What Is Black Hat SEO?

What Is Black Hat SEO? A Definition

Black hat SEO refers to a set of practices that are used to increases a site or page's rank in search engines through means that violate the search engines' terms of service. The term "black hat" originated in Western movies to distinguish the "bad guys" from the "good guys," who wore white hats (see white hat SEO). Recently, it's used more commonly to describe computer hackers, virus creators, and those who perform unethical actions with computers.

Black Hat SEO

In this article, you'll learn:

  • What Black Hat SEO is
  • Tactics and techniques that qualify as Black Hat SEO
  • How to report Black Hat SEO
  • How Black Hat SEO can affect you and your website 

It's crucial to realize that implementing Black Hat SEO tactics and strategies can get your site banned from search engines, excluding you from the number one traffic referral source on the Internet. All SEO's need a proper understanding of Black Hat SEO and its consequences.

What Is Black Hat SEO, Anyway?

Black Hat SEO is most commonly defined as a disapproved practice that nevertheless could increase a page's ranking in a search engine result page (SERP). These practices are against the search engine's terms of service and can result in the site being banned from the search engine and affiliate sites. A list of tactics and strategies employed by black hat SEO practitioners have been openly denounced on Google's Webmaster Guidelines and Bing's Webmaster Guidelines.

"Is the work that I'm doing adding value to the user or am I just doing this for search engines to see?" is a litmus test on whether an SEO tactic would go against a search engine's webmaster guideline. If no value is added to the user, but rankings are likely to increase, then your decisions are highly likely to be black hat. The same test can be applied to to paid search practices to determine whether an activity is considered black hat ppc.

Recognized Black Hat SEO Tactics

The following SEO tactics are considered black hat and should not be exercised at all if you want to stay above board with Google and other search engines:

  • Content Automation
  • Doorway Pages
  • Hidden Text or Links
  • Keyword Stuffing
  • Reporting a Competitor (or Negative SEO)
  • Sneaky Redirects 
  • Cloaking
  • Link Schemes
  • Guest Posting Networks
  • Link Manipulation (including buying links)
  • Article Spinning
  • Link Farms, Link Wheels or Link Networks
  • Rich Snippet Markup Spam
  • Automated Queries to Google
  • Creating pages, subdomains, or domains with duplicate content
  • Pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing, viruses, trojans, and other malware

How To Report Black Hat SEO

There are two reason why you may report black hat SEO. Either your website has been attacked through a malicious hack, virus or negative SEO campaign of spammy links, or you see spammy web results on a competitive keyword your website is ranking on. For the latter, you may file a webspam report through Google Webmaster Tools. Please use this tool with discretion. SPAM does not stand for search positions above mine! Falsely reporting web spam could be considered black hat SEO.

In the event that your website has been attacked through a malicious hack, virus, or malware, request for a malware review after you've removed the malicious code.

In the event that your website is the target of a negative SEO campaign of spammy links, use the Disavow Links Tool in Google Webmaster Tools after you've tried to contact webmasters whom are pointing these links to your website to have them removed.

Why Should You Avoid Black Hat SEO? 

Black Hat SEO tactics can get your website banned from Google and other search engines.

Though there may be some short-term success through increased traffic to your site, Google penalties are getting more and more sophisticated and can have devastating effects on your rankings and traffic. With hundreds of millions of users searching on Google per day, can you really afford to be de-indexed?

Are Black Hat SEO Techniques For You?

It depends: Are you trying to build a long-lasting business?

If your answer is yes, you should avoid Black Hat SEO at all costs. Rather, you should look for alternative means of improving your search engine rankings.

Check out our primer on SEO basics. You'll learn everything you need to know about search engine optimization techniques that will drive traffic and won't violate the search engines' guidelines.

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