Black Hat, White Hat: The Dark Side of SEO
We all talk about the different ways we can “hack” ever-changing SEO. Some SEO tactics seem like they involve movie-like hacking – secretly sliding keywords, links, or other SEO elements into places they shouldn’t be.
Those kinds of SEO tactics fall under their own category: black hat SEO. “Black hat” refers to the kind of coding or computer practices that don’t have a good reputation online. In fact, utilizing black hat SEO tactics in your next content marketing campaign could very well get your content banned from Google and its peer search engines.
Even so, different corporations have taken advantage of black hat SEO tactics before. Should you take the risk?
Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO
Black Hat SEO can readily be defined as SEO practices that involve trickery or dishonesty, but which can still boost content’s ranking on a SERP. Google has actively denounced such practices in its Google Webmaster Guidelines, and Bing has done much the same. If you’re crafting content specifically for search engine crawlers instead of consumers, then you’re likely employing black hat SEO techniques.
White hat SEO, comparatively, involves SEO practices that don’t violate existing Webmaster Guidelines. Anything from adding basic keywords to developing link networks falls under white hat SEO, as long as it’s done with integrity. In short, as long as the content has value for consumers, the SEO elements integrated into the piece are likely white hat.
Black Hat Tactics
What kind of SEO tactics, specifically, can be considered black hat? There may appear to be ample crossover if intentions are the defining difference between black and white hat work.
Tactics to avoid include (but are not limited to):
- Hidden text of links
- Keyword stuffing
- Doorway pages
- Dishonest redirects
- Link schemes
- Link manipulation or purchasing
- Markup spam
- Duplicating content
- Guest posting networks
- Purposefully sabotaging a competitor’s SEO (Negative SEO)
The way some of these tactics are rhetorically framed makes them sound less than usable. That said; we wouldn’t know about them if marketers hadn’t put them to use before.
Black Hat in the Wild
Examples of black hat SEO online are many, but you’d think it’d be rare to see larger corporations using it to their advantage. Forbes, however, took advantage of a few black hat SEO techniques back before 2011 and the broader publication of condemned SEO practices.
Forbes, at the time, was issued a link violation due to its overuse of “unnatural links.” The majority of these links had been paid for and weren’t organic in nature. While not inherently bad, this move on Forbes’ part made its link network look unnaturally large. It would have boosted the company’s SERP ranking in the long run – had it not been caught.
The Legality of Black Hat Tactics
Black hat SEO tactics aren’t illegal. They can, however, attract the wrong kind of attention from Google. Utilize too many, and your content can be entirely wiped from Google’s indexes.
It the case of SEO, try to integrate SEO elements with the best intentions. While you may still make mistakes, it’s better to err on the side of caution than to deal with a reprimand from Google.
Image attribution: tashatuvango – stock.adobe.com