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Black Hat SEO Tactics To Avoid

Emma North

by Emma North on 23rd January 2013

Video Transcript

Hello. My name is Emma North, and I’m a digital marketing executive here at Koozai. Today, I’d like to talk to you a little bit about some black hat techniques that you absolutely must avoid. Now these are the sorts of things that used to be commonplace and perfectly acceptable ways to achieve search engine optimisation, but that’s not the case anymore. With recent Google algorithm updates, such as Penguin and Panda, these are the sorts of activities that will be penalised with a ranking penalty.

So first of all, we’ve got paid links. If you’ve ever paid for a link to appear on someone’s site, linking back to your own site, then you should get these removed. They appear very unnatural to Google, and you’re likely to suffer a ranking penalty if you haven’t already. If you haven’t already, that doesn’t mean that you won’t have one in the future. So it’s important to get these removed as soon as possible.

Generic directories, similarly these are very unnatural to Google. They are pages full of links to other sites, and if you’ve got a link there, Google will see that as an unnatural attempt to game the rankings. Google holds you responsible for the inbound links to your site. So it’s important you review the link profile as a whole and identify any links that could be considered unnatural and get those removed. Contact the site owners. Do anything you can to get them removed.

If you can’t do that, and you’ve made every effort to get them removed, there is now on Google a disavow tool that you can use, but you do need evidence you’ve tried to remove the links yourself. Google disavow tool basically says to Google, “Don’t take these links into consideration when you’re ranking my site.” So try to get them removed on your own, and then if you’ve got evidence that you tried and that didn’t work, try the Google disavow tool. But get these sorts of unnatural links removed at all costs. Generally with links, if it looks like a bad neighbourhood, it probably is, and you don’t want to be there.

Next, we’ve got cloaking and more specifically hidden content. Cloaking is a technique where you hide content from the user that is just specifically for the search engines. You’re trying to game the rankings by telling the search engines one thing about your site, when, in fact, it’s really not about that. Hidden content, in particular, Google is very clever now at finding this. If you’ve got content written into the script that’s not on page and is hidden from the user, Google will identify that, and you may suffer a ranking penalty as a result of the Google Panda update. It’s important the content on the whole of your site is written for the user. It needs to be informative, and it needs to be on page. Don’t have any hidden content in the script of your site. If you’ve got it, get it removed.

Next, we’ve got keyword stuffing. Now, it’s essential that you have some keywords on your site for the user as well as the search engines. But it is important that your content isn’t littered with them. Make sure that the content is written for the user, that it makes sense and reads well, and the rest will follow. In the long run, that will be rewarded. Anything that’s littered with keywords is not going to rank in the long term because you may get hit with a ranking penalty as a result of the Panda update.

Similarly, Meta keyword tags; every page can still have a Meta keyword tag, but they’re not really used by Google anymore. That’s not to say they won’t in the future, but other search engines do use them. So don’t stuff them full of dozens or hundreds keywords, just half a dozen relevant keywords is more than enough for each page to ensure that you’re targeting the right keywords for those search engines.

Last thing we’ve got doorway pages. These are not used so much anymore, but there are still people out there who will tell you can get benefit from them. Similar to cloaking, this is a technique used to hide content from the user. It’s a page designed specifically for Google. So they’re usually stuffed full of keywords. Google will suss out what you’re doing if you try to use these pages. Don’t do it. If you’re using any of these pages that are designed only for the search engines and they’re full of keywords, get rid of them. It’s not going to serve you any benefit in the long run.

So that’s a few black hat techniques on the surface. Now that list isn’t by any means conclusive. There are hundreds of techniques people use to try and game the system. I guess the rule of thumb is write for the user. Don’t try to do anything to game Google because the quick wins won’t be worth it in the long run, and you will suffer a ranking penalty if you get caught. White hat techniques are the way to achieve natural rankings, and continue doing that will mean you will continue staying in the rankings and Google will continue to value your site.

Thanks very much for watching. If you want to find out more about Koozai, please interact with the social media buttons after this video, and thank you for watching.

Emma North

Emma North

Emma has more than 5 years’ digital marketing experience and has worked on dozens of websites in a wide range of industries. She has a passion for both SEO and PPC and is driven by the need to develop her digital skills and knowledge. She is always exploring innovative solutions for new problems encountered in the ever-changing digital world.

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  • IrishWonder 23rd January 2013

    Thanks for talking about blackhat and whitehat without moralising and calling anybody names and throwing around words like “unethical” etc. However, technically speaking, there is no whitehat per se as long as you’re actually doing something to get a site to rank rather than telling a client how whitehat and Google-friendly you are. Quoting Google’s Webmaster Guidelines: “Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings”. There we go.

