Risky Business: 4 Common Black Hat SEO Tactics You Have to Watch Out For

SEO tips

One of the more bizarre pieces of news I read this week, which is saying a lot given the current state of the world, is of something called abdominal etching. I don’t fully understand the procedure of abdominal etching but from what I can understand, it’s like plastic surgery but for your belly instead of for your face. I’m not exactly familiar with the kind of work required to have chiseled abs, my exercise routine is limited to 5k runs and a simple yoga routine, but I can’t help but see this procedure of abdominal etching as degrading, not to mention expensive.

Despite all of my personal faults, of which I can assure you there are many, I like to think of myself as having a proper sense of integrity. I prefer to always do things the right way if possible, and shortcuts like abdominal etching or one that’s more relevant to this discussion, black hat SEO, aren’t something that I approve of. Black hat SEO in particular is something that SEO services should always take note of as while they could be helpful in the short term, the penalty associated with them could be much more trouble than it’s worth.

When something sounds too good to be true, it probably is

The results gained from your search engine optimization efforts is directly proportional to the amount of time and effort you’ve put into them, as with almost everything in life. Amazon didn’t become the technological behemoth they currently are overnight and it took 10 years and more than a dozen films for Marvel to go from Downey Jr.’s debut in the first Iron Man film in 2008 to Endgame being the pop culture zeitgeist of the moment. Rome wasn’t built in a day so the promise of a quick result possible with black hat SEO is understandably alluring.

The idea of a viral hit is something that’s only ever been seen in the past few years. It took 75 years for the telephone and 38 years for the radio to reach 50 million users but it took merely 29 days for Pokemon Go to hit that same number. Viral videos are even more insane, the video for Taylor Swift’s newest single, ME!, reached more than 100 million viewers in a week. It’s these mind-boggling numbers that is promised by black hat SEO but the problem with black hat SEO is how it tries to reach for that number.

Pokemon was already a multi-billion dollar franchise before Pokemon Go came out and Swift is a household name in the entertainment industry so for them to reach that kind of numbers wasn’t exactly surprising. For a no-name business to reach even a tenth of that number would require one of these things, really great content, a miracle or some underhanded tactics. Those underhanded tactics come under the guise of black hat SEO and since partaking in them could lead to penalties from search engines, you’d want to watch out for some of the more common black hat SEO tactics that are still being used today.

The practice of keyword stuffing

Keyword stuffing is the practice of including keywords at a frequency above the average for the purpose of ranking higher on search engines. If you feel like certain words keep popping up in places they shouldn’t be, that’s probably a sign of keyword stuffing. Search engines are now smart enough to determine how often should certain words appear naturally in a given text and they’re also smart enough to figure out what you’re talking about without you having to stuff down certain words down their throat so try not to go overboard with the keywords and that includes the page title and the meta tags.

Using unrelated keywords to take advantage of current trends

This practice is especially common on websites relying heavily on clickbait articles to gain traffic. For example, Prince William’s cheating scandal seems to be the trending topic in the past few days and to take advantage of this, some unruly websites would include words related to the scandal in the hopes of gaining more traffic. Say you’re running a fashion e-commerce store and to hop on this bandwagon, you put up a blog post with the following title; “Prince William would never cheat on you if you follow these fashion tips”.

It’s cheap and again, search engines are now smart enough to figure out the actual contents of your blog and would be able to easily determine that your content isn’t really about Prince William’s cheating scandal.

The bait-and-switch

Are you familiar with the term catfish in online dating? I first heard the term from the 2010 documentary Catfish in which someone put up a fake profile online in order to build up a relationship, usually for less-than-savory purposes but not always so. In the world of SEO, there’s a similar trick of bait-and-switch. The trick is to first have a unique and quality piece of content and once that content has been linked numerous times, switch that content with one that has a more commercial purpose in mind, even when the new content has no connection whatsoever to the older, higher quality content.

The practice of content spinning

Content plagiarism is bad and easily detectable but in the past few years, we’re seeing a rise in the trend of content spinning, in which an article is doctored through an online tool to make it seem like a new content even when it’s not. This is incredibly dumb and quite frankly, an insult to the art of writing. Besides, content freshness and originality is something that is highly prized by search engines and when they caught wind of what you’re doing, recycling old contents and passing them as new, they’re not going to think highly of your website.