Date: 28 October 2016

5 scary black-hat SEO tactics to avoid this Halloween

Usually, our blog articles are full of good advice, giving you hints and tips on how to improve your website and its ranking on Google. As Halloween is almost upon us, we thought it might be fun to talk about bad SEO advice!

SEO experts are there to optimise your site for search engines, and they usually wear a white hat. This isn’t a sartorial choice, but it means that they take advice from Google and other search engines on what is allowed in SEO. Other SEO experts, though, wear a black hat, and they are up to no good! Black-hat SEO tactics are deemed shady and unethical, and Google penalises sites using black-hat SEO when they discover it! Since Google is getting better at discovering shady techniques, it’s best to ensure your website is not using any of these! black hat white hat halloween

1. Duplicate or plagiarised content

This isn’t just a black-hat technique, some people might have duplicate or plagiarised content on their site without knowing it’s a bad thing! When search engines find out that the content on your page also exists on another page, whether on your own site or on a different site, they will penalise your site. That includes copying over product descriptions from a manufacturer or from a competitor’s website!

White-hat alternative?

As for plagiarising from another site, even if they allow you to do it, we’d recommend to always reword the content. Check if your text passes the ‘plagiarism’ test using a free plagiarism checker, which can easily be found on Google.

If you have duplicate content on your own pages, perhaps as different landing pages for your AdWords campaigns, you can add the ‘canonical’ tag to both pages. For more information on how to do that, read Moz’s explanation on canonicalization.

2. Keyword stuffing

This is a well-known technique that worked in the past, but search engines are now too smart to fall for this trick. Keyword stuffing means to overuse the same/similar keywords on one page to maximise its visibility.

For example: “To get your dog groomed in Edinburgh call PawsPaws, dog groomers in Edinburgh. We are the best dog groomers in Edinburgh and the Lothians and make sure your dog is groomed to perfection.”

This example doesn’t read well, it’s stuffed with keywords and it isn’t user-friendly.

Another way people might do keyword stuffing is by putting keywords in hidden text. The text could be hidden by making it appear white on a white background, by locating it behind an image, by setting the font size 0, or by other deceptive tricks. Google penalises sites that use this way of keyword stuffing as well. keyword stuffing halloween pumpkin White-hat alternative?

Do keyword research and with these keywords in your mind, write your text naturally, as if you were speaking to a customer. On top of that, you need to make sure your headers, meta titles and meta descriptions also include the right keywords for that page.

3. Comment spamming

A link to your website from another (credible) website tells Google that your site is trustworthy and should rank high in search results. In the past, many black-hat SEOs would comment on forums and blog articles, adding their link to the comments, in order to create more ‘link juice’. Most forums and blogs now automatically include a ‘no-follow’ attribute to any links posted in the comment section, which means that Google won’t count these links, rendering this technique mostly useless.

White-hat alternative?

By commenting on forums and blogs about your industry, you can grow your network and establish yourself as an authority in your field. When you then write your own blog articles, you can hopefully get some of your fans to read them and follow you.

4. Cloaking

Cloaking means that your SEO has set up a web page to display different content for a search engine spider versus a normal user. The cloaked page is packed with keywords that you want to rank for, and is created specifically to trick search engines. This method is deceptive and a violation of the Google Webmaster Guidelines, as it serves actual users with irrelevant results, and that’s not helping anyone. cloak ghost seo

White-hat alternative?

There isn’t a white-hat alternative for cloaking text, but if your site mostly consists of Javascript, images, or Flash files, Google approves of using descriptive text for these items to improve the usability of your site.

5. Paid links

As we explained earlier, links are very important for SEO. There are some SEOs out there that would use part of your fees to them to buy links. They’d think it’s an easy win, but it’s a very dangerous tactic. Google’s Matt Cutt says that in 99% of the time it’s abundantly clear that these links are being bought. Google will penalise the site’s ranking when they find this out!

White-hat alternative?

White-hat link building is one of the most strenuous and long-term strategies to adopt, and is not for the faint-hearted! Ways to get ‘follow’ links from other websites include: directories and outreach (creating high quality shareable content and blog articles).

That’s all!

Make sure you creep it real, and stay far away from these five scary SEO techniques! Happy Halloween!

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