What is Black Hat SEO?
Good SEO practices, or White Hat SEO, involves creating content with “users” in mind and then, in accord with the guidelines given by search engines, making this content accessible to their crawlers. Black Hat SEO refers to practices penalised by search engines, and generally require deliberate intent and a degree of skill to pull off.
However, being aware of them will prevent you from accidentally straying over to the dark side.
Black hat SEO involves intentionally designing a website or creating content to manipulate search engines with the view to improve rankings. These practices are frowned upon by search engines, and Google’s Penguin update, launched in April 2012, is specifically geared to target and penalise the following black-hat practices: keyword stuffing, hidden text, cloaking, participating in link schemes and deliberate creation of duplicate content.
Black Hat SEO
This is an obvious error, but one that can creep into one’s blogging habits if you’re proneness to over-eagerness. Not only should your keyword not exceed 3% of the content, but you also need to include the keyword in sentences that are both grammatical and reader-friendly. In other words, avoid random lists of keywords and sentences like this: “Just because keywords are keywords important doesn’t keywords mean they keywords should make keywords sentences unreadable.”
Again, this is another rather obvious misdeed but one that requires a bit more devious intent. “Hidden text” is when you deliberately colour text to blend in with your background colour—for example, white text on a white background—or use CSS to place additional keywords off-screen, or set the font size to zero.
Cloaking requires more malicious intent than the first two practices and involves presenting content to search engines that is different from that which is offered to searchers. Cloaking is a form of the “gateway” technique whereupon low-quality pages—i.e. offering very little valid content for searchers, instead stuffed with keyword phrases—direct searchers to sites other than what they searched for.
This is another rather obvious Black Hat SEO misdemeanour. Knowing that backlinks are crucial to good rankings, it might be tempting to buy backlinks from link farms (excessive link exchanges), or to create backlinks through partner pages, or using automated services to build links back to your website. Don’t … just don’t. Generating organic backlinks through great content, social media networking, business listings, genuine participation in a few, selective industry-related forums, press releases, and the like, keeps you on the straight and narrow.
After spending valuable time creating good content, it might be tempting to duplicate your content elsewhere on your site, or to repeat the same few hundred words—your biography, or your business’s history, or your product’s selling features, for instance—on every post you make. After all, it will help you meet the 300-word quota on each blog. Right? Wrong. Search engines frown upon redundant content. This means excessive quoting of content from popular sites is another no-go, and it goes without saying that plagiarism is a huge no-no from whatever side you look at it.
From the above, you can see that while some Black Hat SEO practices require deliberately manipulating SEO, it is also easy to transgress by simply trying too hard to make search engines your target rather than possible visitors to your site. Penalties for these kinds of infringements include temporary or permanent suspension from search engines’ indexes, and so must be avoided at all costs. See Google’s guidelines for more on these and other Black Hat SEO techniques to avoid. (The Google Penguin algorithm update is designed to penalise these offences.)