Optimizing for SEO may seem very straightforward once you’ve got a grasp on the basics. Some people think it’s a simple case of using lots of keywords and links; nothing so complex about that, right? What many people don’t know, and what plenty of digital marketing agencies won’t tell you, is that some SEO techniques can negatively impact your website’s search engine standing. Some people try to use what is called “black hat” techniques to trick search engine bots into ranking a website higher on the results pages. These methods tend to violate the Terms of Service of search engines and though they might boost your website’s ranking in a short period, it doesn’t take long for the bots to recognize what is going on and to penalize websites that don’t follow the rules. Here is a list of some “Black Hat” SEO techniques to avoid in 2020.
It is widely known that well-placed keywords are essential to good digital marketing. The important thing to note is that they are well-placed keywords. Unnatural repetition of certain words in a short text is not only annoying to read, but also a red flag to bots. Algorithms are sharp at picking up on these techniques and it’s only ever damaging to your website in the long run.
Cloaking is a method of trying to fool the search engine bots by showing them a different page to what is shown to human users. This is done by tracking whether the IP address trying to access your website belongs to a real person or a bot. The person will be shown the page as it’s supposed to look, often with images or flash, while the bot will be presented with a different page, often text-rich HTML with extra keywords thrown in. People who do this keep track of bot IP addresses using lists from Webmasters. This is considered “black hat”, and when search engines pick up on it, they can penalize your website or blacklist it all together.
Link Buying (or Link Farming)
Search engines look at a range of factors when determining where to rank your website. Having other websites link back to your own is one that makes your website seem more popular and relevant and can improve your ranking. Plenty of people try to profit from this by selling backlinks: you pay them to create specific web pages that link back to your site. These domains do the same for multiple clients so the content of the sites backlinking to you is often unrelated to your content and can even be spam. For example, it looks odd to bots when a link-heavy website to ‘watch free movies online’ actually links back to the website of a distinguished plastic surgeon. They pick up on the disconnect and the backlink becomes damaging by association, quickly resulting in your website being written off by bots as also being spam.
Staying fresh and providing new and relevant content is an important element of good SEO, but this should not be done at whatever cost. While trying to keep up with providing content, some people steal and plagiarize from other websites instead of generating their material. This is super easy for search engine bots to identify, and will not only cost you your website’s rankings but is also illegal practice.
Similarly, article spinning is another SEO technique to avoid. Article spinning is essentially rewriting an existing article to circumvent the punishment for duplicate content. It’s still plagiarism, still illegal, still definitely black hat and not to be done.
Ah, clickbait. We’ve all been scrolling down a web page and seen a tagline for something that makes us so curious we need to know more. Sparking curiosity and enticing people to click on a link is not of itself a black hat technique. You should be creating punchy and interesting content that makes people want to know more and there’s nothing wrong with that. This becomes black hat when the page that is being linked to doesn’t offer value or information and is just for click generation. These pages might have high numbers of hits but the bounce-back rate (how quickly people bounce back to the previous page) will also be high. Bots will register that the page isn’t offering what people are looking for and nix your domain authority.
Gateway or Doorway Pages
A gateway or doorway page is normally full of keywords, calls to action, links and similar content. They are designed to trick the search engine bots into giving the website higher domain authority and search engine ranking. Gateway pages automatically redirect the end-user to the actual landing page, so they are only ever seen by the bots. It sounds relatively harmless, especially if it doesn’t bother the user at all, but search engines take this very seriously. Google released an algorithm in 2015 specifically to target and penalize websites using gateway pages, and BMW’s German website was also once completely removed from Google’s index for the practice.
Hidden Text and Links
Keyword stuffing doesn’t just apply to what the user sees, but also what they don’t see. This method is the inclusion of keywords and links that can’t be read by your audience, for example filling a box with text and setting the font color to the background color to make it invisible. This also applies to hiding extra keywords in the comment tags of the coding. It might seem clever but it doesn’t trick the bots. Google and other search engines continue to develop algorithms that target this type of deception. It’s poor manipulation of search results and should not be in your SEO toolbox.Good, white hat SEO methods are the best way to build your website’s authority and success. Get in touch with us today to talk about how we can help you avoid black hat SEO techniques and elevate your practice’s digital presence to the next level.