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Black hat SEO refers to strategies to boost a site’s search engine rankings that are unethical or that go against the search engine’s terms of service. There are many risks that come with using black hat SEO ranging from downgrading of rankings to being essentially banned from search results. But when it comes to black hat SEO, how risky is it really?
Black Hat SEO Tactics
Before we discuss the risks of black hat SEO tactics, let’s discuss what classifies as black hat SEO to begin with. One prime example of black hat SEO is keyword stuffing and tag manipulation. It was not uncommon not too long ago for web developers to insert all kinds of unrelated keywords into their title tags or stuff them with any and every iteration of a particular keyword in an attempt to boost rankings.
Another example of black hat SEO is hiding extra keywords by having the text colour the same as the background. Keywords hidden in comments and page code are considered hidden text. Blocking search engines from seeing your destination page while having a doorway page stuffed with highly trafficked keywords is black hat SEO if people hit the doorway page before being redirected elsewhere. Having a paywall or account login page as a requirement to see content is not black hat.
Why People Use These Tactics
People use these tactics because they work to some degree at first. Implemented right, you can hit the top of the search results for key search terms – especially long tail search phrases – until search engines catch up. For scammers selling barely legal or questionable products, they use the tactics because they don’t care if one landing page is shut down. This is why websites that don’t care if they’ll be taken down in six months can and do use black hat SEO tactics. But for most website owners, the effects of black hat SEO can be disastrous and un-reversible.
The Penalties for Black Hat SEO Strategies
If the issue is egregious enough, your site will be blacklisted by Google and impossible to find unless you have an incredibly good social media outreach strategy. Google sometimes penalises businesses to the point they cannot be found in commerce related searches. JC Penny’s was punished in this way when they were found guilty of massive black hat SEO campaigns for “JC Penny’s dresses” and “women’s dresses”. You couldn’t find JC Penny’s as a search result when searching for women’s wear, but searches for the company’s stock prices and about the company itself still came back.
If your site is flagged for link spam, Google will decide to disregard all of your links. Now the only way you can be found is by cultivating a network of websites that take people to your website, but not via a doorway page or else you’ll be shut out entirely. Once blacklisted, getting your rankings back up is almost impossible.
Black hat SEO is no small affair and Google and other search engines are doing everything in their power to catch people who use shoddy SEO practices. So, if you were tempted by using black hat SEO techniques in the future, we hope this piece was enough to discourage you.
Written by Laura Ginn