Avoid These 9 Common Black Hat SEO Practices (And Why)
Ethics are vital in search engine optimization (SEO), as is the case with every other part of a growing business. SEO agency experts have spent countless hours devising and revising the ideas we use today. Along the way, they also discovered what not to do and why.
This guide touches on black-hat SEO practices and why you should avoid them, including:
- A brief review of black hat SEO and its effects on your website
- Nine common black hat SEO practices you must avoid at all costs
There’s a lot to discuss, so get ready to take notes.
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Defining Black Hat SEO And How It Affects Your Website
Black hat SEO refers to various questionable SEO practices intended to improve your online ranking. These actions can be seemingly innocuous, such as owning a network of websites for backlinks. Posting thin or low-quality content and employing spam bots also fit this category.
However, it can also be intentional and malicious actions taken to sabotage competitors. These practices include hacking other websites, plagiarizing existing content, and writing negative comments. While these tactics give you some success, it is usually short-lived, if at all present.
On the other hand, once search engines learn of any guideline violations, they start handing out penalties left, right, and center. Remember that every black hat SEO tactic has an equivalent penalty that hurts your SEO and affects your search engine results page (SERP) rank.
9 Black Hat SEO Practices You Should Avoid At All Costs
Impulsive companies fail at SEO because they open themselves to unsavory tactics that promise immediate “results.” In reality, these “rank-high quick” schemes are already so outdated that search engines now have smarter and faster responses to contain their effects.
1. Buying Or Faking Backlinks
Search engines separate good from bad content by checking who cites your content and how they use the information there. This can make buying backlinks from others tempting for website owners.
- Why this is bad: Backlinks matter, but most people fail to understand that quality matters more than quantity with SEO. That is, search engines know when backlinks are inauthentic.
- What you should do instead: Focus your efforts on building high-quality content that attracts backlinks. Be proactive and use link-building strategies to boost your website’s SEO.
2. Spinning Others’ Content
It is common knowledge that search engines frown upon plagiarizing and duplicating content. The same goes for content spinning, which slightly changes others’ content to make it “new.”
- Why this is bad: Spinning articles is essentially plagiarism, subjecting them to the same penalties as the latter. The only caveat is that you change words or rearrange parts here and there.
- What you should do instead: Find your angle. Sometimes, you need a little inspiration from others. However, be cautious of what and how much you take from these outside sources.
3. Posting Links Everywhere
Drawing traffic from as many sources as possible is good for SEO. What is not good is forcing that traffic to come your way by spamming your links on other websites, blogs, or comments.
- Why this is bad: Branding is as important as SEO to online success. How you attract new customers matters because tactics that harass people are one of the quickest ways to get banned.
- What you should do instead: Be methodical and practical with marketing yourself in online spaces. Go into conversations with the intent to provide solutions rather than to sell products.
4. Overtly Stuffing Keywords
Keywords are the most basic SEO element in use across the whole internet. Controlled use of keywords can lead users right to you. Abusing them can quickly make you rank lower in the SERPs.
- Why this is bad: Search engines rely on keywords to determine content relevance, so any unusual or forced use of keywords gets flagged as an attempt to manipulate SERP ranking.
- What you should do instead: Focus your content strategy on making content primarily for a human audience. Instead of keyword stuffing, create topic clusters around your target keyword.
5. Inserting Sneaky Redirects
Most websites use redirects to work around broken links. However, they can also function as a way to fool unsuspecting users. In some cases, redirects lead to other, more sinister content.
- Why this is bad: Sneaky redirects slow down website loading times, resulting in poor user experience (UX). In addition, the destination page might not accurately match the user’s query.
- What you should do instead: Make content that genuinely helps users because that is what search engines want most. High-quality content naturally attracts people without shady tactics.
6. Constructing Doorway Pages
A doorway page is anything that stands between the user and their destination, regardless of whether they see it or not. They serve no other purpose than to manipulate SEO.
- Why this is bad: Sneaky redirects are one malicious application of doorway pages which, as mentioned above, affects UX. Other uses, such as tag pages, also weigh down site speed.
- What you should do instead: If you want to make content easier to find, use a good site search plugin rather than creating unnecessary doorway pages, such as author and category pages.
7. Using Content Automation
Generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools have opened many doors for SEO. They make content creation quick and easy. However, relying too much on them adversely affects SEO.
- Why this is bad: Generative AI is still incapable of creating the user-focused content that search engines expect. Because of that, purely AI-generated articles fall short of SEO.
- What you should do instead: Use AI writing tools to start or supplement your content writing process. They excellently work in tandem with human writers to produce the best SEO content.
8. Creating Fake Rich Snippets
A rich snippet lets you show more information about your page on SERPs, but some people use it to deceive unsuspecting users. It more or less involves lying about the page’s actual contents.
- Why this is bad: When attracting traffic, search engines highly discourage practices that depend on deception because it negatively affects UX. Fake snippets are among these.
- What you should do instead: Make good content if you want a rich snippet that draws traffic. You have more to gain by following white-hat SEO practices than black-hat ones.
9. Using Negative SEO Tactics
Negative SEO, like black hat SEO, is a loose collection of practices designed to cripple competitors. It includes tactics such as hacking, keyword poaching, and backlink spamming.
- Why this is bad: For obvious reasons, search engines do not appreciate mean-spirited efforts to overtake competitors. Therefore, using negative SEO tactics can land you hefty punishments.
- What you should do instead: Plan to build yourself up rather than tear others down. It should be clear by now that search engines want what is best for users. Prioritize that for the best SEO.
Everyone loses with black-hat SEO. Users fail to get what they need, your competitors suffer the effects of shady practices, and you hurt your reputation by leaning on dishonest tactics to carry you to the top. That is why SEO agency experts always recommend following best practices instead.
If you want to commit to avoiding black-hat SEO, just remember that cheaters never prosper.
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