Have you ever noticed that the bad guys in Westerns always wear black hats? Well it’s the same story in the world of search engine optimisation. ‘White hat’ SEO uses squeaky clean techniques and is consequently championed by the search engines. ‘Black hat’ SEO uses grubby, underhand and duplicitous techniques, and consequently tops the search engines’ MOST WANTED list.

Black hat SEO flaunts the webmaster guidelines set down by Google & Co. in a deliberate attempt to manipulate the search results to their commercial advantage. Most often this means tricking search spiders into interpreting a page in a particular way while serving-up something entirely different to the user. Hardly surprising then that gets right up the search engines’ noses.

Google knows their success is largely down to the quality of their results, and they work hard to make sure that nobody tampers with them. If you use black hat techniques it’s only a matter of time before you get caught. And when you get caught your website will be in very serious trouble indeed.

Why do I need to know about black hat SEO?

Optimisers generally agree that using black hat techniques is one of the most reliable ways of getting your website banned, but it’s important to familiarise yourself with the ‘the dark arts’ – so you know your boundaries, and know when you are overstepping them.

You don’t have to work for long as a professional SEO before you meet a client who has unwittingly sabotaged their own website. Perhaps they have overheard a conversation about keyword density and had a brainwave. Or maybe they have read a half baked article on linking and it’s got them thinking. Surely a little nip here and a little tuck there can’t hurt? Google doesn’t agree. For Google a black hat is a black hat.

Untangling the mess accidentally made by the well-intentioned is the starting point of a surprising proportion of optimisation campaigns. And at every step it’s essential that the optimiser explains to the webmaster exactly what’s bothering Google; whether it’s something dubious on their site, or through their association with another site that’s turned to the ‘dark side’.

As a webmaster you need to know about black hat SEO to make sure that you don’t inadvertently trip-up.

But with black hat techniques carrying such hefty penalties, and the likelihood that you’ll get caught sooner rather than later, why on earth would anyone take the gamble?

Of course the answer is ‘money’, black hat optimisers figure that they can make a quick buck by ‘cheating the system’, and if their website is banned they dust themselves off and start all over again. Life on the run is a high risk strategy, especially when Google is the sheriff in town. And if Google doesn’t get you, remember that there are hundreds of law abiding webmasters out there just itching to file a spam report.

Still it isn’t hard to find webmasters operating on the wrong side of the tracks, especially in the less salubrious sectors. Google’s keyword heavy algorithm isn’t suited for image based websites and the competition for rankings among salacious sites is savage. Here nobody plays by the rules, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that Google simply turns a blind eye and lets them slug it out with each other.

For the vast majority of websites black hat optimisation is something that you really don’t want to get involved in and it’s only included in our blog to help you steer well clear. That’s the introduction done in our next post we will cover black hat techniques including:

  • Keyword stuffing
  • Hiding text
  • Doorway pages
  • Redirecting pages
  • Cloaking
  • Interlinking

In the meantime: stay clean…stay whiter than white.

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