What Is Black Hat SEO, and What Practices It Uses

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What Is Black Hat SEO, and What Practices It Uses

Black hat SEO stands for site optimization with techniques prohibited by search engines. This way of promotion can be effective though it has a high risk of sanctions from search engines. In this article, we’ll deal with such notions as doorway, cloaking, and satellite. We’ll also analyze if all of them are worth using in 2020.

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1. What Is Black Hat SEO?

One of the most frequent questions arising with newbie SEO specialists is what black hat SEO is and how it differs from the grey hat and white hat SEO. Let’s look at the the differences between these approaches:

  1. White hat SEO stands for site optimization based on search engine recommendations. White hat promotion doesn’t entail any substantial risks to get under the search engine filters, even though it can be long-term, laborious, and not always effective because of tight competition.
  2. Grey hat SEO are the methods that are not recommended by the search engines. For example, the purchase of links from other sites. With grey hat SEO, you run the risk to get under search engine sanctions.
  3. Black hat SEO is the fastest and riskiest way of promotion. Methods used in the black hat SEO include illegal means of getting into the top of search engine results with the help of specially created sites and changing the content of your resource. The black hat SEO is brought into maximum use against the site-competitor in order to get it banned by search engines.

2. Black Hat Optimization Practices

2.1. Cloaking

Cloaking or disguise refers to practices of showing different content to human users and search engines. Human users see a normal readable text, but search engines the content stuffed with keywords. If Google spots such a switcheroo, it imposes sanctions on the website.

Apart from that, cloaking can be a result of a hacker's attack. In case your site was hacked, you should follow Google recommendations to report the fraud.

2.2. Doorway

Doorway is a web-page or the site which was created exactly for other project promotions. Usually, many resources filled with a great number of low frequent and high frequent keywords are created. Then they get to the top of the search results, and the doorway is configured to automatically redirect the users to the promoted website. As a result, different sites can lead to the same resource promoted by the black hat methods. The practice of the doorway definitely breaks the rules of Google.

2.3. Hidden Text and Links

Adding content with keywords that are hidden from users but available to search engines is also a black hat practice. Here’s the most pervasive ways of displaying hidden text:

  • adding the text of the same color as the background
  • hiding the text with the help of CSS styles
  • hiding the text behind the image
  • use of 0 font size
  • use of links in special symbols, such as dashes or dots
  • putting invisible links hidden in 1-pixel transparent pictures

Hidden links can appear on the site without their owner’s awareness while installing modules and extensions of suspicious origin. Their authors sometimes insert such links into a software product to promote their resources.

In Google recommendations, it is explained that using the text invisible for users and intended only for search bots, is not always a violation, it can rather increase site accessibility. It concerns applying such attributes as <alt> and <img> tags, adding the text description of the video to HTML, etc.

2.4. Satellites

Satellite sites are created exactly for promoting the specific site, their number can reach to several hundred. Web-developers can create satellites on free platforms. Despite the fact that satellites can be filled with content, everything is focused on adding links to the promoted resource.

If search engines don’t recognize this black hat optimization swindle, the site can get into the top of the search results very quickly. There can be created the chain from thousands of sites with reference links to each other (Private Blog Network – PBN). If search engines algorithms recognize this swindle, all resources participating in this scheme are excluded from the index.

2.5. Scraped Content

Illegal usage of the texts copied from other resources breaks the Copyright Act. Besides, these actions contradict Google recommendations. Apart from the text, it is not advised to copy multimedia content from other sites without filling it with information which is important for users.

2.6. Link Bombing

Another kind of link spam is the one in which a website is promoted with active external optimization. An anchor text is used here, but it doesn’t correspond to the site content. For example, the website sells air humidifiers and many resources with the anchor text ‘download Windows’ link to this site.

Link bombing is used both to promote your own site and to compete with the help of compromising queries in the anchor text. This method is easily detected by search engines which leads to a site ban.

2.7. Promotion via External Links

It is one of the most popular optimization practices that is frowned upon by search engines. Links to the site are obtained in the following ways:

  • exchange of backlinks based on affiliate programs
  • bulk purchase of links
  • order of SEO-optimized articles from third-party sites containing links to a promoted project
  • adding a site to online directories with the help of special programs
  • automatic generation of comments with links. A special program for posting comments adds them to any available projects, namely websites, blogs and forums, without taking their subject into account.

When multiple links from malicious and low-quality sites appear on the website, it won’t make any good for you. Now to rank high, you need links from trustworthy and authoritative websites with matching subjects. Plus, link weight should be grown steadily and naturally.

2.8. Behavioral Factors Imitation

User behavior is one of the important factors that affect site ranking. Search engines take into account dwell time, click depth, and other actions that indicate the users’ interest in the resource. Special software or hired freelancers are usually engaged in the process of active visits imitation.

Search engines will consider such behavior as a signal that the promoted site is more relevant to the query than those that take first places at the moment. This imitation will give you significant results until it is detected by the search engines. Then sanctions won’t take long to appear.

3. How Black Hat SEO Changed for the Last 10 Years

Black hat SEO techniques used to have a quick and positive effect. For example, purchase of links could quickly bring the promoted website to the top of the search results. Filling the site with keywords on a white background was also a popular practice since searching algorithms still failed to detect such swindles at that time. As a result, the position of a website improved.

Apart from website promotion, black hat SEO techniques were used for joy purposes. For instance, one could achieve rather unexpected search results using link bombing. Thus, till 2007, in response to a search query ‘miserable failure’ in Google, you had been shown a biography of George W. Bush from the White House website.

As for now, many black hat SEO techniques have become out of date due to their quick detection by search engines and the subsequent sanctions. Paid links and behavioral factors imitation are still in demand, but the efficiency of these promotion techniques in 2020 is doubtful as their usage very often leads to sanctions.

4. Is It Worth Using Black Hat SEO? Risks and Sanctions

Apart from the automatic detection of black hat SEO, the human users can complain about a fraudulent website. In case users encounter sites that use prohibited promotion techniques, they can report spam.

How to report spam in Google

It is specified in Google’s recommendations that links to the site should appear naturally due to high-quality and unique content. When detecting paid links on any website, you’re suggested to report it using the following form:

How to report paid links in Google

While deciding to use black hat SEO, it is necessary to consider all the pros and cons. You should take into account that black hat SEO practices can be spotted not only by search engine algorithms, but also by your competitors who will then let on this information to search engines, which will result in a lifelong ban. It’s rather hard to recover from Google filters.

It is always better to use white hat SEO techniques in order not to put your website at risk. You should work on the content quality and uniqueness, your resource usability, page loading speed, proper mobile version of your site and other items that positively affect both behavioral and ranking factors.

External optimization requires extreme caution: use various and natural anchor texs, dofollow, nofollow, sponsored, or UGC links, and mind contextual matching. Link building process should be conducted in a calm pace, without rapid jumps in link weight.

Let’s Recap

Black hat SEO used to be a buzz 10 years ago when optimizers actively used sneaky redirects for website promotion, created doorways and satellites, used cloaking, hidden and scraped content. At that time, search engines were not able to recognize such scams, and promoted websites got to the top.

Nowadays search engines take into account not imitated behavioral factors, but natural backlink profile. Purchase of quality links and proper behavioral factors imitation can have a positive impact, but can also have the risk of being punished by search engines.

The safest, though laborious, promotion practice is white hat SEO. The work on the site quality and its benefit for visitors is positively estimated by both search engines and resource users.