Black Hat SEO: The second dumbest term in Search Engine Optimization.
SEO’s love making 💩 up.
On one hand, they kind of have the right to – after all it’s a new industry and someone’s gotta start naming things.
On the other hand, you end up with a bunch of 💩.
Black Hat SEO is one of those terms.
So, let’s hold our noses and dive in.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Black Hat SEO is colloquially to refer to as shady, sketchy, or risky SEO practices – that you probably “should avoid”.
Thats seriously it.
It has a bad rap because “Black Hat SEO” practices are typically less sustainable and more short lived. Google algorithm loopholes that are exploited ultra aggressively for short term gains, with little regard for long term sustainability.
Once the exploit is found, Google releases an update to fix it. And then usually goes out of its way to extra-penalize the people involved.
Personally, I don’t like labels. So I’m not a big fan of calling something “black” vs. “white” hat. Furthermore, the term “Black Hat SEO” is almost always used incorrectly in SEO anyways. So…double dumb.
Black Hat SEO vs. White Hat SEO
Why is it used incorrectly? because technically anything you do intended to manipulate a search engine ranking is against Google’s TOS.
So black hat = white hat = grey hat = no hat.
It’s all the same.
Here’s a screenshot straight outta Google’s Webmaster Guidelines:
It basically says:
- Things to avoid: everything
- Things to do: keep an eye on your site!
So according to Google, all SEO is the same thing.
Black Hat SEO is: The Dark Side of SEO
But seriously have we learned nothing from Star Wars?
- The Force is the Force.
- Power is power.
- SEO is SEO.
It was Anakin Skywalker who turned evil and became Vader … because apparently his idea of a hobby was to go around blowing up planets.
It is the person (or business) using the power for BAD that makes them part of the dark side – not the power itself.
The Dark-side of the force can be used for good too:
So the next logical question would be – why do people even use black hat seo then, if it’s so risky?
Well, the results are super powerful.
Black Hat SEO is: high risk, high reward.
So calling something “black hat” or “white hat” is more like a level of severity of a crime – like stealing a stick of gum vs. stealing a car.
Both (thefts) are illegal.
Both (forms of SEO) are against Googles Terms of Service.
But we SEO’s (excluding myself) like our distinctions, and it is true that some things in SEO are being watched with more scrutiny than others.
For example, using PBNs to rank a website is normally considered a “black hat seo technique”, but if you can do it right it is extremely powerful.
Black Hat SEO is: Risky Business.
But who doesn’t like a little risky business?
And one last final rant on why I don’t like the term Black Hat SEO or White Hat SEO is because of where the names come from.
The term “black hat” and “white hat” come from old spaghetti western films, where the bad guys wear a black cowboy hat, and the good guys wear a white cowboy hat.
Classic good vs. evil.
But in SEO the “techniques” or “tactics” you use have nothing to do with good & evil.
And none of the people talking about Black Hat SEO or White Hat SEO even mention good v. evil – it’s irrelevant!
So, in my opinion it’s just one big giant poop of a misnomer for the reasons we discussed (but I’ll summarize them for you again anywhere because who doesn’t love a nice little summary section?
And let’s be honest – most of ya’ll prolly be skimming this article like:
Why “Black Hat SEO” is a 💩y term:
- Any action you do to your website intended to manipulate your search engine ranking is against Google’s TOS
- It refers to riskiness of techniques – not good v. evil
- Most people are attaching it to the wrong terms anyways. Some people say PBNs are Black Hat. Some say guest posts are Black Hat – there is no consensus anyways, so let’s just stop labeling 💩.
I promise that was the last poop emoji I am going to use in this post.
Should I Avoid Black Hat SEO?
So, if you look at other people’s definitions of black hat seo, they actually include the words “avoid” in their definitions quite frequently.
Here are some examples:
For a beginner that is probably sound advice.
And by no means are we telling you to throw caution to the wind and start doing the riskier things – we just want you to be informed (and make a public service announcement to the world) that black hat does not equal bad.
It is all about levels of risk.
How risky do you want to be in your business?
Maybe in the beginning it’s okay to be more risky, and then as you progress you pull back?
Maybe you have complete control over what you are doing and it’s not risky for you.
For example, should you drive a car over 100mph?
Most people would say “no way thats too risky!”
But we say:
It’s all relative. It’s all about capability & risk tolerance.
NASCAR is just one example of humans doing things that are normally considered “too risky” and having huge success with it.
Anyways – back to SEO.
When you might want to roll the dice with Black Hat SEO
- Your website is still new
- You could easily make a new website if yours was penalized
- Your industry is rife with black hat tactics
- Your plan is to make money online with ‘churn and burn’
- You use them in moderation
- You know how to recover websites from penalties
- You are doing SEO outside of the USA
1. Your website is still new
If your website is still new it doesn’t matter much if you get penalized because you can just start a new one.
2. You could easily make a new website if yours was penalized
For example, let’s say that your website does not represent a brick and mortar brand.
Maybe you just run an affiliate site about diet supplements called dietreviewsite.com
Your business relies on organic search rankings to drive sales, you have no real “brand”, and you built all your own links. If your domain is penalized you can try to recover it – or just start a new site and re-use all the content.
Swap out your network links to the new one, and boom you’re good to go.
Yes, its still expensive and a P.I.T.A, but doing some black hat magic to shoot up the SERPs for highly competitive (and high paying offers) is worth the risk. This was pretty prevalent in emerging industries like Garcinia Cambogia, nootropics, etc.