    As for the actual techniques… It’s all fine but probably doesn’t make sense putting everything into one heap. Like, there are paid links and paid links. What if you’re paying for a link for the sake of traffic it gets you and you get even more traffic from it that you would from Google no matter how well it ranks you? Removing a link like that would be shooting yourself in the foot, right?

    As for doorway pages: their actual purpose is not to hide content from the users, it is to drive traffic to your money site. Doorway pages by any other name… think of niche minisites and you’ll see that they are still very much in use and depending on the actual implementation, may as well be quite legitimate.

    I could go on and on, and my stance on removing and disavowing links is a whole separate story I won’t even go into here. However, there are two things I am trying to get across by posting this comment. First, what you say is largely true for most small business owners not knowing the first thing about SEO, starting to read stuff on the web looking to get some traffic to their sites and coming across all kinds of things. They need to be told this because generally, they better stay away from stuff that can do more harm than good unless you really know what you’re doing with it. Second, blackhat techniques tend to evolve and most of the stuff quoted in this video is very outdated and no blackhat worth their salt would be doing most of this, at least not in a straightforward way. However (gosh, this is the third time I say “however” in this comment – but hey, this is a controversial topic and I’m writing a controversial reply so there are bound to be a lot of caveats), things tend to shift a lot in our industry, and what has been considered a whitehat technique yesterday is a blackhat technique today, and vice versa too. Don’t equal stuff no longer working to blackhat – blackhats are out there to make some cash, just like any other online marketer, and those who actually make a living on the web won’t be doing anything that no longer works as it’s counter-productive.

    Hope I don’t sound too harsh.

    Reply to this comment

    • Mike Essex

      Mike Essex 23rd January 2013

      Hi IW, thanks for leaving a comment and looking at the wider view of black hat.

      In this case we tried to go more for the “largely true for most small business owners not knowing the first thing about SEO, starting to read stuff on the web looking to get some traffic to their sites and coming across all kinds of things” audience rather than established black hats or the types of advanced tactics you’d see on (for example) Warrior Forum.

      That’s not to say that even experienced black hats can’t make mistakes but with the video we hoped to educate the new SEO user from making some basic mistakes (That we still see far too often).

      We are certainly happy to debate where the line lies though and this post by Jim Seward on our site (http://www.koozai.com/blog/search-marketing/fifty-shades-of-grey-hat-seo/) actually takes a look at tactics that have been called “Grey Hat” and how tough it is to classify anything any more given that so many tactics can be used in “white” and “black” ways and a lot of it is due to preference / personal experience and trust in Google.

      As for paid links I think that’s definitely a discussion that could rage for years to come although we welcome everyone’s views on the topic.

      Reply to this comment

  • Emma North

    Emma North 23rd January 2013

    Thanks for your comments both. As Mike says, this video was largely aimed at those who are new to SEO, or those who dangerously “know a little bit about SEO”. Of course, there is no clear line between white hat and black hat, hence the grey hat ethos.

    I think the fundamental point I wanted users to take away from the video is to think long-term, future-proof SEO over quick wins and don’t neglect adding value to the user in the optimisation process.

    Of course, SEO is never completely future-proof as we can never know for sure what the search engines will change next, but I think the general direction of acceptable and effective SEO tactics is clear: write good, shareable content and encourage strong, natural links and you can’t go far wrong.

    Reply to this comment

  • IrishWonder 23rd January 2013

    > those who dangerously “know a little bit about SEO”
    Partial knowledge is a dangerous thing, indeed.

    > long-term, future-proof SEO
    heh, I have a few scrapers built back in 2006 that are still not banned, alive, ranking and bringing in some traffic. Nothing stellar but hey, I’ve only spent so much time building them. That said, you’d be guessing right if you think they were not typical scrapers. So it’s all about thinking out of the box and being creative, not about applying one standard ideology and calling it a win.

    Reply to this comment

    • Emma North

      Emma North 23rd January 2013

      Quite right – for an SEO thinking outside the box and being creative is essential to staying on top. However I personally believe you can do that and still keep within best practice guidelines and will continue to do so.

      But for those with only a little knowledge, trying to do good for their site, I don’t think it’s wrong to steer away from creativity and concentrate on best practice. Tips and tricks of the trade are just that: “of the trade”.

      Reply to this comment

  • Nazito 30th April 2013

    Very interesting video, however the exchange of ideas really confused me, looks like there is a lot to learn and practice. At least I’ll be getting your monthly videos to keep me up to date.

    Reply to this comment

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