Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO Part 2: Black Hat Tactics
There are quite a bit of shady SEO practices that should be avoided at all costs if you want to make sure that you are obeying search engine guidelines which are critical to your success as an MSP. Part 2 of our Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO blog series will go over the tactics you should be avoiding: Black Hat.
A Bit More About Black Hat SEO
To refresh your memory, Black Hat SEO involves using tactics that are designed to manipulate search engines into ranking a particular website higher than they should be. The tactics used focus on trying to ‘game’ search engine algorithms instead of designing a website with user experience in mind, which is what White Hat SEO tactics are focused on. Because of how manipulative they are, frequently using Black Hat tactics can result in your website getting banned from a search engine, which will toss a wrench into your marketing strategies.
You may also know of this by one of many other names including, but not limited to, the following:
- Search engine poisoning
- Search engine spam
- Search spam
- Web spam
Techniques used are usually classified under two different categories: content (or term) spam and link spam.
Black Hat SEO Tactics To Avoid
Some of the most common Black Hat SEO techniques utilized - deliberately, or due to lack of knowledge on SEO best practices - include the following:
- Keyword Stuffing and Stacking: One way (but, not the only way) that search engines determine webpage relevance is to equate relevance to how many times the keyword searched appears on that webpage. Inserting a particular keyword multiple times solely for the sake of including it is generally frowned upon. This may be in text body itself, in image Alt text, or in invisible/hidden text, as described in the next item.
- Invisible/Hidden Text: Putting illegible text on your website to pack in extra keywords is a no-no. This is often done by making text the same color as the page background, using very small text, or formatting images or text in a way that makes them visually undetectable as a link.
- Blog Comment Spamming: This strategy involves spamming the comments of blogs on other websites with links to your website. You may have seen some comments like these on your own company blog.
- Doorway/Gateway Pages: Doorway or gateway pages are pages that are packed with keyword phrases instead of coherent content. Once a user lands on one of these pages, they are automatically redirected to a different page that may or may not be related to the keywords on the original doorway page. Some websites will even pack these keywords into the doorway page’s URL, and then use a 301 Redirect so that they are immediately taken to a page with a much shorter URL.
- Cloaking: Cloaking is when you trick website visitors and search engines into thinking that you’re taking them to one page when you actually take them to another. This is often done by manipulating structured data (also known as schema and rich snippets).
- Page Swapping/Bait-and-Switch: Page swapping - also known as bait-and-switch or code swapping - occurs after a webpage is indexed and receives a high ranking, and is changed entirely so it no longer encompasses the topic that led the individual searching to that page.
There are so many other Black Hat tactics out there - this list only scratches the surface. But, it should at least give you an introduction into what you shouldn’t be doing as you develop the marketing plan for your MSP.
The MSP industry is competitive and while it is tempting to use these techniques as part of your marketing strategies (it’s hard to resist promises of conversions), make sure to avoid using any of these tactics. If you work with a company that helps you with your SEO, ensure that they are not doing any of these things. You may see initial returns, but remember that this will not help you in the long run. As these search engines become more equipped to catch websites that implement Black Hat SEO practices, more and more websites may end up being flagged - or even banned altogether! You don’t want this to happen to your website. Imagine how devastating it would be to your company if you were banned by GOOGLE!
It does happen: in February 2006, Google removed BMW’s German website from their database listing after they caught them using doorway pages. Fortunately for BMW, Google added them back after they apologised and made changes to their offending pages. Remember though: BMW is a pretty large company. If your company got caught by Google, it might not be as quick and/or easy to be added back to Google’s databases.
Any Black Hat SEO tactics you may be using should be replaced with White Hat SEO. Be on the lookout for the next part in this blog series to learn what you should be doing...and if you’re beginning to wonder if your website features any questionable SEO tactics, reach out to us directly by calling 888-546-4384!