"Black Hat" SEO and why you should avoid it

A look into the dark ages of SEO

SEO used to be an even weirder profession (and a much easier one) than it is today. Back in the 1990s, before Google existed, search engines were a cesspool of manipulation and sketchy tactics. Since the previous Search Engines such as Altavista and Ask Jeeves didn't enforce strict policies, website owners could manipulate them how they wished. That resulted in:

  • Link Farming
  • Hiding keywords in the background
  • Buying up tons of domains and pointing them at your main one
  • Forced Redirects

There are a lot more, but these four were common and are good talking points. Let's go into more detail:

Link Farming

With link farming, developers would create a website and then create 100 of copies of it, all named something slightly different (ex: fakewebsite2.com, fakewebsite2.com, etc). Then they would sell 'link packages' where you could get 100 links for a cheap price. They add the link to one template and it populates on 100 sites. This tactic was known as "Link Farming" and was the most common abuse by far. It worked because search engines didn't care about where links came from, they just coded it in that more links = better.

90% of the penalties we remove are from people who either did Link Farming decades ago or hired a Black Hat SEO to do 'link building'. Google's 'Penguin' algorithm updates got rid of this, though people still try to no avail.

Hiding Keywords

This was arguably the scummiest tactic. You would find a keyword you want to rank for, set your site to have a white background and then spam the keyword over and over. Then you would make the keyword text white and layer the actual site over it. That way, search engines would crawl the keyword repeatedly and rank you higher. Once again, this is a tactic that doesn't work despite continued efforts to try it in new ways.

Since buying domains and pointing them is self-explanatory, we'll move on to:

Forced Redirects

Unlike the others, this one actually still does work in a mechanical sense. However, doing so no longer grants you the benefits it used to.

Back in the old days, people would create forced redirects to redirect OTHER sites to their own. The longer the website owner didn't notice, the more organic value was transferred. These days people just do it to be funny and/or mean. I don't want to explain how to do it because, mechanically, it still actually works despite being complex. In fact, Sony's website was hit with one of these a couple years ago and they couldn't get it resolved for days.

Since you have to execute the redirect command from a hosted .htaccess file that's tied to a site as well as all of your personal information, it's not a great idea to do this anymore.

How do people turn to the dark side?

Scammy methods aside, this type of SEO is now referred to as "Black Hat SEO". Alternatively, 'good' SEO is referred to as "White Hat". The reason this is a popular topic in 2017 is that people actually still do these kinds of things. When we say "watch out for basement SEOs," we're referring to people who are:

1. Learning SEO and want the 'quick and easy way'
2. Learning SEO and received a ton of misinformation about what's best
3. SEOs that haven't updated their practice methods in 15 years

There's a fourth category of people who knowingly do Black Hat SEO because they think they can get away with it. There are actual forums of people who discuss these methods and there are even subreddits dedicated to the art of Black Hat SEO.

Let me be clear: Black Hat SEO not only doesn't work, it will often end with you being removed from Google. I don't care what $30/hr SEO tells you that it does, do not ever hire a Black Hat SEO. It will send your site backwards and cause irreversible damage.

If you want a group of Freelancers that does things the right way then drop us a message. We're here to help end the abuse, even if it just means talking you off the ledge of hiring the wrong person.