A redirect involves sending someone to a different URL than the one they initially clicked. Black hat SEO uses redirects outside of the purpose they are intended for. Along the same lines as cloaking, this might include redirecting a search engine crawler to one page and all other users to another page.
Another example is redirecting a highly authoritative page with lots of backlinks into another irrelevant page, just to boost its position in search results. A 301 redirect passes the majority of authority from one page to another. This means someone practicing black hat SEO could use redirects solely for the purpose of manipulating search results.
Poor Quality Content
Poor quality content that’s of no value to the searcher is also a common practice in black hat SEO. This includes content scraped from another website either by a bot or a person. At one point search engines like Google weren’t good at recognizing content that had been copied from other websites. The Google Panda update in 2011 resolved this issue. Many sites with duplicate content took an instant hit in search rankings. Since then, Google has gotten much better at recognizing duplicate and low-quality content.
Adding invisible keywords to your content is also a prohibited practice. Some websites that engage in black hat SEO do this by making the text the same color as the page background. This means the page may appear in search results for those invisible keywords, even though there’s no visible content about them on the page. When a user clicks on the result thinking it’s going to be about the topic they searched for, they don’t find any of the content they were looking for as the keywords are invisible. If you’re solving for the user, there should be no need to hide content on your website.
The “bait and switch” is another black hat means of misleading search engines. This involves creating content surrounding a topic you want to rank for. Once the page is ranking in results for this topic, the content is swapped out for something else. This creates a negative experience for searchers as the content they click-through to see no longer exists. These practices trick users and search engines and they are not a good way to do SEO.
Writing original, quality content is an important part of white hat SEO. Not only is it required to avoid a penalty from search engines, it will also set your website apart. Creating high-quality content builds trust with your target audience and turns visitors into customers.
Search engines like Google strictly ban the buying and selling of links. They state on their website that “any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.” This includes sending a website free products in exchange for links. If you’re not sure of what’s an acceptable exchange, Matt Cutts, the former head of Google’s webspam team recommends looking at FTC guidelines.
You should avoid paying any other site to link to your content. Google asks users to tell them about instances of people buying or selling links. They state they will penalize both buyer and seller of links once the practice is detected.
If you’re reading this having purchased links without realizing this is a black hat SEO tactic, you should have them removed as soon as possible. You can also use the disavow links tool if you can’t get webmasters to remove the links.This tells Google to disregard the paid links when calculating your Pagerank.
Abusing Structured Data/Rich Snippets
Structured data is also known as rich snippets and schema. It allows you to change how your content is displayed on search engine results pages. It makes your content stand out from competitors and also gives you more real estate on results pages. You can add structured data to a page displaying a podcast, recipe, book among other products and services. Reviews schema markup is probably one of the most popular types of structured data.
Black hat SEO involves providing inaccurate information in structured data to fool search engines and users. For example, someone practicing blackhat SEO might award themselves five stars from a fake review site and add structured data so they stand out on search results pages. This is a very risky practice as search engines like Google encourage users to report websites misusing structured data.
This should not put you off marking up truthful, accurate information on your web pages. In fact, I highly recommend adding structured data the white hat way. We added review markup to HubSpot product pages and saw a 10% increase in clicks to those pages.
You have nothing to worry about, if you provide truthful information that is helpful to users. Google has documented the rules around adding structured data to your website and also have a helpful tool for testing your structured data.
Blog Comment Spam
As the name suggests, this black hat technique involves including a link to your website in blog comments. This practice happens less often nowadays as search engines like Google updated their algorithm to discount any links in blog comments. Most authoritative blogs now make links in blog comments nofollow by default. This means search engines like Google do not follow the link nor does it the link pass any authority.
Despite the decline in the number of people engaging in the practice, you’ll still find a bunch of people on Fiverr advertising blog commenting services. Blog commenting, with links to your website is a spammy way of getting links to your website and we highly recommend avoiding the practice.
If you own a publication, forum or community that allows comments you need to take care to ensure that your comments section can’t be spammed by either bots or people. Search engines like Google will demote or completely remove pages containing spam from the search results. Using anti-spam tools like Google’s free reCAPTCHA tool is one way to mitigate the risk of spam user generated content.
A link farm is a website or a collection of websites developed solely for the purpose of link building. Each website links out to the site or sites they want to rank higher on search engines. Search engines rank websites by looking at the number of links that point to the website, among other factors. Black hat SEO exploits this by using link farms to inflate the number of backlinks a particular site has.
Link farms often have low-quality content and lots of links. The links normally contain the keyword they want the site to rank for in the anchor text. Search engines like Google can easily detect link farms and using them should be avoided. Instead, you should use white hat SEO tactics like creating amazing content, graphs, data, interviews or any other content that allows you to acquire backlinks naturally over time.
Private Blog Networks
A private blog network (PBN) is a bunch of authoritative websites used solely for link building. They are similar to link farms in that they both aim to exaggerate the number of links pointing to a website. Each PBN site links to the site they want to boost in the search results but do not link to each other.
Black Hat SEOs wanting to build a private network will normally buy expired domains that have already built up authority. They’ll write content similar to what already existed on the domain before it expired and add links to their own site. They hope that search engines won’t notice they’re controlling a network of websites and rank their main website mucher higher in the search results.
Search engines have gotten clever at spotting PBNs and your site could be hit with a severe penalty if you are using PBNs to improve your search presence. Rather than put effort into spinning up fake websites focus on creating quality content under your own domain. Keeping your content under one roof means your site will be highly authoritative as everyone will link to the one domain.