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It’s Christmas and Star Wars is out in cinemas! As such we’ll be celebrating by presenting our take on the ‘dark side’ of SEO.

‘Black hat’ SEO techniques essentially means, unethical tactics employed to gain a higher search ranking on search engines. SEO is the abbreviation of Search Engine Optimisation.

SEO can be a competitive field; as such many SEO experts are willing to cross the line to get results. Unfortunately, these results can often come at great expense to their clients. Many sites have been blocked from search engines like Google for misbehavior by their SEO agencies.

‘White hat’ SEO techniques are fairly innocuous. They may include activities such as adding meta tags, page titles, alt tags and keeping a website up to date with web standards.

Although black hat techniques can make a radical difference to your ranking, if found out, you can be severely penalised by search engines. Google is known to ban sites that attempt black hat techniques.

However, knowing the difference between right or wrong – or black hat and white hat – is not always clear. In this article, we will talk about some black hat techniques to watch out for, and let you make your own decision.

 

Buying Links

Buying links has become very popular. All you have to do is go to Fiverr or some online forum and you will find link farms offering to sell you hundreds, even thousands, of backlinks for cheap rates.

Unless you are paying top dollar for back links you are unlikely to get away with it. Some SEO experts use a tiered system where quality links anchor to a primary website, whilst poorer quality links lead to the quality link pages.

The alternative to buying back links is taking the time to make great content and gradually building up your website’s ranking through word of mouth and organic sharing.

 

Duplicate Content

Duplicating content for higher word count isn’t necessarily a black hat technique – more of common mistake. The danger of having too much similar content on your site is the effect it may have on your search ranking. To rectify the situation, there are a variety of duplicate content checking sites you can draw on to make sure that your sites are at least 15-30% unique to avoid repercussions.

 

Keyword Stuffing

The practice of stuffing as many keywords as possible in your content is common. This is not necessarily a black hat technique if the content still reads well.

Yet again, this is something that has been known to trigger Google and result in penalties.

UPDATE 7/2/2018: Google has become stricter on keyword stuffing, penalizing excess keyword stuffing beyond 2.5% of your content.

 

Guest Posting for Backlinks

While guest blogging is completely legitimate, paying others for the right backlink with poor quality content is certainly black hat.

Likewise, hosting poor quality guest blogs on your site can have a negative impact on your search ranking.

In order to do guest blogging right, stick to recognised sites, spend time on the quality of your content and avoid buying spots on cheap online blogs.

 

Cloaking

Cloaking used to be a common practice, but nowadays no serious SEO expert would attempt it. Cloaking is hiding the destination of a link showing different versions of a page to search engine crawlers.

Make sure to keep only one version of a page on your website for crawlers and users alike. And make sure that users can easily tell the difference between ads and content.

 

Private Blog Networks

Private Blog Networks are artificial sites developed to make a website seem more popular than it actually is. Typically an SEO expert will create a PBN out of expired domains, develop them into legitimate looking sites and then add backlinks to raise the profile of their primary website.

This tactic is black hat, however, if done with precision and care it can be almost impossible to discern the difference between what is real and what is fake.

Oftentimes the best black hat organisations are the ones that are white hat organisations on the surface.

 

Abusing Anchor Text

Anchor text serves an important purpose in SEO. Anchor texts give a preview of what a link might contain by highlighting the text with a link. An amateur mistake is to make endless anchor text links in an article

 

Hopefully, you have a better idea of what black hat and white hat SEO consist of. Remember, that search engines are getting smarter every year. You don’t want to get caught red-handed with bad SEO practices.

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