Search engine optimization or SEO that employs so-called Blackhat SEO techniques is a NO-NO! These aggresive and unethical techniques are used in an effort to improve rankings of a particular website. On blackhat SEO techniques Google says, “In the pursuit of higher rankings or traffic, a few sites use techniques that don’t benefit users, where the intent is to look for shortcuts or loopholes that would rank pages higher than they deserve to be ranked.”

How does Google deliver search results? Google crawls, indexes, and serves your website in search results. Google describes crawling as “the process by which Googlebot discovers new and updated pages to be added to the Google index”.  Then, “Googlebot processes each of the pages it crawls in order to compile a massive index of all the words it sees and their location on each page”. When a user makes a search, Google returns the results most relevant to the user (relevancy is determined by over 200 factors, one of which is PageRank). Blackhatters attempt to manipulate and take advantage of this process.

We have compiled a list of common blackhat techniques that should be avoided, a discussion on the potential penalties for engaging in this type of activity, and some whitehat SEO techniques you should use instead!

Blackhat Techniques to Avoid

–       Keyword stuffing – loading a webpage with keywords in the Meta tags or content to influence a site’s ranking in search results.

–       Hidden or invisible text – technique used to load a webpage with keywords by making the text invisible or unreadable (for example: making the font color the same as the background color).

–       Mirror websites – an exact copy of another Internet site used to increase search engine rankings by link farming; placing hyperlinks on each mirror website to every other mirror website.

–       Link farming – exchanging reciprocal links with Websites with no connection solely for the purpose of increasing the number of sites that link to yours in an effort to boost rankings in search results, often accomplished through automated systems.

–       Doorway pages – (also known as portal pages, entry pages, jump pages, and gateway pages) standalone pages containing many links that are of little or no use to the visitor built to trick the search engines into giving these sites higher rankings. Searchers are redirected to the “real” website after landing on the doorway page.

–       Meta-tag stuffing – using meta keywords that are unrelated to the site’s content or repeating keywords in the meta-tags (note: meta keywords are no longer considered by Google).

–       Scraper sites – compile content from other sources and republish it. The practice of harvesting content is known as “scraping”.

–       Sybil attack – multiple identities are used in order to participate in link or comment spam.

–       Article spinning – blog or website owners take one article and create, or spin, a unique article for their site based on the original in an effort to escape Google’s duplicate content policy.

–       Google bowling – putting links on a competitor’s site so they are penalized to reduce their search rank.

–       Buying expired domains – link spammers sometimes buy domains when they expire and replace the pages with links to their own pages.

–       Spam blogs – (also known as splogs) blogs with irrelevant text and a large quantity of links typically to a single website.

–       Misspellings – deliberately optimizing your content for misspelled keywords.

–       Cloaking – presenting different content or URLs to search engines and users.

–       Duplicate content* – content that is found on the Internet in more than one place. Search engines do not know which is more relevant to a given search query, and therefore, will rarely show duplicate content.

–       Link-building software – using link-building software to automate the seo process.

–       Page hijacking – creating a copy of a popular website that redirects searchers to unrelated or malicious websites.

–       Cookie stuffing – when a user visits a website and unknowingly receives a third-party cookie from a different website. This technique is used to generate fraudulent affiliate sales.

–       URL redirection – taking the searcher to another page without their permission.

–       Hidden links – similar to hidden or invisible text, but hiding links throughout a website.

*Unfortunately, if you are a victim of plagiarism, you may not realize that you have duplicate content on the web. To check for duplicated content on the Internet, try Copyscape Plagiarism Checker. It is a free tool that allows you to search for copies of your page on the web.

Blackhat Penalties

Search engines take measures to prevent and penalize those utilizing blackhat seo techniques.  Notably, websites can be banned or their rank can be reduced, both of which are damaging to a brand’s reputation.

Google Panda was a measure taken in order to discourage these techniques. It penalized websites with “thin content” and that had a lot of ads. The updates are designed to penalize sites with weak content, which can be a result of the techniques listed above, and to reward sites with quality content. Google Penguin is an algorithm update to the previous Google Panda that was announced on April 24, 2012. Penguin targets link farming by evaluating incoming links to see if your site is involved. These algorithms determine PageRank and effect search results. The algorithm is used to decrease search engine rankings of those websites that are using blackhat SEO techniques. Matt Cutts says, “the change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines. We’ve always targeted webspam in our rankings, and this algorithm represents another improvement in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content.”

How can you avoid penalties but optimize your results for search engines? Matt Cutts says, “Our advice for webmasters is to focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics.” Check out this infographic on content marketing after the Google Penguin/Panda Update.

Whitehat techniques are considered ethical SEO practices. What are some whitehat SEO techniques? Focus on creating high quality sites through quality content, internal linking, site optimization, link baiting, guest blogging, semantic mark-up, and an overall great user experience. Avoid blackhat SEO, whitehat is the way to go!

Learn More About Blackhat SEO

Google Webmaster Guidelines

Official Google Webmaster Central Blog

Search Engine Optimization

Google 101: How Google Crawls, Indexes, and Serves the Web

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