3. Your industry is rife with black hat tactics
Some industries, if you want to compete you gotta fight fire with fire. It’s that simple.
Gambling, payday loans, coupons, porn, etc. – and so you will find alot of super black hat seo wizards rocking the SERPs with tactics I haven’t even heard of.
In my opinion, these guys are the true rockstars of SEO. And I don’t personally even know many of them. They stay hidden, and reel in the dough.
4. Your plan is to make money online with ‘churn and burn’
If you know straight out the gate that you can spin up a giant website, rank for a bunch of easy terms, and bring in traffic to monetize with Adsense, or some other kind of offer fully expecting that its gonna get burned then of course you will want to Black hat as much as possible.
This business model relies around SPEED.
I see these types of sites alot around PPV events.
They rank for terms like “Floyd Mayweather PPV free stream” (usually using parasite SEO) full well knowing that site isn’t gonna be around for very long.
They use “parasite SEO” to piggyback on the trust and authority of bigger websites like reddit & twitter to capture people looking to illegally stream PPV events. And then make money off all the traffic because of Google Adsense, collecting emails, etc.
5. You use them in moderation
One of the primary tenets of good SEO is doing things “naturally”. Try to make everything you do look natural.
If you are mostly engaging in the less risky tactics, one or two Black Hat power moves are probably gonna going to get you the Google slap.
6. You know how to recover websites from penalties
We like trying out new SEO tactics on our website before recommending them, or using them on client projects.
For the most part we stay away from “Black Hat” SEO tactics entirely for our clients, but like I have been saying throughout this article – pretty much everything is a no-no in Google’s eyes, so we try things out on our site first!
Has it gotten us into trouble before? Actually no.
We do things carefully. But we also offer penalty recovery services, so if something were to happen to our site it would only be more practice.
We have dealt extensively with penalized websites and we know how to bring them back from the dead.
7. You are doing SEO outside of the USA
Yes, this is a thing.
SEO outside of the USA (and to be fair outside of the UK, AUS & CAN) is much easier.
The Google algorithm for other countries is just simply not as evolved as it is in the aforementioned places.
In some cases, it is even a couple YEARS behind – so old black hat tricks from the USA can work like gangbusters in South America and some other places where the algo isn’t quite as intense.
Black Hat SEO Techniques & Tactics
Disclaimer: These are not MY opinion of black hat SEO techniques. This is a list that I have compiled from every article out there that list black hat SEO techniques.
Why am I doing this? Because I want to continue to illustrate how ridiculous this is.
Some of these methods are NOT AT ALL Black hat. Some are.
Black Hat SEO Techniques, by category:
Black Hat On-Page SEO Techniques
- Authority Sculpting
- Commercial Anchor Text on Internal Pages
- Hidden text
- Keyword Stuffing Content
- Over-optimizing Alt Text
- Over-optimizing Headings
- TOC Keyword Anchor Linking
Black Hat Content SEO Techniques
- Article Spinning
- Bait & Switch
- Copied Content (Plagiarism)
- Content Automation
- Content Scraping
Black Hat Link Building (Off Page)
- Anchor Text Sculpting
- Directory Listings
- Comment spam
- DAS (Link Wheels)
- Guest Posting
- Link Farms
- LinkBait & Switch
- Link Buying
- Paid Advertorials
- Product Trades
- Scholarship Method
- Sponsored Posts
- Web 2.0 Spamming
- 301 Redirects
Black Hat Spam Techniques
- Automated Google Queries (Search & Click)
- Doorway Pages
- Google Bombing
- Parasite Hosting
- Rich Snippet Markup Spam
- Referral Spam
- Trackback Spam
Black Hat Automation
- Social signals manipulation
- Traffic manipulation
Black Hat Hacking / Illegal SEO Tactics
- Cookie Dropping
Black Hat Attacking
- Analytics Bombing
- Negative SEO
Black Hat Local SEO
- GMB Spoofing
- GMB Location Page Spoofing
- GMB Phone Verifying
- GMB Swap-outs
- Google My Maps Spamming
Black Hat SEO Tools
Now to be honest, we don’t do a whole lot of Black Hat SEO anymore.
And most of these tools are kind of trash, so use them at your own peril (waste of money & potential harm to your site)
However we wanted to give you all the information needed to help you learn about Black Hat SEO, so here they are:
- Best Spinner – An article spinning software that actually works pretty well
- Cloud Rank – A tool to help you automate & rank Youtube videos using embeds, PBNs & fake traffic
- Cloud Social Signals – A software that helps you automate & fake social signals to your website (re-tweets, Facebook likes, etc.)
- Cloud Search – A tool to automate & fake traffic coming to a website
- GSA Search Engine Ranker – An automated link spam software that builds links for you.
- Rankwyz – A tool used for link spam. Creating, managing & buying links on 1000s of Web 2.0 profiles. They also have PBN management stuff in it. I have tried this tool many times, and every time I have a terrible experience. Not a fan.
- SENuke – Automated article creation, link spam, etc.
- Scrapebox – Not entirely black hat, this tool has alot of legit applications. But some of them are very spam oriented.
To be honest, there are alot more of these but I don’t think I want to continue to promote them.
So I’m gonna end it here.
Whether you classify what you do as Black Hat SEO, or White Hat SEO – the important part is to do SEO that works and fits within your business goals.
Here at SERP Co., we do what works. And we suggest you follow our lead if you want to get the same kind of awesome results that we get for ourselves and our clients.
Keep following along with SERP University to learn more, and don’t forget to connect with us on our other social platforms. We put out different kinds of value on each one, and provide a ton of free value all the time.