Google Cracks Down on Black Hat SEO Tactics

If the message was not clear before, it should be now. DON’T USE BLACK HAT SEO TACTICS! Google has been cracking down on all “black hat” tactics used by webmasters to help artificially boost website rankings. A few weeks ago I wrote about Google eliminating the “not selected category”  from google webmasters tools and how the elimination of this statistics could be to eliminate any advantage webmasters had over Google’s algorithm.  Before this we covered Google’s crackdown on link building sites like, a site where companies pay to add their information to a network of websites with the goal of artificially boosting rankings. Well Google is still on the hunt for other link building sites and this month they added the websites of the SAPE network to their list of penalized websites.

While the verdict is still out on whether the links are coming from the SAPE network or not, many webmasters who used the SAPE network are reporting a large drop in rankings. The benefits of a paid link building program are small compared to the potential penalties that can be weighed against your site from Google. The solution is simple. Don’t use paid link building networks. While the SAPE network was not previously on Google’s radar, that does not mean they won’t be at some point. I expect an announcement from Google to come in the following days about the fate of the SAPE network.

While we are on the topic of “black hat SEO” Matt Cutts of Google recently won a patent battle that he filed in 2009. The patent was over a system that searches out and finds hidden text, hidden links and other elements from text, HTML and CSS.

A system detects hidden elements in a document that includes a group of elements. The system may identify each of the elements in the document and create a structural representation of the document. The structural representation may provide an interconnection of the group of elements in the document. The system may also determine whether one or more elements of the group of elements are hidden based at least in part on locations or other attributes or properties of the one or more elements in the structural representation.

To explain this in English, here are a few examples:

  • Using white text on a white background
  • Locating text behind an image
  • Using CSS to position text off-screen
  • Setting the font size to 0
  • Hiding a link by only linking one small character—for example, a hyphen in the middle of a paragraph

Anyone of this text hiding tactics could be used to cheat the Google Algorithm. This patent should be the first step to Google punishing those websites that use any of these tactics. My suggestion is to rework your visible text to include any “hidden” text that may reside on your page. Then remove the hidden text altogether. Finally, if you have hidden links on your site, remove them! This could be more difficult than it sounds. If you really hid these well, you may spend more time finding them. I suggest checking your HTML code to find them rather than staring at live individual web pages.

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