Black Hat SEO: What it is and Why its not useful in the long run.

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Image courtesy of ApolitikNow at Flickr.com

Black Hat is commonly associated with hackers, illicitness and, above all, Google penalties. What is this positioning method about? What are the implications? What kind of techniques are used? How can you identify them? This post is about this controversial issue and tries to give you a clear idea about the Black Hat concept.

In the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Black Hat is the term used to refer to the techniques and tactics that focus on getting higher rankings in an unethical manner. Since most websites don’t normally add much value to users, tricking search engines and exploiting the weaknesses of their algorithms seems to be the best way for those who like to take detours. In the case of Google, this company sets the guidelines for webmasters, what kind of SEO is allowed and what is not. Google can create new rules at any time, and if they are not respected this giant may penalize users and banish their websites from search results.

Those who use this type of SEO methods is popularly called “black hatters.” The term comes from western movies, where villains usually wear black hats as a symbol of evil, as opposed to the good guys, usually wearing white or light-colored hats.

It is important to understand that Black Hat SEO is not itself a synonym or illegal practices. In most cases, Black Hat is related to the use of software, bots, scrapers or any other script to automate tasks: from creating links to gathering sources which create others links, or the very ability to achieve an effective link which is hard to find.

Infecting websites, databases or injecting links is a crime, but there is a big gap between using Black Hat techniques and infecting or hacking a website. It’s more or less like stealing an expensive diamond from a museum and taking secret pictures of it because you dream to have it.

Read also: Raven Tools to Manage Your SEO and Your Social Networks Effectively, by ReputationDefender

To this extent, Black Hat is not technically against the law. No one is going to jail because of it or is condemned to pay fines. The reason? Google is not a federal court, a police officer nor a law-producing parliament: It’s a private company. Its only authority, in accordance with the legal terms of use (which only a few people read), is to opt out of their services (although this already means a problem for anyone’s business nowadays.)

So, which are the most common Black Hat practices?

Spamming Keywords

This method is widely used to try to position websites, but unfortunately for those who use this technique, search engines work with experts in applied linguistics and artificial intelligence who determine easily when any content is not semantically correct. Some naïve black hatter may write something like: “Eating nuggets should be as good as devour nuggets because eating nuggets is a similar experience than eating nuggets, because when there are no nuggets in my fridge I buy nuggets at the mall.” But Google operators are not fools and their software has a very keen eye.

What is sought with Keyword Spamming is to write as many keywords as possible in the content you have on the website you want to position. This technique is also applied in hidden text (see below), meta-tags, alternate text, tags comments, image names, etc. But the density of any item is, in general, between 3% and 12%, and trying to exceed it by 15% is simple an SEO suicide.

Content duplication

This is about creating multiple portals with the same content, or creating similar content on different websites, in order to include a link network that makes Google’s algorithm work in your favor. It may work for a while, but there are always people checking this kind of anomalies… and penalizing them (and not manually, by the way.)

Cloaking

It happens when search engines show you one content, but users see another. Usually, the displayed website is optimized excessively with the sentences you want to position in the search results. Cloaking is usually done thanks to a program that compares a list of IPs (including the IP of all the search engines) and when that direction asks for information, the optimized page is sent, or the normal page if it’s not possible.

Buying expired domains

The idea is to use an old domain, which already has seniority and links to redirect your website. It works because it is perfectly natural that a company buys a different domain. Websites usually change their names too. But if this technique is not properly integrated into a more complex SEO strategy, Google will know it (and Google usually does.)

Hidden text

This technique consists of putting invisible texts for users on the website, which can be read by search engines. The most common way to do it is by using javascript. Color coding is also used on the website or forum and thus the link is hidden to the naked eye for moderators or administrators.

In conclusion, there are thousands of ways to slip through the cracks of the system, but there are safer games if the goal is reaching a better positioning in the search engine. White Hat techniques will always be an option: Even though they take a little more energy and time, they offer better results in the long term.

Related: New technologies detect black-hat SEO methods

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