Do you know the difference between white hat and black hat SEO? If your website has ever been penalised by the search engines then the chances are high that some form of black hat SEO practice is at fault. In this article, we’ll define white hat and black hat SEO and take a look at some of the black hat SEO tactics that you should be avoiding.
What is the difference between black hat and white hat SEO?
White hat SEO is a term used to describe the practice of using techniques and tactics that are in the spirit of the search engines published guidelines. These focus on the needs of the user and providing them with the most relevant information possible. White hat is associated with ethical SEO and building long-lasting results for businesses.
A tactic that uses aggressive SEO strategies for the sole purpose of improving rankings is known as black hat. This is a common strategy used by businesses that are looking to get short-term results and who are not bothered about being banned. These techniques go against guidelines published by the major search engines such as Google. The only way to guarantee that your website is not penalised by the search engines is to use white hat SEO.
Common black hat strategies
Black hat practitioners are always on the lookout for ways to game the search engines to get better search rankings. And while the methods they use are constantly evolving some of the common strategies remain the same. To help ensure you don’t fall victim to these we’ve listed some of the most obvious black hat strategies for you to avoid.
One of the easiest tactics to spot is keyword stuffing. This is where your content is filled with keywords in an attempt to get the page to rank. The text is often poorly written as the sole focus is on getting the target keywords on the page as many times as possible. While for some queries this tactic may work initially, the rewards will be short-lived when they are spotted by the search engines.
If your page is suffering from keyword stuffing then another thing to look out for is hidden text. This is content that is hidden from your normal site visitors but is shown to search engines. Examples of this practice include white text on a white background, placing text behind images, or aligning text off a user’s screen.
The practice of cloaking can be difficult to spot if you don’t know what you are looking for. Cloaking involves showing one piece of content to normal website visitors and an entirely different version to the search engines. Use Google Search Console to see how Google is seeing your website using the Fetch as Google tool and make sure that the search engines see the same things as your website users.
A link farm is a collection of websites that have been put together for the sole purpose of link building. These websites link to each other and contain hundreds of pages with spammed keyword rich content which then links out to customer websites. Most link farms are automatically created by computer programs and generate thousands of pages and links. They are commonly the tactic used by businesses who sell links offering hundreds of links for a low price. If it sounds too good to be true, then it almost certainly is, especially when it comes to link building.
Scraping is a black hat SEO tactic which plagiarises content from another source. It may seem like a good idea to take content from another website and publish it on your own site but this practice is simple for the search engines to spot. It is often used by businesses to run Google AdSense campaigns and other advertising to try and get traffic to their website to boost advertising spending.
Blog comment spam
Another way that webmasters try to game the system is by gaining links via posting comments on blogs and forums. This practice no longer has any benefit as the major search engines simply discount these links passing none of the link benefits over to the target website.
There are many different tricks and tips used by black hat SEO practitioners, if in doubt always ask what tactics your SEO company is using, and if they appear to have something to hide then maybe it’s time to walk away.