It’s no longer a secret that pretty much every business out there these days needs search engine optimization to succeed in today’s marketplace. Whether you sell a product or a service, customers and clients do their research online, and if you’re not showing up in search engines, you might as well not exist.
That being as it is, a lot of companies hire SEO companies to handle their sites and rankings. Unfortunately, SEO is a market that’s far-too populated with shady operators that use unethical tactics that will do more harm than good in the long term. This is known as “black hat” SEO in the industry, in contrast to ethical “white hat” tactics.
You should avoid hiring black hat SEOs at all costs, so if you’re shopping around for an SEO or are currently working with one, keep your eyes peeled for these common black hat SEO tactics. Not only will they not work, but will put your site at severe risk of being penalized by Google, which will tank organic traffic and take a great deal of effort to have removed.
Common Tactics Used by Black Hat SEO Companies
Buying Bad Links
A huge part of SEO is generating in-bound links from other websites to the site being optimized. This is known as link building, and is really difficult to do well. But the important thing is to secure links from high-quality, relevant sites, not as many as possible from whatever corner of the Internet will host them. This won’t stop some SEO companies even still from paying to create hundreds or even thousands of links from “link farms.” This is maybe the biggest thing to look out for.
Keyword stuffing is the practice of repeatedly using the same phrases or words in a page’s on-site text in a way that’s unnatural or creates a poor user experience. The example Google cites in their Quality Guidelines is a good example:
We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at email@example.com.
Some SEOs will also include keyword-stuffed text that’s hidden to users with HTML trickery like comment tags or same-color-on-same-color text (this is known as “cloaking”). These tactics might have worked back in the wild west days of SEO, but now they’re a major no-no. If you’re working with an SEO company and notice content like this, it’s time to move on.
Doorway pages are pages that are designed to trick search engines into ranking well, but provide little or no actual value to users. Their purpose is to funnel traffic to another page, like one for a product or a contact page, via referral links or even automatic redirects.
Google’s Quality Guidelines specifically advise against the practice, but it’s one that’s still common and which can mean a penalty if abused
Other Black Hat Tactics
There are numerous other black hat tactics to avoid, like blog spam, content scraping, content spinning, fake news stories, securing backlinks to a page before switching out the content, and others. Do some research on more common ones and keep your eyes peeled.
Why do SEO Companies Use Black Hat Tactics?
There are many reasons why black hat SEO is still used, but I’d argue the three most common are these:
- They can work in the short-term
SEOs might violate Google’s guidelines because they simply don’t know any better or because they don’t have the time or energy to put into white hat SEO. But they might also be unconcerned with Google penalties. Many SEOs use a “turn and burn” approach that involves using black hat tactics to rank a site in as little as a month, making as much profit from it as possible until it gets penalized, and then abandoning the site and moving on to repeat the process.
“Turn and burn” is common with people who focus on generating ad revenue or affiliate sales for themselves, but can also be used by SEO companies to secure new clients, rank them fast to get referrals and more leads, then disconnecting the phone when the whole thing goes south.
Hire an Ethical SEO Company
If you’re looking for an ethical SEO company that focuses on genuine best-practices, quality content, and customer service, look no further than Keyword Performance. We’ve been in business for over a decade, and have done work with local and national clients to improve rankings, traffic, and conversions. Get in touch to learn more about our services.