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Black Hat SEO is a practice that is frowned upon by Google and other search engines and is not very fair! Nevertheless, it is still used today because it improves the ranking of pages in the SERP (search results) by downgrading competitors’ sites. However, it is essential to realize that implementing Black Hat SEO tactics and strategies can have dire consequences, not only for your competitors but also for your own site.

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Black Hat SEO methods and techniques

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Cloaking

Cloaking consists in showing different content to users and bots. It is a classic Black Hat technique used to hide spammy contentsfrom the bots. Beware, there are several forms of cloaking and some are tolerated, such as obfuscation of links or change of content depending on the country of destination. Google has not established an absolute rule to determine what is acceptable and what is not. Therefore, to be on the safe side, we advise you to ask yourself if you intend to improve UX (user experience) or not. If it is, then it can be considered acceptable.

Using duplicate content for negative SEO

Scraping content from your site to duplicate it is another way for your competitors to wipe out your ranking. This is because when Google finds content that is duplicated on multiple sites, it usually only chooses one version to rank. In most cases, Google is smart enough to identify the original content, but sometimes domain authority takes over. This is how Amazon often finds itself ahead of sites that run ads on its marketplace, with the same content as their product listings.

Stealing valuable content

It is very easy to steal valuable content from other sites. All you need to do is set up a few scripts and you're done! However, this practice is not only against the rules of the search engine but also illegal. Plagiarism is indeed severely punished. This does not discourage some Black Hat SEOs who use these stolen contents to improve their own SEO, without effort! You can use a plagiarism detection software and file a complaint if you notice that a site has taken your content.

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Keywords stuffing

Keyword stuffing is an old technique that had its moment of glory before the years 2000s. Today, algorithms are smart enough to detect "keywords stuffing" which they severely punish because it harms the user experience. It is therefore advisable to write as if you were talking to someone, giving meaning to your words. Fortunately, this has become a matter of course for most web editors.

Automatically generate meaningless content

Content automation is using tools or scripts to generate content and publish it on your site without any effort. Automated content is written without taking the user's intention into account. It is not formatted, does not have images, etc. In short, it is poor quality content! In the short term, some people wrongly think that this practice can be used to quickly feed a site. But in reality, it will make you quickly enter Google’s blacklist! If you need decent content quickly, you should rather use a content spinning tool. There are very effective tools available today, provided you master them well and use them sparingly on pages that are not very strategic.

Technical parameters

Misleading redirections

The 301 redirect is not a bad practice in itself. Unfortunately, over the years, it has started to be used as a Black Hat SEO technique. Webmasters started using expired domains to maintain their authority. They redirect the old site to their "money site" and take advantage of the SEO juice. This technique is rather "Grey Hat", but it is easy to fall on the dark side! If the re-used domain is not relevant in the eyes of Google, you could be severely penalized.

Keyword domain names (EMD)

EMDs, for Exact Match Domains, were used and favored by Google for a long time. These are domain names using exactly the targeted keywords of the product or service that the site offers, for example: candy-for-sale.com. Once again, many abuses have led Google to sanction these abusive practices. From now on, the EMD is not penalized, but it is no longer favored, especially if the content is poor.

Satellite pages

A satellite page is a fake page generated by a site editor, who uses it to publish ultra optimized or even spammy content. This page is invisible for the users (it is generally redirected to the "money site"). With PBNs (Private Blogging Network), it is now the main target of Google penalties.

Hacking a site to improve its SEO

SEO is not spared from hacking. Some Black Hat SEOs have indeed a deep knowledge in intrusion and hacking of computer networks. They are even able to bypass security protocols. The primary motivation of hackers is often personal or financial. But sometimes, hacking is aimed at stealing sensitive data or bringing down a competitor's site. This is of course a totally illegal practice and punishable by a heavy sentence.

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Hotlinking, stealing images to boost its SEO

Hotlinking occurs when a page on site A loads media hosted on site Y. The problem with this process is that every time the page of site A is loaded, an image request is made to server Y. This means that Y has its own bandwidth consumed without actually being visited. "Hotlinking" for a Black Hat purpose is therefore the same as gathering the most important images of a competitor in order to consume bandwidth, trigger a bandwidth overflow problem or slow it down.

