Black Hat is a set of aggressive SEO techniques that do not follow the guidelines of search engines and try to manipulate their rules, with the aim of obtaining great results in a short time and at the risk of receiving penalties.
When Google emerged, at the end of the 1990s, the best positioned websites on the results page were there for their keywords and also for links pointing to them.
Quickly, some developers identified “tricks” to trick tools and position their websites at the top of the results.
This is how Black Hat SEO was born , in allusion to western films , where bandits usually wore a black hat.
At that time, websites that used black hat techniques included several keywords and links for the pages and thus achieved the best positions in the ranking. But all that attention of the users also pointed the focus of Google towards those sites and their techniques.
Since the 2000s, Google has constantly updated its algorithm to identify techniques that try to manipulate its results, punish the websites that use them and, also, prioritize pages that offer quality content relevant to the user’s search, making the race for the first positions more and more just. You can view the entire update history of the Google algorithm on this Moz page .
In addition, Google also has Guidelines for Webmasters , with tips to facilitate the indexing of your website in the search engine, practices to follow and a list of techniques to avoid. Basically, through its guidelines, Google explains that you need to create quality content and focused on users .
What are the main techniques of Black Hat SEO?
Because of the frequent changes in the algorithm of Google and its positioning factors, several black hat techniques emerge over time and fall into disuse. The most well-known techniques at present are:
1 Keyword stuffing
One of the first black hat techniques used to try to manipulate Google. The strategy is to include a keyword on a certain page as many times as possible, with the intention of increasing the density of keywords on the page and show relevance to search engines.
This includes the content itself, the title, meta tags and even the alternative text of the images.
The Google team noticed that many websites were abusing the use of keywords in the pages, with the sole purpose of getting the first positions, and also that the number of times the keyword appears in the text is no guarantee of relevance .
Since the middle of the year 2000, Google has been decreasing the relevance of the density of keywords on the page and, even, penalizing its excessive use. With the update of Panda , many web pages ended up losing positions and traffic by the practice of keyword stuffing and had to think of another way to reduce that loss.
To get away from this technique and even avoid a penalty, the recommendation is to produce the texts naturally , maintaining the density of the keywords on the page by 2% or less and, also, prioritize the use of synonyms . Before publishing the page, read and request the reading of other people to ensure a text with more quality.
2 Hidden content
Another ancient technique of black hat, which was also very successful, was a way to insert more keywords, other relevant terms and links thinking only of search engines, without showing the user anything.
The most common ways to use this technique are:
- Apply the text in the same background color of the website;
- Rearrange the text off the page via CSS;
- Change the size of the font to zero.
Google has already mapped all these forms of hiding content for some time and easily identifies and penalizes websites that use this technique. The rule here is never to include “hidden content” in your SEO strategy.
3 Duplicate content
Do you know the phrase “nothing is created, everything is copied”? In the case of the content of the pages of your website, forget it. This happens because, for Google, the good content is that original content. Any page that has a content identical to another already published is considered a duplicate content .
Much is discussed among webmasters if there really is a penalty for this, but the fact is that when similar online content exists, Google will prioritize only one to be displayed to the user (usually the one that was first published) and hide the copies of the search results .
Only if you copy content excessively or do you have an automation to copy content from other websites will you be considered SPAM and you will certainly be penalized for that.
Let’s see what the Google team has to say about this matter:
For these reasons, avoid copying content from other websites, mainly from the competition, since most of the time you will be doing them a favor, since Google will choose to display the original content on the subject, which will not be yours.
Lean on other relevant content for your business as references to do something better and more complete.
In addition to not copying content from other websites, some settings on your own site are necessary to correct common problems that may be considered duplicate content, such as website paging , similar content and a mobile version of the site , for example.
Camouflage, if we translate it literally, is the technique in which the developer configures a page to be displayed in a way for search engine bots, responsible for reading and indexing the page by the tools, and another way for users. This is achieved through the tag user-agent .
The page that is displayed for the bots is made only with the aim of gaining positions in the ranking and uses all possible techniques for it, without the need to give importance to usability.
On the other hand, the page that is displayed to the user is totally different, in general without much relevance and of low quality. By applying this technique, the website will be penalized by the Google Penguin!
5 Doorway page (or gateway page)
It is a technique that also explores cloaking. However, here are several pages focused on the access of the bots, each optimized for a specific keyword. When the user enters, he finds a totally generic content, and sometimes, without any connection with what was searched.
In 2015, Google released an update on the specific algorithm to identify and penalize websites that explore the Doorway page.
6 Link farm
It is, literally, a “link farm”, in which all the participants generate links among themselves to try to improve the pagerank of all the websites.
It is not very difficult to identify websites that still use Linkfarm: they have content like all the others but full of links to sites without any relevance.
Such a practice made a lot of difference in the time when only pagerank mattered, bringing low quality sites to the top of Google. However, all it will generate now is a Google penalty.
7 Private Blog Networks (PBN)
PBN is a network composed of several blogs and websites that generate links for the site you need to upload in the Google ranking.
