Fraudulent listings, keyword stuffing, link farming, these are all examples of “Black Hat SEO”. Aiming to trick Google and other search engines, black hat SEO is any method used to fraudulently boost a site’s digital presence. Anyone who works in digital marketing knows what this looks like. In fact, even people outside of the online marketing industry can probably think of a few examples. Whether it is individual Chuck-E-Cheese’s creating fake business listings to trick customers into thinking they are a small local mom-and-pop restaurant, or the Tiger King changing the name of his website to steal his competitor’s Google rankings, black hat SEO is showing up more often in the cultural spotlight. And many business owners question what the risks are in using black hat SEO techniques.
What Is Black Hat SEO?
Let’s start at the beginning. Whether you are a small business or a large corporation, the majority of your traffic likely comes from organic search results. It is clear why businesses prioritize SEO. Any tactic that can help them show up just one rank higher on a search engine results page (SERP) could mean dozens of more leads or customers. Which is also why it is clear why black hat SEO is popular. Instead of following the guidelines set by Google and other search engines, black hat SEO is based on ways to trick search engines to artificially increase page ranks. At the end of the day, Google and Bing don’t have firsthand knowledge to determine which websites should rank where instead they use complex algorithms to determine their search results pages. Google’s goal is that the best websites rise to the top because that inherently makes Google a more reliable search engine for internet users. Content, age of the website, user reviews, sessions, traffic, and backlinks are all elements of the algorithm Google uses to rank the best websites for specific search queries.
The Problem With Black Hat SEO
Like good SEO, black hat SEO is constantly evolving. Its aim is to find the blind spots in Google’s algorithms and the penalties they have created to help client’s websites rank higher. In the short term, it can be very effective. But in the longer-term, it can have devastating effects on your online presence. Here are a few things to consider in regard to black hat SEO.
- Gone In An Update: Google and Bing are consistently updating their algorithm. Any time a new black hat method is discovered, you can be sure it will be reflected in the next search algorithm update. If your website relied on black hat SEO to rank, it is not unlikely to see rankings plummet overnight.
- Ruining Your Reputation: Another reason to avoid black hat tactics is that it ruins your credibility in the eyes of customers. Even when black hat SEO tactics are successfully getting you rankings, they can still backfire. Keyword stuffing, fraudulent listings, and similar tactics can make your website look unreliable and unprofessional. The potential backlash from customers can be worse than the penalties search engines dole out.
- Manual Penalties: In some cases, Google will manually penalize a website that is suspected of maliciously using black hat tactics to beat their competition. In these scenarios, it is almost impossible to organically rank well for any of your keywords. And most of the recovery methods used have also been cataloged by Google/Bing and no longer work.
How To Prevent Google Penalties On Your Website
Even if you have never explicitly tried black hat tactics, you may be concerned about penalties. First, every company should make sure that their website is set up with Google Search Console. When Google has issues with your website, they will notify you through GSC. If you work with a digital agency, make sure they are a reputable agency. Read reviews, do your homework, and stay informed on what they are doing when they work on your website. If you manage your own website, make sure to avoid creating thin content, buying links, keyword stuffing, etc. Remember that your website exists for users before it exists for Google/Bing. Don’t add things to your website that wouldn’t be valuable to a visitor on your website.
Get A Free SEO Website Audit from Boston Web Marketing
Boston Web Marketing works with hundreds of clients nationwide to help them manage their digital presence. If you want to improve your website’s digital presence without breaking Google or Bing’s rules, consider having us perform a free SEO website audit for you. We would be happy to provide you with the aboveboard strategies to improve your website. Contact us for more information.