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Black Hat SEO – Don’t Do These Things

You’ve probably heard of the term Black Hat SEO but do you know what it means as far as implementation and the risks you run to your online business and reputation?

Presented at the November 2015 WordPress Sydney meetup group, I cover the top black hat SEO techniques that you should avoid using.

TL;DR

You can just view my presentation slides to get the gist of this post.

 

Black Hat Definition

…the use of aggressive SEO strategies, techniques and tactics that focus only on search engines and not a human audience, and usually does not obey search engines guidelines.

The Risks

You are of course free to use any legal SEO techniques you want to but you need to be aware of the risks and consequences of using those that are deemed black hat by the search engine companies.

The common consequences that can result in using these techniques can be:

  • Website Penalised
    This will result in lower positions for your website in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for all or specific keywords.  You may have been on page 1 before but after penalisation you appear on page 10.
  • Website Blacklisted
    Your website server’s IP address is added to one or more blacklists.  Blacklists are shared by multiple internet service companies and can result in a ban from email lists, affiliate programs and can result in action from your website host provider.
  • Website Exclusion from SERPs
    If your actions are deemed bad enough you could see your entire website removed from the entire search engine.  Your website will not show any results.
    It’s easy to test if this has happened.  In any search engine, search for site:yourdomain.com replacing yourdomain.com with your actual domain name.

Why Do The Search Engine Companies Have Rules?

Short answer is that these companies are out to make money and they don’t like you playing around with the way they want results to be returned.

It would be nice to think that the search results pages are there for the benefit of everyone and to a certain extent of course they are, but I’m sure the search engine companies have spent millions on positioning items that best optimise their return of investment, such as adword placements.

The Naughty List

Without further ado, here is my top list of SEO techniques you probably shouldn’t be doing.

Hidden Content

Definition: Trying to hide keywords in the source code of the page, not visible to regular visitors.

  • Comment Tags
    <!– Sydney SEO –>
  • Noscript Tag
    <noscript>Sydney SEO</noscript>
  • Font Colour Same As Background Colour e.g. white text on white background
    <p style=”color:white;”>Sydney SEO</p>
  • Small Text e.g. so small you cannot read it
    <p style=”font-size:0.01rem;”>Sydney SEO</p>
  • Text Indent e.g. moving the text off screen
    <p style=”text-indent: 9999px;”>Sydney SEO</p>

Keyword Stuffing

  • In Meta Tags
    <meta name=”description” content=”Sydney SEO, SEO Specialists Sydney, SEO Sydney, Google Page 1 Sydney”>
  • In Website Footer Area
    keywords-in-footer

Gateway/Doorway Pages

Also known as page cloaking this is a method of displaying one set of content to search engine bots and another to regular visitors.

Search engine companies have index programs (bots) which crawl through the interwebs gathering and indexing content.  They each have a particular signature which can be used programatically to sent alternative content such as a particular set of keywords.

Search engine companies particularly don’t like this technique and if detected will likely result in exclusion front the search index.

Link Farming

This is another technique which is particularly disliked by search engine companies.

The method uses a group of fake websites with search engine keyword targeted content.  Each site links to each other generating a multitude of backlinks, because having a huge amount of backlinks is good right?

link-farms

The process is designed to increase the Page Rank (PR) score of a site by providing more links back to each site.  This technique may initially work but the search engine companies are very good at detecting this and they will put their foot down.

Buying Paid Links

1000 PR8 links guaranteed only $99 USD

We’ve all seen those adverts enticing us to part with money for lovely high PR link juice for our website.

In most cases it’s unlikely you will now which sites your website URL is being associated with.  It may be a high PR website, but what if it’s a pornography or other elicit website?  Surely that’s not a site you want to be associated in any way with.

Removing, technically known as “Disavowing”, links from sites after your own website has been penalised can be time consuming or flatly impossible to do.

Scraper Sites

A scraper site will employ multiple script techniques to search the SERP’s for content relating to a particular keywork or phrase (long-tail keyword).

The objective is to grab high PR content and present it on a new website, hoping to climb high in the search results.

Content is often unique (from the initial search result website) and taken and presented on the new website without permission.  Blatent copyright theft.

The new sites are often filled with adware and pay-per-click advertising with the simple goal of generating as much money before they penalised and forced to shut down.

Don’t do that!

Article Spinning

This technique is rewriting existing articles, multiple times, to avoid penalties imposed by search engines for duplicate content.

There are generally two ways of doing this:

  1. Paying a copywriter for a professional finish
  2. Automated spinning software using a thesaurus and synonym replacements

Unique content is always advised and if you would like to rewrite an old article, perhaps give it a slightly different direction to the original article.

Buying Expired Domains

Here, the black hat uses automated software to troll domain registrars for domain expiry dates, buying up high PR value domains.

Similar to the Content Scraping section above, keyword specific content is crammed into a temporary website and backlinks are made to websites in the hope of boosting it’s PR value.

The temporary sites tend to lose PR value over time as the existing content that made them popular is no longer present.

It is thought that search engines now reset PR on expired domains.

Blog Comment & Trackback Spam

WordPress users will recognise this technique.  It uses mainly software that automatically posts links as comments on blogs in the hope of increasing inbound links to whatever website they are trying to raise PR for.

This also covers trackback spamming where trackback links point to an unrelated site.

Pingback Spam

Notifying search engines that “new” content had been added to a website, usually several pings per minute.

Automated scripts generate and can spin new content just for the sole purpose of giving the “illusion” that a website is busy and generating new content.

URL Hijacking

This has been common black hat technique since 2000.

It involves registering domain names that are mispelled versions of popular high-ranking websites in an attempt to mislead users.

e.g. g0ogle.com, foogle.com

In Summary

With the exception of stealing other peoples copyrighted content, the techniques outlined above are not illegal.

They are highly abhorred by the search engine companies.  They don’t want you to game their systems and ruin the revenue making model they have spend time and money creating.

My recommendation is:

Don’t do these things!

Keep In Touch

Wil

Wil is a dad, consultant, developer, conference organiser, speaker and business mentor. He co-organizes the WordPress Sydney meetup group and has been on the orgnising committee for WordCamp Sydney since 2014. He speaks at many technical events and contributes to the WordPress open source project. His likes are chillies, craft beer and electrogravitics.
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