The rumors are true: black hat SEO is alive in 2020. And if you do SEO for your own site, and invest in an SEO agency, you should beware that you or they could be doing bad practice tactics that could hinder your website in the future.
What Is Black Hat SEO?
Black hat SEO, the opposite of white hat SEO, is a set of search engine optimization tactics that are deemed bad practice within the industry as they are easy but sneaky ways to improve your SEO quickly. While these strategies may briefly help you to increase your rankings, they go against Google’s guidelines, and if they catch on to you practicing such tactics your site will likely be penalized.
7 Black Hat Tactics to Avoid in 2020 and Beyond
In the video below, Matt Cults from Google explains what cloaking is and how it goes against their quality guidelines. Their two examples of cloaking include:
- Showing a page of images or flash to users, but displaying HTML to search engines
- Hiding text and keywords to users, but having them show only to search engines
Having “Junk Food” Content
Have you ever searched something and clicked on a website that had under-researched or valueless content, a horrible user experience, bad graphics, and loads of random buttons? These junk food websites capitalize on mediocre content in mostly garbage articles and they are doorways to spammy links. You certainly don’t want your site to mimic their tactics.
Something we see a lot when we take on new clients, especially ones with a larger, product-based website, is that they are using the same copy across numerous pages.
While a lot of your products may be very similar, and having some sense of consistency in copywriting for your brand is good, Google and other search engines are able to read your website and see you are duplicating your content. Note, this also applies to meta data and descriptions! You want very different copy on all of your pages, or at least as different as possible.
Beware that some forms of content syndication are seen as duplicate content, as this content is not only being published on your website, but on hundreds of others across the web!
Invisible Text and Links
While cloaking mentioned above is a little bit more advanced, another similar black hat method that some still partake in is changing the color of text and links on a page to have them blend into the background. This hides them from users, but still allows the page to get the value of the keywords and links from search engines.
While this might sound alluring, Google sees it as spam and will penalize you accordingly. In the older days of SEO, many disreputable sites were hiding totally irrelevant terms in their pages just so they could show up more often.
Back in the day, commenting on community blogs was an easy, surefire way to get a link back to your website. However, this friendly way to interact with others in your industry has turned into a link spammer’s paradise, so it’s now officially a black hat tactic.
Not only does overusing keywords on a page make your content seem downright unreadable, but search engines are smart enough to catch onto your sneaky ways. And with local SEO growing over the past couple years, keyword stuffing has gained a new life in Google My Business – but it’s still a barred practice that can get your profile removed.
An exaggerated example of overusing keywords on a page would be:
“Looking for the perfect pair of blue shoes? Our blue shoes are unlike any other blue shoes on the market. These blue shoes are waterproof, slip-resistant, and highly durable. Buy our blue shoes today!”
Having more backlinks to your website is a great way to gain a better presence in search engines. However, disreputable websites and link builders have created sneaky ways to help users get more links quickly: paid links.
In fact, Google has an entire policy against link schemes and the various tactics that violate their guidelines. So don’t do it!