Make Sure You’re Not Practicing These Black Hat SEO Techniques

Pamela Obeid

Anyone familiar with the world of SEO can understand how taxing it can be.From creating high-quality content to effective link building and everything in between, it takes time, effort, and dedication to see results.Because of this, however, black hat SEO techniques have flourished since the very conception of search engines.Strategies like keyword stuffing, buying links, cloaking, article spinning and more are all used to trick search engines into having lower quality sites rank higher.The real issue with black hat SEO is that using tactics like this disregards other users following the right SEO protocol.Nowadays, if you’re caught using black hat SEO tricks, your site can either be penalised by Google, or removed from the search results completely.Today, we’re teaching you what not to do - what black hat SEO is, how it’s evolved, the difference between this and grey hat SEO, and most importantly - the practices you should not be engaging in whatsoever.Let’s go!

What is Black Hat SEO?

At the risk of sounding dramatic, black hat SEO can be described most simply as the dark side of search engine marketing - think Star Wars, but with search engines instead of space war.From content automation to buying links and web spam - all of these black hat SEO processes violate search engine guidelines.The opposite of black hat SEO is white hat SEO - which are practices you should engage with to rank highly.

How did Black Hat SEO tactics develop?

Back in the day, black hat SEO was simply known as SEO.Buying backlinks and creating spam-like content was how you ranked higher in search engines.Then, Google figured out what was happening.The search engine began introducing algorithm updates that prevented certain tactics to thrive in the search engine sphere.Penguin, a Google update launched in 2012, aimed to catch sites that were deemed to be spamming search results, buying links or using link circles to obtain them.Because of this revolutionary update, many websites had their rankings fall overnight. This has since become commonplace with the release of various Google algorithm updates over the years.Some of the more fundamental Google updates over the years include:

  • Florida, which penalised keyword stuffing
  • Panda, which penalised content farms
  • Penguin, which penalised shady link practices

Ultimately, the truth is that if you work off black hat SEO techniques, it won’t be long before the search engines catch up. Once this happens, you’ll risk losing your site appearing on Google at all.You can define black hat SEO techniques if they include any of the following:

Violating search engine guidelines

Not only do black hat SEO techniques go against best practice, but they often include strategies that Google’s Guidelines reference as techniques that web pages shouldn’t use.

Using manipulative techniques

White hat SEO specialists focus on improving user experience, whilst black hat SEO practitioners use sneaky tactics in order to manipulate Google’s algorithm and improve their site rankings.If a technique is designed to trick Google into thinking that the content is more valuable than it actually is, it becomes a black hat SEO technique.

Focuses on ‘loopholes’

Black hat SEO techniques mainly focus on looking for any loopholes in search engine algorithms, and exploiting them.These tactics do work to improve site rankings with little effort, but are a quick fix as opposed to a long term solution - with Google’s algorithm constantly updating, websites that offer a superior user experience are rightfully prioritised.

What are some black hat SEO techniques I should avoid?

You should definitely avoid any and all black hat SEO techniques!Black hat SEO techniques tend to focus on the search engines, not the users accessing their site.Here are some of the most widely recognised black hat SEO techniques that are a big no-no, and alternative white hat techniques to use instead.

Keyword stuffing

Keyword stuffing essentially involves filling digital content with irrelevant keywords that don’t add value to the subject matter.This is done to manipulate Google in improving search rankings.Using keyword stuffing as an SEO strategy can also cause sites to show up in search results for queries that aren’t relevant, essentially leading to negative SEO.Some examples of keyword stuffing include:

  • Lists of out of context phone numbers that add no value to the content
  • Text that lists cities or states for which a page is attempting to rank
  • Unnatural repetition of keywords and synonyms

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines suggest focusing on ‘useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context’.By creating high-quality content, you ultimately use keywords in context which helps organically improve a site’s ranking in the long run.

Automatically generated / duplicate content

One of the black hat SEO techniques that negatively affect search engines the most is poor quality content.Google ranks quality content as one of its top 3 elements for ranking sites, meaning that content which adds value to the reader is imperative for higher ranks.Content that is packed full of irrelevant content falls into this category, and so does plagiarised or duplicate content.Using text that is available all over the Internet will lead to a plummet in your Google rankings, which was especially seen in the Panda algorithm being rolled out in 2011.To avoid this, the counter white hat SEO technique is simple - create unique, fresh content that focuses on building value for its readers.Your content should answer a specific question, solve a problem, or provide “how-to” advice to educate users.Crafting this kind of long-form valuable content is super important to help you receive comments, shares, and arguably the most important - backlinks.You can follow Google’s content guidelines, or you can even hire a digital marketing agency (like Local Digital, for example) to ensure your content is as high quality as possible. Subtle promo, anyone?

