are also part of this category.
Here are some examples of the most commonly used black hat SEO tactics:
- Posting constant streams of low-quality content
- Buying or selling backlinks to manipulate ranking
- Content spinning or plagiarizing existing articles
As a general rule, black hat SEO is wrong because it goes against guidelines set by all search engines, in addition to good faith. Those caught practicing it get heavily penalized to discourage followers and to curb any potential harm to users and website owners.
Here are a few of the possible risks you face when using black hat SEO tactics:
- Lowered ranking as a penalty for posting thin content
- Devaluing any suspicious, bought, or spam backlinks
- Removal from SERPs due to guideline violations
Here Is What You Should Do Instead
For the most part, algorithms are responsible for identifying and sorting web pages during crawling and indexing. However, even if you somehow slip past them, eagle-eyed individuals can still tag and report your content. In short, black hat success does not last.
Therefore, when faced with a choice between right and easy, it should be pretty obvious which one to follow. Always aim to attain success through hard work and perseverance. This is not only to avoid penalties but also to preserve your business’ integrity and reputation.
A good take on black hat SEO is the saying, “Just because you can, does not mean you should.” In other words, plenty of white hat or even grey hat alternatives deliver excellent benefits without unnecessary risk. Following SEO trends such as mobile-first is one of them.
Other positive and highly beneficial SEO strategies you can follow instead of black hat SEO are:
1. Create topic clusters to naturally boost your domain authority (DA) and content quality.
2. Find ways to engage with your target audience, such as interacting with user comments.
3. Make effective landing pages that highlight your business and its products and services.
4. Follow SEO best practices, such as ensuring your content has accurate meta tags.
5. Assembling your SEO strategy with the user’s search intent and buyer’s journey in mind.
5 Steps To Avoid Black Hat SEO Tactics
The simplest way to avoid black hat SEO is to say "no" flat-out when the opportunity presents itself. However, it might be easier and more constructive to break down how best to refuse shady practices and find safer alternatives that deliver consistent results for your business.
1. Set Realistic Goals
SEO is a long-term process, and there are no easy paths to success.
The first step to avoid being desperate enough to attempt black hat SEO is to know what it is you want to achieve with your digital strategy. For instance, look into organic link building to accumulate backlinks for higher DA and SERP ranking instead of buying spam links.
2. Understand The Rules
Brush up on webmaster guidelines to avoid any and all potential SEO pitfalls.
Using black hat SEO tactics hurts your bottom line because search engines, especially Google, have developed methods for detecting and punishing dishonest and shady behavior. That makes them indefensible, in addition to the fact that there are hardly any sustainable benefits.
3. Know What You Want
Having well-defined personal and business goals helps guide every part of decision-making.
In other words, knowing what you want to accomplish through SEO gives you the much-needed mental clarity to make sound choices for your business. Remember that no matter who you are, you do not and should not risk rubbing search engines the wrong way with black hat SEO.
4. Consider The Fallout
Expect that for every harmful SEO practice you use, there is an equal and opposite punishment.
As mentioned above, black hat SEO refers to malicious or harmful practices to undermine others, manipulate outcomes, or fabricate success. Including them in your strategy is wrong because success is short-lived, and search engines constantly look out for violators.
5. Search For Alternatives
SEO agency experts have reviewed the supposed usefulness of black hat SEO and consistently found that it is all risk and no reward. In fact, it is relatively easy to find lists, blogs, and other content on the multitude of better and more reliable alternative strategies you should use.
Just because something seems like a good idea on paper does not mean it is good in practice.
SEO practices are not all good (white hat), nor are they all bad (black hat). Sometimes, they can even float vaguely in between (grey hat). That makes it all the more important to be fully aware of the many SEO actions you take and the consequences that come with them.
Stay on the good side of search engines by avoiding malicious black hat SEO tactics and instead focusing on building your brand and reputation the right way — through honest, hard work.
Need help understanding black hat SEO practices and why and how to avoid them? Contact us to learn more about how we can help.
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