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Black Hat SEO 101 - How And Why It Can Hurt Your Website

Posted by fusionbox on Aug. 28, 2011, 6 p.m.

What is Black Hat SEO?
Put simply it is the unethical use of SEO practices to get higher search engine ranking results, often at the expense of others and against tactics approved by search engines like Google and Bing.

Won't I see results? Why is it a bad idea to hire a SEO firm that can promise you magical results?
Yes, you'll see results. But very likely, only for the short term. Black hat SEO firms promise you instant results on Google but Google will catch on and eventually ban your website. Google only rarely makes exceptions to the "I didn't know they did black hat SEO cries", unless, of course, you are JC Penny and even then, it is going to take a long time to recover.

What does Black Hat SEO include?
Here are some very common black hat SEO techniques; this list is by no means exhaustive – it is merely meant to educate you about the questions you need to ask your SEO firm:

Illegitimate Linking: As outlined in a previous post, link building is what gets the real juice to your website. Link building is a very slow and deliberate process. The idea is to get good-quality authoritative websites linking “in” to you. The more websites linking “in” to your website, the more popular it is in search engine ranking results. Our resident SEO expert, Tory, calls it a popularity contest.  But black hat SEO firms buy links on websites and other blogs and as a result, you will become instantly popular. But this is a 15-minutes-of-fame situation. A new website earning the top spot in a Search Engine Rankings Page (SERP) gives Google clues about how something may be fishy about this.  They dig deeper and before you know it, you've been dropped from the SERP. Besides this tactic, sometimes they will also participate in link exchanges, better known as, reciprocal links. To circumvent search engine spiders, they'll go to the extent of redirecting the website 3 or more times so it can't be tracked to the original source. All of the above practices are a violation of Google's policies. Google is smart enough to spot a trend and when they do, they penalize your website in more ways than one.

Keyword Stuffing:  If you are a company that makes chocolates, are you going to paint your office walls in chocolate-colored paint? Have chocolate-covered desks and computers? Require your employees to wear chocolate-colored clothes everyday? If not, why should your website be any different? Keyword stuffing is the equivalent of doing all this and more. It is the practice of stuffing targeted keywords on your web pages and tricking the spiders into reading it as relevant. It makes for really bad quality content. And bad quality content, especially that which is grammatically incorrect, is just not seen as relevant by Google.

Stealing/Scraping content: This is very common and can work against you. Black hat SEO firms do not want to spend resources on creating good quality content that individuals would voluntarily wants to link to. Instead, they scrape off content from other popular websites, put it on their website and don't link to your content.This takes away your power as the original content creator. But sometimes, if they aren't careful enough, they'll scrape off your content from your website with your links in it! So even though your content is being stolen, you may just get a link or two out of it.

Doorway pages: These are pages that are designed for the search engine spiders to manipulate them into thinking that the page is important and relevant. It's essentially a gateway to your website, but remember, the user doesn't want a gateway, he wants your website. Doorway pages may drive traffic to your website, but the user is likely going to have a bad experience and leave the minute he sees that your website does not have what he's looking for, EVEN though it may. Google may find out soon enough that your website has doorway pages and will inform you categorically, that it wants to direct its users to content pages and not doorway pages. Google maintains that trying to deceive their spiders compromises the quality of their results and degrades the search experience for everyone. Google does not like this.

Not all SEO firms practice black hat SEO, but be wary of those that make claims to elevate your SERP status instantaneously. Black hat SEO contains many more tactics and techniques than those that are listed here. It's a cat-and-mouse game that usually doesn't end well for your website.

As a policy, Fusionbox does not practice black hat SEO and has never done it. We realize that while it may show short term results, we want long term results that lead to conversions, business and growth for our clients. We like being in Google's good books.

Contact us so we can show you what that's like.