What Is Black Hat SEO?

what is black hat seo

Black Hat SEO involves deliberately violating search engine guidelines in order to rank sites more quickly.

In the past Black Hat SEO techniques involved things like:

  • Keyword stuffing
  • Building high volumes of links
  • Page rank sculpting
  • …and much more

Over the years Google (other search engines are available) has got better at recognizing black hat SEO making it harder for people using these techniques to rank.

This means that the techniques Black Hat SEOs use have changed over the years.

SEO takes time, Black Hat SEO is all about doing anything that can be done to speed up the ranking process.

Unlike Grey Hat & White Hat SEO techniques which aim to rank sites long term, Black Hat SEO is often done in a manner known as ‘churn and burn’.

This involves ranking fast, making as much money as possible and then doing it all over again when Google catches up with you and rankings tank.

Warning: While ranking faster sounds good, using black hat SEO techniques is likely to be detrimental to your search traffic in the long term. Many of these techniques are used on ‘churn and burn sites’ which rank quickly, make some quick money and then quickly disappear when Google obliterates their rankings.

Below are 12 common black hat SEO techniques:

1. Negative SEO

Negative SEO is the practice of using spammy techniques to decrease a competitor’s rankings so that your site ranks above them.

This is a very unethical practice that black hat SEOs may use when they feel they’ve tried everything else and failed.

Typically it involves building spammy backlinks to a competitor’s page.

2. Cloaking

Cloaking is a complex tactic that some Black Hat SEOs use.

It involves showing search engines bots one version of a page but showing human users a completely different version of a page.

This means that despite a page ranking well it will not show the user what they want to see but rather what the site owner wants to show the user.

It is a bait and switch tactic. Using tactics like this can result in your whole site being removed from search results.

3. Content Automation

This is a relatively new method of gaming the algorithm.

Demonstrating solid topical authority has a big impact when it comes to ranking well.

To do this well you need to cover your topic thoroughly, answering all questions around it, this often takes years depending on the topic and how big your content team is.

AI Content makes it possible to build a topically authoritative site very quickly.

GPT 3 was released in May 2020 and it has led to the creation of several tools which can quickly churn out semi-decent automated content in no time at all.

AI written content in and of itself isn’t necessarily black hat, with a bit of guidance and careful editing you can produce well-written articles that will be useful to users.

Yet it can easily be abused by Black Hat SEOs to churn out hundreds of unedited, low-quality articles a day.

While you would think that low-quality articles wouldn’t rank, you’d be wrong.

The site below is just over 6 months old and is getting more than 3,000,000 sessions a month:

They achieved this by using AI content to produce almost 1,000,000 articles (that’s over 5,000 articles a day!) to build topical relevancy very fast!

I actually managed to rank a few AI-written articles number one on some of my other sites – want to give AI Content a go? Try Jasper.ai here.

4. PBNs

A private blog network is a network of blogs that are controlled by a single entity.

They are used to manipulate rankings like this:

  1. Content is written on the blogs relating to the topic of their primary website.
  2. Links are added to the pages with the most link authority pointing back to key pages on the primary site.

The idea is that as you control the sites you can make sure that you are giving yourself the perfect link.

The content and anchor text is hyper-relevant and the page the link is coming from is the most powerful one on the site.

While Google are getting better and better at uncovering them they are still used regularly and can still have a big impact.

However relying on PBNs to rank your site is a risky strategy because if Google works out that your network of sites are all related then you could potentially lose all your rankings.

5. Buying Links

Links are one of the main things that black hat SEOs abuse to try and speed up the ranking process.

Google says:

“Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.”

All link building is therefore black hat yet building links is a very common practice even amongst people who would call themselves White Hat SEO practitioners.

Buying links usually involves one of the following:

  • Approaching a site and paying for a guest post.
  • Paying for a link insert in an existing article.
  • Sending a website owner a product in exchange for a link.

6. Tiered Link Building

This involves building links to your links.

The idea is that the more links a page that is linking to your site has the more power it transfers to your site.

Black hat SEOs will build any links they can get hold of to their existing links.

7. Click Through Rate Manipulation

This involves paying services to get people on different I.P addresses to click your result in the SERPs.

There are numerous companies offering this dubious service, they typically have a database of people across the globe who will be paid a few pennies to search for your target keyword, scroll down to your website, click it and spend a minute or two browsing your site.

This makes it look like your website is in high demand so you start ranking higher.

However usually as soon as the service is stopped rankings fall back down to where they once were.

8. Keyword Stuffing

This is an old-school black hat SEO technique that doesn’t work anywhere near as well now as it once used to do (pre 2010), however you do still see it out in the wild from time to time.

This involves repeating your target keyword far more times than any rational reader would ever want to read it, to make sure that search engines get the idea about what you want to rank for.

9. Invisible Text

Using invisible text on a page is a technique that follows on naturally from keyword stuffing.

With keyword stuffing a user reading your text will quickly realise that it doesn’t read very well at all.

Using invisible text means you can stuff numerous keywords on the page that users will not see.

To do this people would simply make the text the same color as the page background.

Again this is another old Black Hat SEO technique that is not effective these days.

10. Redirects

301 redirecting domains is risky but often can be a highly effective black hat strategy.

It is particularly risky if you buy a domain that has been dropped (had no activity on it) for a long time as Google may have discredited the links that the old domain had meaning you will gain no SEO value from it or worse.

It is also very high risk if you redirect a domain simply for its link authority and don’t make sure that the domain is topically relevant to the site you are pointing it to.

Redirecting topically irrelevant domains to your site can cause a temporary boost ranking however it is likely to be harmful to your SEO efforts longer term.

11. Faking Traffic

Strictly speaking, this isn’t an SEO technique as it doesn’t help you rank, however it does make it look like you rank which means people are more likely to want to work with them.

12. Hacking

Hacking is not only black hat but it’s also highly illegal.

Yet some unscrupulous SEOs risk it regardless.

When they’ve hacked into a site they will then do one of two things for their own benefit:

  1. They will insert a link on a high authority page pointing back to their target site.
  2. They will build a page on your site selling their product and attempt to rank it using the site’s existing authority.

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2 comments

  1. ctr manipulation really works! I learned it from James Jernigan’s How 2 Rank training, and it has boosted my rankings like crazy!

    1. I’ve tried it out a couple of times and yes it does work but only very temporarily, as soon as you stop manipulating it rankings drop back down to where they were

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