Cybersquatting and typosquatting

This hijacking method is based on a deliberate typographical error, intended to create domains that resemble well-known brands. This error usually comes from a common spelling mistake, an unnoticed foreign spelling, etc. The primary reason for this practice is to take advantage of the brand name and its notoriety. However, it is not without risk. Not only can you make Google's radar go off, but you are also jeopardizing your brand's reputation.

Links

Automated link generation services

Generating links by the hundred in a few minutes is technically feasible and within the reach of anyone equipped with automation software. Although some SEOs still use this method for niche sectors, it is not very effective and is even dangerous. Today, Google is hunting fake links more than ever, so we always advise you to prioritize quality over quantity of links.

Integrating links without coherence / not contextualized in articles

There was a time, in the great days of "easy" SEO, when all you had to do was to integrate a link on a page and it would transmit juice to the destination page. This is a bygone era. From now on, links integrated into content must be contextualized. If your article is about cycling, then the link must have a close or distant relationship with this theme. Google knows very well how to interpret the meaning of links and masters more and more the notion of semantic field. Once again, give priority to links that have a real added value for the Internet user.

Spamming comments and link forums

Spam in the comments of articles has long turned the head of webmasters. The technique simply consists in posting a fake comment on an article, by putting a link to his site. Usually, this type of technique uses links that lead to the home page. Commenting just to get a lot of backlinks easily is nowadays considered as a Black Hat technique. If you own a blog and you have received this kind of spammy comments, you can delete them as soon as you receive them or simply mark the incoming comments as pending approval. This will prevent you from polluting your site with links that could penalize you if they come from toxic sites.

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Making "toxic" backlinks to your competitor.

Take all the bad practices that we have just cited above and you will have the definition of "toxic backlinks"! Not very fair, this method is fortunately difficult to be really effective. Google is getting better and better at detecting these toxic links and even allows to "reject" them, via the link disavowal tool available on Google Search Console. Setting up toxic backlinks requires time. Spend it instead on optimizing your site, it will be a much more profitable and sustainable operation.

Excessive link exchange

"I'll link to you, you link to me" was an unavoidable technique a few years ago. Today, cross-link exchanges are clearly ignored or even sanctioned by search engines; nothing surprising considering how easy it is to spot them!

Black Hat SEO vs White Hat SEO

In SEO, there are two schools of thought: the White Hat, who follow Google's recommendations and favor clean optimization techniques; and the Black Hat, the SEO rebels who go beyond Google's rules. The question is: which one to choose? When it comes to SEO, no one holds the truth, not even the main players who sit at Google! But one thing is sure, algorithms evolve at a frantic speed and even if it is sometimes possible to anticipate future changes, Google has already demonstrated that it is capable of hitting where it was not expected.

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What are search engines doing to fight this practice?

Penalties and sanctions for offenders

These Black Hat practices are contrary to the terms of use of the search engine and can lead to the exclusion of the site from the search engine and affiliated sites. To avoid a penalty, you should always ask yourself the following question:

"Does my work provide any real value to the web user or is it simply aimed at getting into the good graces of the robots?"

If your site doesn't bring any added value to the user, but your rankings are likely to improve, you are flirting dangerously with Black Hat!

Google can trigger algorithmic or manual penalties. In the first case, you can get out of it by going back into the ranks: deoptimization, link cleaning ... In the case of a manual penalty, you will have to redouble your efforts to show that you have stopped your Black Hat techniques.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we can quote Matt Cutts, who says that "the goal is not to make your links look natural; the goal is for your links to be natural".

At SmartKeyword, we strongly oppose these practices that are unfair but also especially dangerous. Sooner or later, you can lose your rankings and traffic within a few days, damage your reputation, lose your credibility and customers, or worse, face a lawsuit.

We are convinced that what Google can't detect today, it will be able to detect tomorrow. We also see things in a completely different light. Google is not our enemy, its ultimate goal (in organic results), is to propose the most relevant contents possible. As an Internet user, we should be grateful for all the work Google's engineers have done to give us access to an inexhaustible source of information, from quality sites.

   Article written by Louis Chevant

Further reading

The complete guide on the referencing of e-commerce sites

The 6 key steps to follow to correctly optimize your e-commerce site with a good natural referencing. 

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