Hidden text

This is definitely one of the more sneaky black hat techniques, with the text being rendered invisible to users.This can be done by having the text match the colour of the screen, being positioned off the screen or behind an image, to name a few.This helps you out with keyword stuffing, but search engine crawlers are much more advanced than previous years - this will get picked up on super quickly.

Paid links

If there’s one area where you can make the most impact with page rankings, it’s definitely backlinks.Building backlinks, however, takes time - which is why so many SEO practitioners started purchasing these links to speed it up.Essentially, backlinks are a ‘vote of confidence’ from one site demonstrating another one - they should be earned, not bought.Several link schemes, like link farming or private blog networks, exploit the backlinking process and mean you are engaging in black hat SEO techniques.First off, link farms are websites which were developed with the sole purpose of building links and improving search results.Private blog networks are another way of link scheming, which work to purchase expired domains with existing domain authority, and then proceeding to create content on each site with self-serving backlinks.Site owners can pay to be apart of this network - it might seem like a small price to pay, but it can end up costing publishers their rankings on Google reeeeeal quick.Participating in a link scheme like the above will help a site gain links, but they will also lead your site to be viewed as spam, leading to less visibility.Use your webmaster to discard any backlinks you may have purchased without realising - this will instruct Google to disregard unnatural links when determining your page rank.Consider these white hat SEO tactics instead:

  • Build relationships with sites and industry you’d like to be linked to
  • Create outreach strategies to get mentions and links to your content
  • Create high impact, unique content that industry professionals would want to link to


This black hat SEO technique shows something to visitors, and another to search engines.Site visitors might see an image, for example, but the HTML might contain links and text that search engine crawlers are examining.Google says to not do this - put your users first, always.If you focus your efforts on answering questions for the searcher and prioritising a great user experience, the organic SEO will come naturally.A good way to tell if you’re engaging in black hat SEO is to question whether you’re creating content for yourself, or for Google - this could mean you’re starting to border on black hat territory.

Adding structured data/schema

Okay, doing this on its own is definitely not bad.But abusing this to manipulate rich search snippets and results is.Some SEO practitioners, for example, might give themselves a fake review to stand out on result pages.Don’t do this.Play by the rules with structured data. If you’re confused, Google’s search engine guidelines will clarify any discrepancies.

Doorway / gateway pages

Pages such as doorway pages or gateway pages target specific search queries with content that is intended to funnel to one specific page.Instead of doing this, you should work to make sure that every single page on your website has a purpose for their users - rather than merely existing to tempt higher search engine rankings.

How can I report Black Hat SEO to search engines?

Google encourages users to report black hat SEO when it’s encountered.If you find that you’re encountering web spam, whether it be in paid links, content stuffing, or other black hat exploits - file a spam report with Google.It can feel demotivating to see other SEO practitioners exploiting search engines and their algorithms, but focus on your white hat SEO techniques.In the long run, this will ultimately win out - both in building higher search rankings and in building loyal page visitors.

So, what did we learn?

You can even argue this post is keyword stuffy - but in the good, educational white hat way, not the bad black hat way!Google has hundreds upon hundreds of factors that pop up in their algorithms which can affect search rankings.Each of these is designed to make sure that websites are relevant and useful for searches - with algorithms constantly updating.Consider becoming familiar with the full list of black hat SEO tactics and strategies on Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to give you that extra edge.Be wary of grey hat tactics, too - these aren’t necessarily violating search engine guidelines, but they’re close - so try and steer clear.Overall, keep on top of changes if you want to avoid black hat tactics that are prohibited by search engines - you don’t want your search rankings to plummet overnight!Most importantly, we’ve always got you covered - get a free proposal with Local Digital today. We keep on top of all these changes for you, and make sure that all of your content is perfectly optimised to suit any algorithm updates.

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Pamela Obeid
Pamela is the Digital Marketing & Podcast Coordinator at Local Digital. A self-proclaimed nerd, she thrives off all things social media, podcast, and video, propelling the LD brand to brand new heights.

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