Business owners in every industry have to fight to outrank their competition. In a world where the majority of consumers aren’t looking beyond the first page of Google, it’s imperative that you use SEO to appear higher in search engine results pages. However, in an effort to win over coveted customers, many businesses are turning to shady black hat SEO tactics to streamline the ranking process.
Black hat SEO is a term that encompasses various practices that are unethical and against Google’s code of conduct. People use black hat SEO tactics to manipulate the search engine and seek shortcuts to results. However, the truth is, these tactics can hurt you much more than they can help. The following black hat tactics can damage your reputation and destroy your ability to ever rank your website on Google. Here are three black hat tactics you should definitely avoid:
1) Buying Low Quality Links
Links are one of Google’s top three ranking factors, and they play a major role in how your website is ranked. Think of every link to your website as a digital vote. The more links you have that point to your website, the more relevant Google considers your site to be. Outbound links are important, too. When you point to reputable sites that are relevant to your copy, Google gains a more in-depth understanding about what you’re seeking to achieve with your content.
With this in mind, many people are purchasing links for the sake of having links. These links are often placed on low-quality sites, encased in even lower quality content. What you may not realize is that when you get a link from a low authority site, it holds much less weight. And when you get dozens on links from low-quality sites, it poses a red flag. This is why many businesses conduct their own link audits to be sure they’re never getting links from sites that don’t contribute to a positive reputation.
Believe it or not, even major corporations have engaged in purchasing low quality content solely for links (and have been reprimanded as a result). J.C. Penney is a classic example of this. During a holiday season, J.C. Penney managed to rank at the top of search engine results for tough phrases like “skinny jeans” and “home decor.” After a little investigation, one consumer discovered that the retailer had over 2,000 backlinks on websites that beared little to no relevance to their company. Although the company denied their involvement, Google penalized the company and they saw drop of at least 70 positions for some of their key search terms.
2) Blog Comment Spam
Blog comment spam is closely related to the black hat linking strategy previously mentioned. Because links are so important, black hat SEOs will use services to spam hundreds or even thousands of blogs at once, adding their link to the blog post in question. However, not only is this a bad practice, but Google has updated their algorithm to address this issue by discounting any links made in blog comments—meaning in most cases, adding a link to a blog post offers no link juice. Although this practice is less common as a result, you’ll still see many freelancers on platforms like Fiverr advertising their blog comment services. Do yourself a favor and avoid this at all costs.
3) Keyword Stuffing
Keyword stuffing can cost you your relationship with Google. This is a black hat tactic that involves doing exactly what it sounds like: stuffing keywords into your text. Webmasters use this tactic because they understand that Google uses content to gain a better understand of what a page is about, and translates that context into its SERPs. However, when you add keywords that don’t fit naturally, it negatively impacts the user experience. And the user experience is Google’s number one priority.
For example, let’s say you’re a real estate agent and recently invested in WordPress website hosting and want to rank for real estate agents in Brooklyn. To aid your efforts, you start creating a slew of content to make that happen. This is an example of keyword stuffing to rank for a specific term:
“If you’re looking for real estate agents Brooklyn, then you need not look any further. Our company offers the best real estate agents Brooklyn, and you’ll be happy about your decision. Contact our real estate agents Brooklyn today.”
As you can see, this copy doesn’t use natural language, and is clearly written for the sole purpose of appealing to search engines—not to appeal to potential clients. Always think about your end user, and remember, it’s better to do things the right way than to look for ways to cut corners.