The sites present in the network generally have a good online authority, since they are old domains that expired, returned to the market and were acquired for this purpose. There are several sites and even companies focused only on this!
As Google’s algorithm is increasingly smart and rigid, developers and website owners are improving this technique to avoid a penalty (which can be up to the exclusion of Google).
For this, they take certain care when creating or contracting a PBN, such as ensuring that sites use different CMSs and registering domains on behalf of different people or companies.
At the beginning of February 2017, there was a big update in Google Penguin with the aim of improving even more the detection of PBNs, which generated sharp drops in traffic from various websites that used this strategy.
8 Paid links
Basically, the goal is to pay a website to generate a link for you. And that does not only apply to money, but also for example, to offer a discount on the product or an advantage in the company. Any link generated just for a reward is considered a paid link.
See the opinion of Matt Cutts , ex-coordinator of the Google webspam team and one of the biggest SEO references in the world:
Of all the techniques, this is the most difficult to be identified by the Google algorithm, since you have no way to discover if you have talked with a friend in a cafe and you have paid to include a link to your website.
To avoid this technique to the maximum, Google also analyzes the relevance between the websites. It is not natural for a shoe ecommerce to generate a link to a carnage website, do not you think?
Another aspect of Google’s algorithm that can identify this and other strategies is when a website begins to obtain several links from one day to the next. That undoubtedly is a sign of black hat and the site goes to be analyzed more closely.
The recommendation is not to adhere to this strategy because, as it is one more way to deceive the seekers, it is also susceptible to be sanctioned. If you have already taken this kind of attitude, do not be scared if there comes a time when your organic traffic is going down, since it is a risk that you are running.
We also remind you that editorial advertising is also considered a paid link, except when a nofollow tag is included in the links, indicating to the bots of search engines that no authority should be passed to this site.
9 SPAM Blog
Have you seen totally irrelevant comments in blogs or forums, only with the aim of including a link? This is another attempt to obtain authority and traffic in an easier way. There are even tools developed only to distribute links on those sites.
It is a practice that was very common to try to improve the pagerank, but it fell into disuse with the inclusion of the nofollow tag in those spaces, indicating to the bots of the search engines that all the links inserted in the website should not receive any authority .
Today, the only advantage that still exists to include a link in comments and forums is the generation of traffic and even the possibility of generation of Leads with that. In this case, if the link is relevant to the discussion in the forum or for comments on the content, including a link in these places can bring positive results.
10 Negative SEO
Within the dark side of SEO, some webmasters choose not to apply black hat techniques to the website itself, but to harm the competition with negative SEO techniques (also known as negative SEO).
This technique consists of including comments and negative evaluations on the website and in the Google My Business of the competition and, even, generate several low quality links for their sites (called toxic links), and thus generate a sanction on the part of the seekers
Fortunately, Google has some ways to avoid these practices. Irregular evaluations in Google My Business can be reported to Google and have great chances of being removed.
Google Search Console also has a tool called Disavow Links , with which it is possible to include a list of toxic links on your website, to indicate that you do not want them to be considered as access to your website and remove any link (the link your website will continue there, but it will not be harmed by that).
What are the punishment of Google
In the event that you do not follow Google’s guidelines, your website could receive a penalty, which varies according to the severity of the infraction, determined by the volume of irregularities and by its influence on the performance of the site.
The possible penalized are:
- Fall of 30 positions in the ranking;
- Fall of 50 positions;
- Fall of 950 positions;
- Expulsion from Google.
In this way, in the event that your organic traffic falls from one moment to another, there are great chances that you have received some sanction.
How to check if the website was punished by Google?
- Check in Google Search Console if you have received a message or if there is any information in the “Manual Actions” area;
- Go to Google and search for “site:www.ideafromtheweb.com“. Did any result appear? If it did not appear (or the answer only took you home) you were probably expelled from Google;
- When searching for the name of your company on Google, is your site still well positioned? If it is not, it is likely that you received a sanction;
- Search in Google for specific terms of pages in which you had a good positioning and check if they still continue between the first and second page. Otherwise, there are great chances that you have been penalized.
If none of these steps suggests that you have received a penalty, you have probably lost relevance due to some Google update or increased competition. In that case, the only thing left to do is improve your content and SEO strategy to recover your website.
Were you punished by Google? The first measure is to identify and remove what caused the penalty (mainly if you used a black hat technique). Then you can ask Google for a reconsideration request to try to reverse the penalty.
Now that you know the main techniques of black hat and all the problems that can arise with practice, I assume you want to avoid them, Right?
By way of information, in March of this year a new update called Google Fred Algorithm brought down several sites that had little content and were well positioned, due to other factors (many used black hat).
Using white hat techniques (which follow the Google guidelines) certainly gives more work and involves more time to get results. However, this guarantees not to receive sanctions in the future and that all our work is not wasted.
Have you already done a black hat, do you know another technique or have you received any penalty? Share your experience in the comments