6 Black Hat SEO Techniques You May Be Using Without Realising
Not sure why your website isn’t getting organic traffic? It could be down to an accidental black hat SEO tactic you’ve performed on your website, without even knowing. Here we’ve listed the top 6 most common black hat techniques, so you can check and make sure your website is in the clear.
So, what is black hat SEO?
In the early days of the internet and all things Google, the SEO landscape was a completely different place. Originally, so-called ‘black hat’ (as opposed to ‘white hat’) SEO techniques stemmed from wanting to cheat the Google algorithm. Web developers and marketers alike tried their hand at eluding Google’s crawlers. But as technology evolved and search engines became more clued up about underhand tactics, SEO became more about working with the algorithm, not against it.
Why should you avoid black hat SEO?
In 2023, any form of black hat SEO techniques will land you with a Google penalty, which can result in a significant drop in Google search rankings and, in turn, little to no organic traffic. Ultimately, being penalised by Google means your website won’t appear for your industry relevant search queries, otherwise known as ‘keywords’. Google will always prefer to show its users content that is in line with Google guidelines and has been optimised to make for a good user experience.
Black hat SEO techniques you need to know about…
1. Keyword stuffing
This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. By definition, keyword stuffing is where you repeat your chosen keyword(s) throughout the content on your website, so much so that it doesn’t read naturally. You’ve literally stuffed that word into a paragraph or a sentence as many times as you can to appeal to the Google bots, not the human reader. Google is particularly hot on this black hat method and will flag any webpage that has abnormal amounts of the same word or phrase throughout. To make sure you haven’t accidently overused a keyword in your content, hold down ‘ctrl > shift > F’ on your keyboard to open a search pop up and type in the word you want to check.
2. Duplicate content
If you’re a small business owner, you may understandably not have the time to create unique content for each page on your website on a regular basis, so an easy solution may appear to be using the same content across the website. Nobody will know or mind, right? Well, in actual fact, Google will know when the content on each page isn’t original but has been copied and pasted from another page. The best SEO practise for content writing is to always create unique, interesting and valuable content for your website visitors. Read more about the value of quality content in one of our recent blogs, or if you’re worried your webpages sounding too similar, you can use this online tool to identify any duplicate content.
3. Paid backlinks
A backlink to your website shows Google that you are trusted by other websites and helps Google crawlers decide which search queries to offer your website up for as a search result. A high-quality backlink will occur naturally, from an industry related website with a high domain ranking. However, gaining links of this kind and building a strong backlink profile is a slow process. Without understanding the importance of natural, clean links, some may be tempted to find a quick fix. Companies will pose as reputable brands that create valuable link building for your website, but in reality, these backlinks are low quality and sometimes even spam websites. If you have previously hired a company with promises of instant backlinks, you will need to perform a backlink audit to check and disavow any links that could be harming your website. Link building can and should be done in a way that is not against Google guidelines. With careful consideration and dedicated time spent, white hat SEO techniques can help you create a healthy backlink profile. It’s one of the core digital marketing services our team at Artemis specialise in.
4. Misuse of schema & structured data
Adding schema markup to your website is a useful way to tell Google what your website is about. Perform this along with structured data on your website and you’re more likely to be shown as the front runner on Google’s search results with what is known as a ‘rich snippet’ of information. However, a black hat SEO technique is to provide Google with inaccurate or misleading structured data or (in a similar way to keyword stuffing) adding lots of irrelevant schema information to appear for certain keywords. If you’re unsure on what’s best practice, you can visit the Google Structured Data Policies page for reference.
5. Negative SEO
Has that pesky competitor taken your ideas and appeared higher up on Google search results than you? Sabotage is tempting, but two wrongs don’t make a right. Many have fallen into the trap of buying spammy links and pointing them at a competitor’s domain to make it seem as though they have violated Google guidelines. This is never a good idea and may lead to a similar negative SEO ambush against your website from a competitor.
6. Comment spam
Commenting on blogs and forums with a link to your website seems like an easy way to get backlinks to your website. But in Google’s eyes, it’s counted as a black hat SEO technique. The website owners may also report your comment as spam, which will only add to the issue. Unless you remember the websites you’ve posted a comment on, this may be a tricky one to backtrack and undo.
What to do if you’ve used black hat SEO techniques on your website?
If you are guilty of any of the above, we would recommend a thorough clean-up of your site as a first action point. Go through each of the ‘bad’ SEO methods you’ve used and reverse or change them if at all possible. Bear in mind that Google may take a while to re-crawl your website and for your website to re-gain any lost organic traffic or keyword rankings. If you want more details on this, here’s a good explanation directly from Google’s John Mueller.
Alternatively, if you’re a busy business owner with not a lot of time on your hands, hire an SEO agency to carry out an extensive audit and remove any traces of black hat SEO. At Artemis, we have 15+ years of experience working on both the technical and creative sides of SEO, with a wide range of services to help you get more targeted organic search traffic to your website.
How to avoid accidental black hat SEO tactics in the future
If you’re working on your SEO yourself, then do your research. SEO is a long game and anything that’s deemed as ‘quick fix’ is probably too good to be true. If you’re not sure how best to proceed, consulting an expert SEO agency is the safest possible way to ensure you’re not using any black hat SEO techniques without realising. Contact Artemis today for a free consultation.