Search engine optimization is a great way to promote your website. It’s affordable, it’s effective, and it pays off. But there is a catch – SEO takes some time to achieve any meaningful results. These results can be a severe drawback when getting a business off the ground or promoting a new website. That is why some people try to circumvent it by relying on black hat SEO instead. But black hat SEO is risky, and it can cost you a lot in terms of ranking, reputation, and even long-term success. So what are some of the tactics you should avoid?
What is black hat SEO?
When Google determines the ranking of your website in search results, it does so using clever bots and sophisticated algorithms. But no matter how good Google is, it’s almost always possible to develop creative solutions that will trick the machine. In the early days of SEO, that’s precisely what happened – people would discover what made Google tick and exploit it to inflate their rankings artificially. For this reason, search engines now have specific rules to ensure they’re serving up the best possible results for their users.
Whether or not they follow these rules, SEO tactics are divided into three categories: white hat, grey hat, and black hat. White hat SEO follows the guidelines set by search engines. Grey hat SEO technically falls within the rules, but the practices used are still frowned upon. Finally, black hat SEO falls under SEO practices that go against search engine guidelines. Why would anyone want to employ SEO tactics that search engines specifically condemn? The answer is simple – they give quick results. When you’re just starting a business and your website doesn’t influence other brands in the industry to rely on, this can seem like an attractive alternative.
What are some ordinary black hat SEO tactics?
People get creative with breaking the rules; consequently, there are hundreds of different black hat practices one could employ. But if you’re looking for an effective marketing strategy for the long-term, these are the main tactics to stay away from:
- link farming: setting up several websites so that you can link back and forth between them and create the illusion of many backlinks
- keyword stuffing: using the target keyword excessively to the point where it affects the quality of the content
- doorway pages and redirects: immediately taking the user to an unrelated, often malicious page when they click on a link
- cloaking: serving up different pages for search engine bots and users
- negative SEO: lowering competitors’ rankings by spamming their comments, directing suspicious links at them, and even hacking their websites
Why should you avoid black hat SEO?
Even though black hat practices often show quick results, they come at a high cost. It’s best to avoid them because you’ll face some serious consequences.
You risk negatively impacting your rankings and visibility.
Typically, black hat tactics work by attracting tons of traffic to your website. But traffic quantity is not the only thing that determines your Google ranking. Traffic quality will affect other measurements, such as bounce rates, time-on-page, abandonment rates, and more. Ultimately, the negatives will outweigh the positives, and your ranking will suffer even if you’re never found out.
You could get penalties.
The more likely problem, however, is that Google’s algorithm will catch up to you. This could then lead to penalties of varying severity. You might experience a drop in rankings, limitations on new content positioning, decreased domain authority, and even outright bans. Even when the penalty itself is not permanent, recovering from it will take a lot of time and effort.
Your authority and reputation will suffer.
Google ranks websites it can trust higher than those it can’t. This is why domain authority is so important. Domain authority consists of several measurements, many of which you cannot control. But a significant component of it is backlinks. This is something you can influence. Getting authoritative site backlinks, either organically or through link building, will improve your reputation on Google. But if you try to manipulate your backlink portfolio using link farming, spam comments, and other black hat practices, this can severely damage your domain authority for years to come. Given how vital domain authority is, your ranking will undoubtedly suffer.
Your user experience scores will be low.
SEO is ultimately about user experience. All the different measurements that go into an algorithm are supposed to be indicators of customer satisfaction. So it’s not enough to drive traffic to your website; you need to make sure your users are happy with what they find. Keep redirecting them to unrelated pages, making them read nonsensical content stuffed with keywords, and linking them to websites that don’t provide any value. You will only ensure they never revisit your website.
You won’t achieve long-term results.
The big selling point of black hat practices is fast results. But those results don’t last. Whether it’s because poor user experience lowers your ranking or you’re discovered by Google, trying to trick the algorithm will eventually backfire. So if your goal is to be successful long-term, you should focus on white hat SEO. It will take longer to build up your website with it, but patience will pay off in the long run.
What should you do instead of black hat SEO?
Instead of investing in the quick and risky black hat SEO, you should focus on white hat practices. This includes improving page loading speeds, adopting a responsive design and optimizing for mobile, using keywords and their variations naturally, and building a backlink portfolio relevant to your niche. All this will take some time and effort to achieve, and you probably won’t see any results for months. But once you reach a certain level of authority and a particular ranking in search results, things will get much more accessible. You won’t have to worry about significant drops or penalties. Not to mention, your users will appreciate your website more. In the end, playing by the rules will pay off.