Black Hat SEO Tactics

The search engine optimization industry has exploded into a multi-billion dollar market, creating one of the most cut-throat sectors to come from the dot com boom.

Because of the fierce competition in the industry, some search engine optimization firms began using tactics that the search engines have labeled as “black-hat”, or “illegal”, in the search engine world. The “Big 3” (Google, Yahoo, and MSN) have all issued rules and guidelines listing several of these black-hat tactics. Failure to comply with these guidelines will most likely get you de-indexed, or worse, banned from the search engines.

Generally, black-hat is the “intentional deception of search engines” to gain ranking or popularity in search engine listings. Keep in mind, many of the tactics discussed below have valid and legitimate uses.

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is the most commonly abused tactic currently. Keyword stuffing is the intentional overuse of a particular term or phrase in hopes of achieving higher search engine rankings for that term or phrase. The best way to avoid this is to fill your page with text that was written naturally and do not over use your target phrase. Often keyword stuffing leads to sentences sounding funny or awkward. Many instances of keyword stuffing appear at the bottom of a web page with a term or phrase repeated over and over, or with slight variations to the term.

Hidden Text

Hidden text is setting the color of text the same as the background of a webpage.
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Additionally, this can be used in conjunction with keyword stuffing. By having your text and background the same color, the text or repeating phrases is invisible to human visitors but not search engine bots. Search engines now look for the color of the text and compare it to the color of the background. Some webmasters create a colored image and set it as the background to the page to avoid being detected; this tactic does circumvent the search engines, as they are not able to tell the color of an image, however, your competitors will be quick to report you to the search engines if they find you are using this strategy.

Cloaking

Clocking, in short, is intentionally displaying different information to human visitors than to search engines. There are numerous ways of cloaking content, and not all have been determined “black-hat”. A fairly reliable way of measuring black-hat verses white-hat cloaking is to ask yourself, “am I intentionally trying to trick the search engines?” Would you be willing to share you tactics with the search engines themselves? Black-hat cloaking will work for a short time, however, you run a high risk of having your domain banned permanently.

Doorway Pages

Doorway pages are “landing” pages added to a website to specifically target a keyword or phrase. Often these doorway pages have no value to visitors and only exist to capture the attention of search engines. Doorway pages are generally created with software and/or added to a website automatically.

Redirects

Redirect pages have several white-hat purposes, however, when used as a black-hat tactic – often combined with doorway pages – they serve as a red flag to search engines. Redirect pages take a visitor from one page to another automatically. For example, a redirect page could send a visitor from a doorway page (with little or no valuable content) to a sale page with a product or newsletter signup.

Duplicate Sites

While this is not often used, it was popular for a very long time and deserves to be mentioned. When affiliate programs were first gaining in popularity, webmasters would create several copies of the same sales page in hopes that quantity over quality would prevail and they would make a sale from one of their many websites selling a product. With the advancement of search engines, they are now able to find excessive duplicate content and rank it accordingly.

Interlinking

A difficult tactic to track is “interlinking”. Interlinking is building several websites (sometimes dozens or even hundreds) and linking them together to build a network of links. This tactic does have some white-hat merit, remember, black-hat is the intentional deception of the search engines. Just because you have several websites linked together does not make you a search engine spammer – the internet is built on linking sites together.

As you can see, many of these tactics are sneaky and deceptive. They are considered black-hat for a reason and search engines take them very seriously. Use of them could lead to a competitor or visitor reporting your website as search engine spam, if such a thing were to happen, your site could disappear from the popular search engine results instantly – regardless of any legitimate optimization you have done in the past.