When it comes to driving traffic to your website, search engine optimisation (SEO) is one of the best methods to do so. If your site ranks high on search engines, such as Google and Bing, the likelihood that internet users come across your page is much higher.
Additionally, if your site offers products, services or information that are valuable to the user, you can gain frequent visitors, loyal supporters, and financial gains long-term. However, these rewards require hard work when it comes to getting your website to rank well. Because of the difficulty in getting search engines to favour your site among competitors and to present it early on search engine results pages (SERP), some people turn to black hat SEO to achieve their goals.
Black hat SEO involves practises that lead search engines to wrongly perceive the relevance of your site and to increase search rankings inaccurately. These black hat SEO techniques often violate search engine terms of service.
White hat SEO, on the other hand, involves increasing a site’s search rankings through practises that prioritise the readers’ benefit. Such methods follow search engine terms of service. To further emphasise, the difference between black hat and white hat SEO is your objective when it comes to employing certain SEO. If you are putting a business’s traffic, search rankings, and success before users and their needs, you are utilising black hat tactics.
If you are employing strategies that will solely bring in more traffic and not benefit readers, you are practising black hat as well. Search engines aim to provide accurate information to users quickly and black hat methods disrupt this process.
Consequences of Black Hat SEO
Not only does black hat SEO tactics unfairly set the playing field for other businesses, but it has detrimental consequences for you. One penalty for black hat methods is lowered search ranking. If you are utilising unethical methods to help your site appear early in search results, a lowered ranking is exactly what you do not want. It means starting from square one and having to change your content strategy to comply with set regulations. Although you can recover from such a penalty, it is a huge setback for your business.
While you can recover from having a lowered search ranking, a more severe consequence of black hat SEO methods is your site being banned from search engines. This is detrimental for any business especially since search engines are the main source of traffic for many. The temporary benefits of malpractice are not worth the risk of losing a profitable site. With the advancements of search engine algorithms and the strengthening of penalties, it is difficult to get away with black hat and even more challenging to recover.
Even if you do not employ black hat SEO, your site can still be affected by competitors who do. Being outranked by sites who are tricking search engine algorithms to favour them is difficult to face and to counter. Also, situations where competing websites directly attack your platform are frustrating. However, when competing sites attack you with hacks, viruses or spam links, there are defences you can take. To deal with viruses, requesting a malware review can help rid your site of such problems.
Also, using tools, like the Disavow Links Tool from Google Webmaster, can extinguish spam links that plague your site. If you find that your keywords are crowded with spam sites, it is possible to report spam search results through methods such as the Google Webmaster Tools. However, do note that falsely reporting spam is also considered black hat SEO so it is important to understand what is considered spam and what is not.
Why Would One Employ Black Hat SEO?
Knowing how black hat SEO techniques are looked down upon and their consequences, you can only wonder how and why individuals would choose this route. People often learn these condemned practises through black hat SEO forums, such as Black Hat SEO World.
These tactics are typically used by people who want quick financial returns. In this situation, the risk of getting banned from search engines is not seen as a huge loss because the site is not needed for long-term use. In cases where a site is a long-term investment, black hat SEO can be detrimental in that it can shut down search engine traffic that often drives your business.
Whether your website is a long-term investment or not, it is advised to stay clear of these malpractices because they are unethical and harmful for you and others.
Black Hat SEO Techniques to Avoid
One popular example of black hat SEO is keyword stuffing. This involves repeatedly using keywords in your site’s content in an attempt to trick search engines of legitimate keyword prevalence. Search engines typically label sites with dense keywords as informative for readers which would ideally bring your website to the top of search results. However, keyword stuffing only causes your content to be nonsensical, random and invaluable to readers. Many individuals include them out of context, excessively in every sentence or in blocks of text which worsens user experience due to the unnatural, repetitive speech or random text that do not contribute to the content.
Rather than keyword stuffing, proper usage of keywords should be practised. Only including the words where it makes sense will optimise your site. Utilising keywords to help readers understand your content and message prioritises users which should be your goal. Relevancy is much more important than repetition.
Adding unrelated keywords to your site’s copy in order to appear on search result pages that are irrelevant to your content is another black hat SEO example. Linking your site to searches that are not related does not provide readers with what they are looking for. Tricking individuals into visiting your site is highly condemned by search engines since engines, such as Google, strive to provide the best experience for their users. Including unrelated keywords deters users from visiting your site since it does not provide the information they want and since your website does not even offer information related to what you claim to provide.
Using keywords that are related to your topic to bring in audiences that are seeking your content is the right thing to do. It supports the mission of search engines and the needs of internet surfers. Providing appropriate words shows the relevancy of your site and it builds trust in your audience which leads to long-term traffic for your business.
Hidden Text and Tiny Text
Including text that matches the page’s background, text that is too small to be legible or including links that are difficult to find are considered black hat SEO. Doing so increases the word count on your site and including keywords in this manner manipulates search engines into thinking your site is more relevant than it is. Search engines will detect these hidden texts and will believe your site is great for readers as it is filled with keywords. However, in reality, there is not much content or value to people.
White hat SEO practises include using appropriate text colours that contrast with the background and font sizes that are easy to read. Providing honest, quality content to readers and search engines is essentially what white hat SEO is about.
Duplicate Content or Mirror Site
Filling your site with the same content from another website, even with permission, is called duplicate content or mirror site. Not only are you using content that is not yours, but duplicate content does not provide readers with new information which goes against search engine aims. Cheating the system by not utilising your own work to earn traffic sets up an unfair playing field for other competitors. Also, duplicating content from more credible sources and using their text to portray your own site as more authoritative is fraudulent.
Instead of copying content from another site and pasting in your own, come up with your own original content. It is acceptable to use other sources to help emphasise a point, but using other sites as the bulk of your own is not proper. In situations where you do reference other sources, quote reasonable amounts of text and site them to give rightful credit.
The black hat SEO practise of spam ping involves notifying search engine ping servers that there has been updated content on your site numerous times a day. The goal is to trick the servers into thinking that your site is constantly updated with relevant content that is beneficial for readers. For search engines, this is seen as a good thing because the site is believed to be providing readers with new information. However, in reality, there are no significant updates made to the site. Individuals who perform spam pings often use black hat SEO software that automatically notifies ping servers of supposedly new content.
Instead of spamming ping servers, you should utilise software that notifies ping servers of significant updates to your site or when new articles are released. This provides an accurate account of how relevant your site is and how beneficial it is for readers.
White Hat SEO Techniques to Utilise
Effective and Sensible Use of Keywords
White hat SEO practises include including keywords on your site that relate to the content you provide and to the information that people expect through those keyword searches. Effective research and the use of the right keywords for your content will bring in huge benefits of traffic without the risk of penalties associated with black hat techniques. When done right, white hat practises are much more rewarding than black hat tactics.
Backlinking with Other Reliable and Valid Sites
Building connections with other websites that relate to your site’s topic will undoubtedly help with traffic. You can benefit from the traffic coming in from other sites especially if your platform is not ranked very high on search results pages. Creating this network with other valid sites means long-term benefits for your business.
Original and Valuable Content for Readers
Coming up with original content means you are working for your own traffic. This is the rightful thing to do compared to leeching off of other websites to reap the benefits. Providing new and informative content for readers gives people a reason to visit your site and to return to it in the future. You build trust with readers and establish authority which helps your business in the long run.