How to Bury Your Site at the Drop of a Hat

Blog Black Hat 1122

Five SEO strategies to avoid

While the right SEO strategy can net you thousands of qualified visitors and increase brand awareness, the wrong moves can just as easily bury your website deep within the search result abyss. (It’s a scary place. Do you really want your brand mingling with the used car salesman and the fumbling late-90s voices of the interwebs?)

In other words, in the world of SEO, figuring out how to gain top positions on search engines is the mother load. Yet, achieving those rankings isn’t always so easy. Successful SEO strategies require keeping up with ever-changing SEO trends and constantly adjusting your approach to suit new algorithm updates. High rankings take time. They take patience. They take persistence.

In this age of instant gratification, waiting for anything is the worst. We get it. But giving into shortcuts that manipulate Google is dangerous. These techniques, termed “black hat” SEO, exploit loopholes in the search engine algorithms and rank websites higher than they actually deserve to be.

Compared to “white hat” strategies that follow search engine rules and policies and focus on relevancy and organic rankings, black hat strategies often yield better results in the short term. However, they directly violate search engine guidelines – and can get your site penalized (which can lower your website’s rank) or, in extreme cases, banned completely. Yikes!

So here are five black hat SEO strategies to steer clear of:

1. Overusing keywords

One of the most well-known black hat techniques, keyword stuffing is the practice of shoving as many SEO keywords onto a page as physically possible. But it’s not just Google that doesn’t like it. Content stuffed with keywords won’t be well liked by your readers, either. Keep it simple – and, most importantly, relevant.

2. Duplicating content

Since search engines prefer unique content, duplicate content is one of the worst offenders of black hat techniques. And it often causes more confusion than it’s worth. So what exactly is it? Duplicate content is content that appears on the Internet in more than one place (or URL). This can occur within URL parameters, printer-friendly versions of content and session IDs. Search engines simply don't know which version to include/exclude from their indices, where to direct link metrics, or which version to rank for query results. Which means search engines will provide fewer relevant results. (Sometimes duplicate content is inevitable, so in these rare cases be sure to use canonical URLs to improve link and ranking signals.)

3. Buying or trading external links

Link building is still the trump card for higher rankings. But the process can be tough, particularly when you're still in the early days of building successful SEO results. However, buying links is directly against Google's webmaster guidelines. Why? Because Google wants companies to perform well in search results because they deserve to, not because they have deep pockets. So what’s the better option? As time-intensive as it sounds, establish yourself as the authority on your content. Make your content informative, interesting and easy to understand. Inspire readers to spread your message. (Or, you can always buy relevant traffic with a pay per click campaign, but that’s a whole ‘nother post!)

4. Relying on spammy guest blogs

Over time, guest blogging has gotten a bad wrap. In fact, back in 2014, Google’s own SEO spokesperson Matt Cutts wrote a blog titled “The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO” that created quite an industry firestorm. As Cutts later admitted, though, not all guest blogs are bad. Just stay away from publishing unoriginal, low-quality content on someone else’s site, as well as accepting it from other authors and publishing it on your own. Basically, avoid the type of content that no one wants to read. Stick with high-quality content written by high-quality authors on high-quality sites. Always.

 5. Cloaking and invisible text

Hiding text or links in your content to manipulate Google’s search rankings is also a big no-no. How’s this even possible? Several common methods are:

  • Creating white text on a white background
  • Hiding text behind an image
  • Using CSS to position text off-screen
  • Setting font size to 0
  • Linking one small character, like a hyphen in the middle of a paragraph

Shady, right? Cloaking or invisible text “disguises” a site’s true content. It delivers different content to a search engine than what a searcher truly sees. Searchers end up accessing websites that contain information they simply weren’t seeking. Like, let's say, porn.

Not all hidden text is considered deceptive, though. If your site includes technologies like JavaScript, images or Flash files, using descriptive text can improve the accessibility of your site. So how can you tell the difference? Look for anything that's not easily viewable by visitors to your site and make sure that it’s been created for visitors – not solely for the benefit of search engines.

Google is continually updating to reward websites that have high-quality content. (Think Panda and Penguin.) But it still takes time and effort to do it right. So hats off to those sites using white hat strategies to get top rankings. You deserve it! If you aren’t there just yet, contact the SEO specialists at WhiteSpace. As for what color hat we wear, our name kinda speaks for itself.

There are so many other “black hat” techniques out there. Even gray ones… What are some others and their risks? Share ‘em here.  


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