A Guide To The Perils Of ‘Black Hat SEO’

Having recently read about the cautionary tale of JC Penney and its plummet down the search rankings due to SEO malpractice, we thought now might be a good time to touch on the topic of black hat SEO. Here we’ll tell you what it is, how to avoid it and why it could be the worst thing to happen to your SEO strategy since the time you tried putting links on every single keyword!

What is black-hatting?

Broadly put, it’s the practice of attempting to maximise your search visibility by illegal or underhand methods. Who decides what is legal or not I hear you ask! The answer is simple: the search engines themselves are the ones that control search algorithms and so they are the ones that decide what elements affect a site’s search ranking. In the UK, this means one company in particular: Google!

Black hat SEO is essentially a method of trying to trick the search engines. And companies that practice this dark art will do this in a number of ways including:

· Invisible text on your web page

· Link farming

· Spamming your web page with multiple links in the footer

· Writing content that is keyword stuffed

What are the consequences?

Because the search engines control rankings, they also have control over the visibility your site or brand has. If you’re caught to be using methods that Google has outlawed, expect to fall down the rankings or even disappear altogether as Google applies a penalty to your domain.

How do I avoid it?

Apart from obviously not committing any of the above sins, the most important thing is to pursue a responsible long-term strategy. Using illegal methods to increase your search rank beyond the natural relevance to the query is a sure-fire way to end up on Google’s hitlist.

People often think there’s dark magic to SEO in general, but with reports like Naked SEO, which we published last year, we’re eager to show that it’s all quite simple when you know what you’re doing and you stick by the rules.

It’s not scary, it’s not witchcraft, it’s a logical process based around one thing; helping Google properly understand the relevancy of your site in certain areas.

So, the best advice is this: be open and be honest. Doing SEO the right way takes hard work and a sensible strategy. There are no shortcuts. Instead, focus on the long-term view and you’ll benefit as a result not just in the short term, but for the long term as the site gains traction in search.

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