What is black hat SEO?
We’ve talked recently about the latest Google Penguin update and how it has affected the search engine ranking of websites that were using “black hat SEO” techniques (commonly known as Penguin Slapping!) There are lots of excellent SEO companies out there who employ “white hat SEO” – legitimate techniques to improve the ranking of a website. Unfortunately there are also some less reputable people out there using black hat tricks – but if you don’t know what black hat SEO is you’re unlikely to know they are doing anything wrong. Here are some of the signs to look out for.
Probably the easiest black hat SEO trick to spot is keyword stuffing – this is when web pages and blog posts are filled with keywords purely to get the attention of the search engines. Pages stuffed with keywords are easy to spot as they do not read well –and repetition of the same keyword over and over AND OVER again has fallen out of favour with the search engines. Any sites that employ keyword stuffing will have been well and truly Penguin-slapped! On the other hand, careful use of keywords is one of the best legitimate ways to get a decent ranking – it’s a case of balancing keyword frequency against usability.
This was one of the most popular black hat SEO tricks a few years ago, and some people still try to get away with it now. It basically involves adding lots of keywords to web pages in the same colour text as the background – for example, white text on a white background. This renders them invisible to human visitors, so there’s no disruption to user experience – but visible to search engine spiders. However, this technique has also been outlawed by the Penguin update and sites using it will be suffering from page rank drop. To check if you have any invisible text on your website click and hold your mouse at the top of a page and drag it down to the bottom – all the text will be highlighted, including anything hidden.
Another popular black hat trick is doorway pages. These are pages that are not strictly visible to people, only search engines, that target specific keywords. The idea is they get ranked well for certain keywords but then redirect to another website, to trick people to visit it. You can use Google search operators such as link:yourdomainname and site:yourdomainname to see who links to you and what pages on your site are indexed.
Link farms are sites that are set up solely to provide links to other websites. Sometimes a link farm will have thousands of links to the same website, in an attempt to improve that site’s web ranking. Satellite blogs (known as splogs) do the same thing – they have often nonsensical blog posts that include lots of links back to one website. While backlinking is a useful white hat SEO tool, Google will ignore links where it’s obvious a site is set up solely to link to another site.
If you are concerned that your website may employ black hat SEO techniques, or you have recently been Penguin-slapped and need to recover your web ranking, give us a call on 01793 608777 and we can help. Alternatively, take a look at our Penguin Slap Rescue Pack.
Author: Ant Hodges (Google)