Effective SEO is essential to maximizing organic search results and driving customer engagement with your brand. Unfortunately, not everyone plays by the same rules. Enter black hat SEO–tactics that violate search engine best practices, circumnavigating user experience for short-term gain. Black hat tactics are not employed accidentally but administered intentionally, and, if your business is caught employing these methods, it can have a devastating impact on your online reputation. Here’s how to avoid black hat SEO, stay clean, and stay at the top of SERPs.

Not All SEO is Created Equal

The monikers may be a little silly, but the distinctions are important. Black hat tactics serve as a ploy to evade search engine rules in order to drive traffic to a specified site, to amass links, etc. White hat tactics, in contrast, take their cue from Google’s oft-stated mission to deliver value to the user through quality content. Grey hat tactics, while not exactly in the middle (the argument being that grey is more black than white), are strategies that are not strictly forbidden, but remain questionable by search engine standards.

When you put your SEO strategy in the hands of people who claim expertise, you want to be confident that they are not gambling with your performance or reputation. Choose your SEO consultants wisely and beware the following tactics, which may be putting you on the wrong side of the search.

Hidden Content

A major black hat tactic is hidden or disguised content. Text that blends into the background color of your website so that it is virtually invisible, or keywords that are stuffed into code and unseen by the end user, are practices frowned-upon by search engines. It is also particularly annoying to those searching for something specific only to be directed to an irrelevant website page.

Link Farming

In theory, creating a separate website with relevant content that drives traffic to your primary website sounds perfectly reasonable and white hat. Like a private blog network, however, a link farm is a series of semi-relevant sites created for the sole purpose of leading users to a particular site. This sort of single-purpose goal is not what Google means by user-friendly.

Doorway Pages

Doorway pages are manipulated through keyword selection to place high on SERPs, but generally offer little or no value to the user. They exist to lead viewers to another page, something Google–and users–hate.

Duplicating Sites

You should have learned this in grade school: duplicating, or mirroring, another site is flat-out plagiarism–even when you duplicate your own. Don’t do it.

Keyword Stuffing

While keyword stuffing, or the overuse of keywords, is in its death throes thanks to search engines’ emphasis on high quality, usable content, it can still be found crowding out meta descriptions and other text. You might think you’re being tricky hiding it there, but rest assured, you’re not. Google knows and will dock your site.

There are many more black hat tactics, like social network spamming and link buying, but you get the picture: non-original, bait-and-switch website content that does not prioritize a rewarding experience for the user can, and will, be penalized by Google and other search engines.

How to Get Ahead in SERP

Bottom line: benefit your viewers and potential clients in a meaningful way, or feel the wrath of your search engine partners, and watch your rankings suffer. Alternatively, post readable, high-quality, informative, and helpful content, and reap the rewards from the top of the SERPs.

To learn more about SEO best practices and our data-driven marketing platform, schedule time to speak with a G5 representative today.