Black Hat SEO Tricks People are Still Trying

You can’t fool Google, so why do people keep trying?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a set of evolving best practices to properly rank websites according to relevance. If someone Googles “acupuncture emeryville, ca,” there’s a reason why certain websites appear on the first page of results.

While most big search engines, including Yahoo! and Bing, use their own SEO algorithms and best practices, they’re all very similar and Google is used as a key example in order to make things easier. And of course, where there are best practices, there are also hacks, cheats and shortcuts attempted.

These “shortcuts” are dubbed “black hat tricks” in the world of SEO. In some instances they can get websites fantastic results—sometimes even Google’s top spot for key words—but it’s almost always short term. Google algorithms, according to Google, are constantly crawling over websites to pick out these black hat tricks (as well as the good “white hat trick”) in order to rank accordingly.

Basically, if you follow good SEO tactics, you’ll be rewarded by having your website crawl higher in the rankings. If you try black hat tricks and get caught, Google will penalize you by shooting your website down the rankings according to various sources including Search Engine Journal, effectively burying it where it won’t be found or removing it from the search query entirely in extreme cases.

Once you get on Google’s bad side, it’s tough to get off the blacklist. Here are some of the most basic black hat tricks still being used today. Are you guilty?

Keyword Stuffing

Back in the day before Google’s algorithms was as sophisticated as it is now, keyword stuffing was a great way to blast your website to the top of search results. It’s basically figuring out which keywords and key-phrases are the best matches for your website/landing page and then “stuffing” them in wherever you can.

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Keyword stuffing “brand”: Stuffed or non-sensical?

Keyword stuffing can get so extreme that it looks, sounds and reads unnaturally. There are some insane examples that look like this (using dog grooming Phoenix as an example):

Dog grooming Phoenix for dogs get Phoenix dog grooming in dog grooming. Need dog grooming Phoenix? Best dog grooming Phoenix for dog grooming.

Obviously, this makes no sense but it’s a dirty, easy and cheap trick to stuff content inorganically. Leave the stuffing for pizza crusts.

Duplicate Content

Okay, keyword stuffing is bad, but what about copying and pasting the same content from one website directly onto another? The idea of buying multiple, similar domains and having the exact same copy on each seemed like a great idea to monopolize search results for some black hat tricksters. However, duplicate content is very easy to search for.

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Different sites with exact same (duplicate) content.

According to Google’s Head of Search Spam Matt Cutts,when “duplicate content is spam, such as websites that have scraped content off the original websites or website owner suggests republish a lot of ‘free articles’ that are republished on masses of other websites. These types of sites have the biggest problem with duplicate content because they merely copy content created on other websites.”

Why Should You Care About SEO?

Outbrain research reveals that “search” is the leading driver of traffic to sites with content, which bests social media by 300 percent. If you own a website and care at all about it being seen, you need to play nicely by search tactics. Plus, MarketingSherpa studies have revealed that 75 percent of people don’t look past the first page of Google results—which means if you’re not on the first page of Google, you basically don’t exist.

Jessica Tyner

About the Author: Jessica Tyner

Jessica Tyner, born and raised in Oregon is a member of the Cherokee Nation, is a Pushcart Prize nominee, author of "The Last Exotic Petting Zoo" and has been a professional writer for over 10 years. She received her master’s degree in Writing from Portland State University, completing the second year of the program as an intern with the Fulbright Commission in London, England. An extensive traveler, she has lived in England, South Korea and Costa Rica and has had her work published around the world. She’s also the founder of The Jessica Tyner Scholarship Fund, an annual gift for graduate students with a Native American connection who are pursuing an advanced degree in writing or a related field.

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