Black Hat SEO

The Dark Side of Search Engine Optimization

There’s a time and place for rebellion in marketing—graphic design, social media, and video content are prime opportunities. The world of SEO, however, doesn’t tolerate this type of lawlessness. Search engine optimization is all about taming the chaos that comes along with the nearly two billion websites that live on the internet. But the shadowy world of Black Hat SEO thrives on this chaos.

The rules that keep websites safe and prioritized by relevance are the ones that Black Hat sites exploit to reach the top of search results. These tactics are usually cheap, easy, and quick. But they’re also shady, unethical, and can get your business in a lot of trouble. Without a doubt, SEO rules are not made to be broken, and Google isn’t a place for anarchy.

Laptop Screen with "Black Hat SEO" in large font


Our SEO knowledge. If you’re new to the search scene, it’s best to learn about the basics before diving into a more advanced topic like Black Hat SEO.  Brush up on ethical search engine tactics first.

What is Black Hat SEO?

Black Hat SEO, also known as Spamdexing, is a way to increase page rank in search engine results pages (SERPs) by violating their terms of service. Google, for example, has the Webmaster Guidelines. These are standardized protocols that outline what their algorithm is looking for in terms of quality.

The goal of SEO is to provide search engine users with the most relevant content possible. Good SEO is cultivated through time and effort. Black Hat SEO is for website owners and marketers who are trying to pull a fast one. It’s the go-to approach for people who don’t care about their users, content, or digital longevity. Their only goal is to show up at the top of search results as quickly as possible.

Black Hat SEO manipulates the algorithm into thinking a webpage is more valuable than it really is. It’s a form of deception, and it’s exploitative of the search engine’s flaws. As a result, these sites often gain maximum visibility in SERPs while having irrelevant and low-quality content.

Why is it called Black Hat?

The term “Black Hat” originates from the cowboy TV shows that gained popularity in the 1950s and 60s. At that time, most American households didn’t have a color television. So, viewers needed a quick way to differentiate between the protagonists and antagonists.

Villains donned black hats, making them easily distinguishable from the heroes, who wore white hats. As color TVs became popular and more readily accessible, the protagonists began wearing tan and brown hats. Villains continued to wear black, making the black cowboy hat synonymous with immorality and crime.

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines

Avoid these Black Hat SEO Techniques

Automatically Generated Content

  • Content that’s been generated by a program
  • Intended to manipulate search ranking with valuable keywords
  • Text doesn’t make sense to readers and is not helpful

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Sneaky Redirects

  • Sending a visitor to a different URL than initially requested
  • Google is shown one type of content while users are redirected elsewhere
  • Does not include redirects to your new website

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Link Schemes

  • Exchanging money goods for links
  • Sending someone a free product in exchange for a review with links
  • Listing irrelevant links to increase someone else’s website traffic

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  • Presenting different content to human users and search engines
  • Provides users with different results than they expected
  • Misleading a web user by manipulating the way Google crawls your website

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Hidden Text and Links

  • Using white text on a white background
  • Locating text behind an image
  • Setting font size to

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Doorway Passages

  • Multiple websites or pages lead to the same destination
  • Intermediate pages that are not as useful as the final destination
  • Generated to funnel visitors to the relevant portion of a site

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Scraped Content

  • Republishing content taken from more reputable sites
  • Modifying content slightly and republishing it
  • Does not add any original content or added value

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Irrelevant Keywords

  • Filling a page with keywords or numbers
  • Blocks of text that list cities that site is trying to rank for
  • Repeating keywords or phrases, so the content sounds unnatural

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Malicious Behavior

  • Downloads files on a user’s computer without their consent
  • Injecting pop-ups on pages
  • Installing malware, trojans, spyware, or viruses

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These tactics may quickly increase your visibility in search results and website traffic.
And you’re not breaking the law, so what’s the big deal?

Google sees these practices as deceptive. Although you may have some short-term success, they’ll likely slap you with a nasty penalty that can affect your long-term visibility in SERPs. This is Google’s way of telling you they knew about your Black Hat tactics. It’s sort of like a stern warning. From here, Google will lower your ranking. If you clean up your act, you may be able to bounce back.

The biggest threat to Black Hat, however, is a manual penalty. If you fail to heed their warnings, a member of the Google team can manually de-index your site, removing it from the search engine altogether. In other words, your website is banned from Google. Manual penalties are notoriously difficult to recover from. It can take months, even years, to recoup from a Black Hat penalty. Most people spend thousands of dollars to mend the damage, but there’s no guarantee you’ll ever do it.

Gray Hat SEO

As the name implies, Gray Hat SEO falls somewhere between White Hat and Black Hat. These practices manipulate search engines without explicitly going against their terms of service. They rely on the ambiguity of the guidelines. Although these tactics may not warrant a manual penalty, it’s still a risky game.

Many of these Gray Hat strategies will eventually be classified as Black Hat. Search engines have gotten more sophisticated over time, thanks to periodic adjustments to their guidelines. Questionable tactics are often addressed in these updates.

As a result, standards from years past likely violate Google’s terms of service today. The Gray Hat tactics that fly under the radar now could presumably get your site penalized in the future.

Why You Should Avoid Black Hat SEO

Plain and simple, you shouldn’t try to cheat the algorithm because it’s too much of a gamble. Search engines have complete control over your online visibility. And for most businesses, appearing in search results is vital for growth and income. Take away that opportunity, and you’ve destroyed your chances of ever appearing in SERPs. That’s why Black Hat SEO is a self-sabotaging practice. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

But let’s not exaggerate here. Black Hat SEO isn’t illegal. You won’t end up in court because of a Google penalty, and you won’t have to pay any fines. Google can’t tell you what you can or can’t do on your website. But they can control whether or not you appear on their website. Remember, appearing on Google isn’t a right. It’s a privilege.