Black Hat SEO: The dodgy side of the SEO world

While reflecting on this week’s topic about the legal and ethical issues confronting digital marketers a term came to me: “Blak Hat SEO”. Yes, that dark and dodgy side of the search engine optimisation (SEO) world, which is still used despite search engines’ efforts to battle it.

So what exactly is Black Hat SEO and why people use it?

As you may know, most websites rely on search engines such as Google for half (if not most) of their traffic. That is why it is so important for a website to rank higher on search engines. Studies reveal that 62% of search engine users click only on sites that come up on the first search engine results page and less than 10% click on results that appear after the third page. It means that if your website is not popping up on the first Google’s page, you have serious work to do.

Here is where SEO comes into play. SEO refers to those techniques that will help your website to pop up among the top results of a search engine for certain keywords. These techniques fall into two categories. “White Hat SEO” and “Black Hat SEO”. The former refers to those good, ethical tactics that comply with search engines rules and policies. The latter has to do with those unethical techniques that try to trick Google algorithms and manipulate the way search engines perceive the relevance of a website.

In other words, black hat methods will make websites rank higher on search engines quicker and might be more effective in the short term. However, if Google finds out that a website is using these techniques it might not only be penalised (e.g. drop in rankings) but also banned.

And, who wants to be blacklisted by Google? I guess nobody. Google can make your website disappear in a matter of seconds and make you experience something similar to death on the web! For instance, in 2013 Rap Genius was penalised by Google so badly that people could not find it even by looking it up for its own name. Nevertheless, this does not stop people from trying.

The problem is, though, that many website owners use these techniques because they feel tempted but many others use them inadvertently due to lack of knowledge. This is why it is so important to understand what those black hat techniques are and how to avoid them. Some popular black hat SEO techniques are content scrapping, link spamming, paid links, keyword stuffing and fake reviews.Finally, it is important for businesses to be aware that not all SEO companies or freelancers use white hat SEO techniques and that there is a chance

Finally, it is important for businesses to be aware that not all SEO companies or freelancers use white hat SEO techniques. Some may use black hat SEO techniques to show quicker results.

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11 thoughts on “Black Hat SEO: The dodgy side of the SEO world

  1. Hi Catalina,
    I loved your blog post! Black Hat search engine optimisation is something I’ve never heard of before and it was interesting to read about.
    It does offer a good explanation for an event that occurred to a friend of mine a few weeks ago. My friend was purchasing a Visa for the United States a few days before she was due to fly to LA. She did a Google search of ‘American Visa’ and selected the first link that came up on Google. After purchasing a ‘visa’ from this website, she soon realised the website was fraudulent and she’d just passed on her credit card details to fraudsters. This resulted in her needing to cancel her debit card just a day before going overseas. She had no idea why Google had allowed this website to be on the top of the Google search page but Black Hat SEO would explain it. Probably(/hopefully) Google has black listed the website by now!

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    1. Hi Amelia, thanks for reading my blog. Your friend’s story is terrible! Yes, it seems that probably Google hadn’t found out. There is a black hat technique that has to do with link spamming. Because Google rates favorably those websites that have a large number of backlinks on other websites (i.e. links on other websites that point to your website), people take advantage of this by posting spammy links on other websites to make their website rank higher. So that is probably why sometimes this kind of sites may come up on the top of Google’s results.

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      1. Hi Catalina,
        Thanks for detailing the black hat technique further explaining how spammers get away with it. Thanks again for introducing me to Black Hat SEO. It’s such an interesting topic and one I’ll have to investigate further!

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  2. Hi Catatbd,

    Thank you for a great post. I agree with you that SEO use is definitely one of the more pressing ethical issues facing marketers. As you point out, some companies may be tempted into using black hat techniques in order to show better results in the short-term – obviously not the most ethical approach. Google search results are so important that your ranking can often make or break your business. It’s scary to think how much power one organisation has !

    As you very clearly explain, using black hat techniques are high-risk – if Google discover them, you may be banned. I would just like to add that they are also risky in that they put the consumer off-side. My expectation when I search for something is that I will be able find that content quickly and easily. If I were to click on a website that was highly ranked but turned out to be completely irrelevant, I would be annoyed and make a mental note to myself to never visit that site again. In the end, black hat SEO practices are just as annoying for consumers as they are for the powers that be at Google!

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    1. Hi Myvawny. Thank you for your comments. Yes, Black Hat SEO focuses on rankings rather than the user experience. It has happened to me many times that I click on a website and the content is either irrelevant or too short. Some of these junky sites are loaded with advertisements because that is the way they get the income from. Also, what you say about how much power Google has is so true. Some businesses have been penalised by Google because inadvertently (not deliberately) do something on their websites that Google doesn’t like. Sometimes they never realise why Google penalised them as not always Google gives an explanation. Imagine how many revenue you can lose if your website is not found in Google or if it drops in rankings? So yeah, Google indeed has huge power.

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  3. Hi Catatbd,
    A good article there on Black Hat SEO and not SPAM, which almost felt like I was being spammed (haha :P). I’m glad that you wrote about this; as it gives me a chance to share some knowledge on SEO, which I gained during my internship at a leading marketing agency. It handled SEO for various well-known companies in Australia. It was during this period that I first heard about Black Hat SEO and how Google tackles.

    The Google algorithm is very efficient in tracking websites that use unethical practices to rank their website high on the search engine results page (SERP). Once the user enters the word on Google, it goes through its humongous database (like a SPIDER) to look for that word, its legitimacy, and authenticity and then provides it to the consumer. As a matter of fact Google’s main is to provide results for the best user-experience and hence it comes up with continuous updates, most of which are unannounced. Like you said, websites using Black Hat SEO get penalized immediately, once caught. The most famous Google updates are Panda and Penguin. Panda update was released to combat any discrepancies on the website pages, where website owners used SEO key terms deliberately, which was unnatural! Penguin update was released for paid links that website owners bought to drive traffic to their websites. It is not easy to fool Google! And the consequences of using Black Hat SEO can only drive your business down the drain.

    The company that I worked for always used ethical practices for SEO, which was accepted by Google. Tools like Google trends, Google Adwords etc. were used for SEO keyword strategy. It was for this reason that their list of clients included the likes of NAB, Forever New, Philadelphia, Cotton On, Cadbury and I was fortunate to be a part of it.

    For more information you can use this link- https://moz.com/blog/google-algorithm-cheat-sheet-panda-penguin-hummingbird

    Thanks 😀

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    1. Hi Linsey, thanks a lot for your comments. Your post compliments my blog very well as you give even more details about the topic. Yes, I know Google updates its algorithms often and this is why when you work in SEO it is critical to keep up-to-date. As you said the Google Panda update is meant to penalise sites with poor quality content or sites that are loaded with keywords in an attempt to manipulate the search rankings. On the other hand, the Google Penguin update aims to catch sites with paid links or spammy links. Thank you very much for sharing this information.

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  4. Hi Catalina,

    Great blog post this week, I too had not heard the term Black Hat SEO and was very interested to read about it.

    Most of this week’s blogs referred to SPAM, which Rao and Reiley identify as being unsolicited commercial messages sent via a ‘sender push’ technology – however Black Hat SEO is a good example of how SPAM-like misleading of consumers can also occur in ‘receiver pull’ technology, in that they seek to influence what shows up in your browser once you search.

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  5. thankyou for your great post.seo specialst’s tempting which tool is have reach in high rank on quickly.they trying some black hat techniques.but its not only lack of knowlege.they want results in shor time.that means they are impatient for waiting result.

    Like

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