It is always a risk whenever you are thinking of hiring an SEO company, especially those that guarantee “Page 1” Google rankings within a ridiculously short period of time (say, one month). Whenever someone promises that, you can be almost certain that they are engaging in black hat SEO tactics. Sure, black hat tactics might be able to get you results faster. In the past, white hat SEO practitioners had almost no chance of beating their white hat counterparts.
But Google has gotten much smarter since then. The double whammy of Google’s Panda and Penguin updates have upset the traditional balance of power, and more deserving websites are finally getting the rankings they deserve. For those of who won’t know what black hat tactics are even if they slap you in the face, I’ve gathered a short list of tactics below.
The term ‘black hat SEO’ comes from the practice of using ‘unethical’ or ‘illegal’ (by the search engines, not the police) tactics to help send a website to the first page or even very top of the SERPs. You will be surprised to find out that many SEO companies who claim themselves to be experts are actually using black hat techniques to rank their clients’ websites. If you are hit by a link penalty, then you should know that a Penguin recovery be a long, uncertain and arduous process.
White hat SEO techniques are typically long-term strategies that will work within Google’s Webmaster Guidelines in order to increase your website rankings. They are safe, legit and recommended.
1. Keyword Stuffing
You are engaged in keyword stuffing if you have been discreetly placing the keywords you want to rank for into the pages of your website.
Sometimes these keywords are hidden within the source code i.e. human readers won’t be able to see them, but search engine spiders will. These can be hidden within your meta descriptions, comment tags or others.
You repeat your keywords over and over again within the copy of your text, especially when it doesn’t make sense. This brings us to the issue of keyword density. Among the most persistent SEO myth is that of an ‘optimal’ keyword density. I don’t really believe that. As long as your targeted keywords appear at least appear somewhere within your copy a few times, then that is enough.
You place your targeted keywords in a way that is invisible to readers, but visible to search engines. This may include using keywords in the same colour as your background of the web page. Or perhaps some would make them very small such that they are not noticeable.
2. Doorway Pages
Doorway pages (or sometimes called gateway pages) are pages that are created only to rank well in the search engines. They cannot be visited by human readers, but can still be crawled by the search engines that run through your sites. Such pages are usually redirected to the targeted website.
This used to work very well in the past, but Google has recently released a Spam Report where human readers can write in to report a website that they think is using unethical methods to rank in the SERPs. If you are operating in a highly competitive space, then you can be sure that you won’t get away with this for long.
3. Link farming
I have already mentioned how valuable links are to your website. Despite all the talk online, they are still the most important element in helping your website rank. Link farming is the practice of getting thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of links from spammy websites that were created for only SEO reasons i.e. they have bad content, were designed badly, have even more spammy links pointing back to them etc.
Bonus: Link Networks
This is still a black hat tactic, but one that can still work if done correctly (which isn’t easy these days). This involves creating and maintaining a network of websites that are used to help a webmaster’s main website achieve top rankings. The problem is that Google is getting very serious about putting a stop to such link networks. For example, early in 2013 they shut down BuildMyRank.com practically overnight by de-indexing thousands of the blogs in their link network.