There are currently over 1.94 billion websites on the Internet, and over 93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine. Any business owner knows that ranking high on the search engine results pages can drastically boost sales leads and overall visibility, but getting there is easier said than done; with so much competition, you’ll need to employ search engine optimization (also known as SEO) techniques — or, even better, hire a white label seo service for agencies — to stay ahead of the curve.
SEO comes in two forms: black hat and white hat. White hat describes the “legal” way of improving website rankings; these methods are approved by the search engine and abide by its strict terms and conditions. Since search engines want to provide searchers with the most useful, relevant, and beneficial information possible, white hat SEO content does just that. Customers are able to discover sites that tell them exactly what they’re looking for
Black hat SEO ignores the rules and regulations set in place by the search engine, and instead seek to “trick” it in an attempt to achieve higher rankings at a faster rate. The promises of these underhanded and unethical practices are akin to fool’s gold; with consequences that could sink your business entirely, the following black hat tactics should be avoided at all costs.
1. Keyword Stuffing
Google processes around seven billion searches every day, 15% of which have never been searched before. White hat SEO utilizes natural keyword placement to help those searchers find what they’re looking for in an organic manner. Black hat SEO spams these keywords, placing them where they don’t make sense. The thinking is that Google’s bots then read the site and recognize the keywords, which ultimately increases your ranking. Because this generally makes the content unreadable or unpleasant to read, however, your users do not benefit from keyword stuffing in any way, shape, or form — and the penalties of the practice can be severe if caught. Google lists the following as examples.
- Lists of phone numbers without substantial added value
- Blocks of text listing cities and states a webpage is trying to rank for
- Repeating the same words or phrases so often that it sounds unnatural, such as: “We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists.”
Google updates its algorithm between 500 and 600 times a year, and with each update, it gets better and better at sniffing out black hat SEO tactics that compromise the quality of a site’s content in order to manipulate rankings.
2. Link Farming
Link building has become more and more important to Google in the past few years; the more your site is connected to others via backlinks, the higher you rank. Rather than forming these relationships organically (or having other sites link to yours because you provide relevant and useful content), link farms are used. They describe a collection of websites — most of which contain low-quality content and lots of links anchored on keywords — developed solely for the purpose of link building.
Google defines cloaking as “the practice of presenting different content or URLs to human users and search engines.” In other words, cloaking is a black hat technique that shows one piece of content to users and a different piece of content to search engines; it is often used to make content rank for a variety of terms irrelevant to their content. For example, searchers may see a simple image when they visit a site while Google’s bots see a page of text — and one that is usually stuffed with keywords.
4. Paid Links
The buying and selling of links is strictly forbidden by search engines like Google. As their site states, “any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.” Links should be formed organically as a result of the quality content your website provides; paying or exchanging services for links that point to your site is a quick fix that will result in both parties being penalized if caught.
The best (white hat) technique to build a strong backlink profile is to form relationships with website owners in your industry through email outreach. Promote your conent to influencers in your niche, offering to share your content with their users, who will likely benefit from your site’s information. After all, relevancy is an important factor in Google’s eyes when analyzing your backlink profile.
5. Hidden Texts
Hidden texts are similar to cloaking in that they manipulate what both the search engine’s bots and the users see when they visit a site. The content — whether it be text, images, or links — is invisible to users, and is often done by making the text smaller or changing its color to match the background of the site. This black hat tactic opens the door for keyword stuffing, allowing a site to rank higher without confusing its users.
Paying The Costs
Quick fixes are all around us, whether you’re interested in losing weight or making money. As we know, their charm and appeal fizzles out quickly and rarely results in success; the consequences of using black hat SEO techniques on your site (or employing an SEO reseller who uses them), however, go far beyond a dietary relapse or minor loss of money — it could cost you your business.
If Google finds that you have violated its Webmaster Guidelines (a.k.a. terms and conditions), the site may issue a manual action against your website. In Google’s own words: “If a site has a manual action, some or all of that site will not be shown in Google search results.”
We live in a day and age where the Internet is used to find everything, whether you’re looking for an exterminator or an interior decorator. If your website is banned temporarily, drops in ranking, or is removed completely, no one will be able to contact you. It will be as if you do not exist.
Remember, good SEO takes time and attention. Don’t waste yours on tactics or companies that aren’t willing to put the effort in. Focus on creating quality content with relevant keywords and links, and you’ll be climbing the ladder of Google’s ranks in no time.