Search engine optimization (SEO) is essential to bringing your content up on top searches. Certain things can make you look very good in the eyes of Google. This includes the use of keywords, backlinking, and creating a reader-friendly structure. However, when used in a shady or underhanded way, these techniques can work against you. 

This technique is referred to as black hat SEO, and it can lead to you being penalized by Google if they catch on. While this type of SEO might bring visits to your website, the success is rarely long-lasting. The problem is that many people use black hat techniques without even being aware of it. To be on the safe side, here are 10 tactics you have to avoid if you don’t want to ruin your SEO efforts.

1. Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is perhaps one of the most popular ways to make your content readable by search engines. This is because visitors use these keywords when making a query, so having those keyphrases there should bring you closer to them. As a result, you arbitrarily add as many keywords as possible, which is not very helpful to the user. 

Search engines have become better at picking up the idea of your content through natural language. This is why keywords are no longer as important, and the value of the content is taking a higher priority. Should search engines catch on to the fact that you are stuffing keywords every step of the way, they can have you penalized. 

2. Hidden Content

Over time, website owners have realized that if their posted content looks bad, no one will trust that their offer is legit. If you rely on stuffing keywords and links through your content to bring yourself up, users will not see you as very serious. This increases the bounce rate, ultimately making Google downrank you. 

To prevent this from happening, some may decide to start hiding keyword-stuffed content on their pages. An example can be a text in the same color as the background or a link in the same color as the text. This way, search engines can see this content, but users can’t. However, search engine algorithms have gotten better at finding cloaked elements, which can get you penalized. 

3. Buying Links

Search engines put you in a good light if they see that multiple external websites link back to you. This makes you look reliable and trustworthy, which boosts your search engine ranking. That said, many domain owners take advantage of this by selling link placements. The more of these you buy, the higher the chances that Google will penalize you for spam. 

An excellent way to avoid this is to begin writing guest posts or collaborating with website owners when writing content. There, you can add a relevant link to your website that draws people your way. You can also reach out to bloggers with broken links in their content and suggest adding yours as a replacement.

4. Article Spinning

Another technique that can cause you to have problems is article spinning. With this technique, you take one article off a website and rephrase it sentence by sentence. Similar to plagiarism, it takes the same idea from the original content and uses it as its own. The only difference is that plagiarism checkers do not usually catch this content since the words are not in a row. 

Indeed, writing an article for the Internet that thousands of people haven’t already covered is very difficult. After all, people search for the target keyword and topic, so you can’t write about something different or “hallucinate” like AI sometimes does. However, you can use your own voice and personality to write the blog, perhaps even use your ideas and experience to improve it. 

5. Webrings

As mentioned, having links that lead back to you will tickle the search engine algorithm, making it think that you are an authoritative source. We have established that buying links can get you in trouble, not to mention that it costs you precious funds. That being said, people have found creative ways to bypass this – this method takes the form of webrings. 

Also referred to as Private Blog Networks (PBN), webrings are groups of websites, usually under one owner, which link to one another. Let’s say you have four culinary websites, all focusing on a different niche. Each blog gives you an opportunity to link to the other website, and you will not spend a dime on it. However, should Google catch on to it, you will be penalized, and your SEO efforts could be crushed. 

6. Snippet Abuse

Snippets have become a very popular way for websites to draw more traffic. Their purpose is to offer a quick peek at the answer so that visitors can click on your content and get all the information. They can be used for anything, from shopping tips to recipes and reviews.

The problem is that, while useful, some might decide to use these snippets in a misleading manner. For instance, they may use it to draw viewers in with the correct sneak peek, only to lead them to a completely different article. Regardless of how subtle it is, this goes against Google guidelines on providing value and can get you penalized. 

7. Undisclosed Sponsored Content

Many black hat SEO techniques are done on purpose, to attract more visitors to a website. However, there are also instances when it is done accidentally, without anyone being aware it’s a black hat technique. An example is sponsored pages and posts that have not been disclosed during the posting stage. Google sees it as a bad practice, which will likely end with a penalty.

Content creators are always approached by websites, and it’s normal to receive a commission or gift in exchange for a link. At times, they may even ask to post an entire post on your blog. As long as you both agree to it and the content is valuable, Google is ok with it. However, to prevent search engines from being triggered, you should mark it as sponsored or nofollow. This keeps Google from associating the linked page with you, ignoring it during the ranking.

8. Deceptive Redirects

Redirects can happen quite often and are acceptable when a domain is no longer used and its user moves to a different one. They can be very useful when you scale up and want to move the content on the new platform. That said, some take it a step further and make these redirects “sneakier” and deceptive.

Deceptive redirects are practices where a website redirects to a different page without the consent or knowledge of the user. This strategy aims to drive content to a site other than the one intended by the user. Very often, the pages where people are redirected have nothing to do with their original search. This is a big no-no and can get you pushed down a few notches by Google.

9. Blog Content Spam

If you run a blog, you probably notice that now and again, some may comment on your blog with the addition of a link. For instance, they might thank you for the information and invite others to their page so they can check out more. The idea here is to build as many backlinks as possible from different platforms without necessarily reaching out to the blogger. 

You might be thinking about doing this to drive backlinks, especially if you make a meaningful contribution. Some blog owners allow this, depending on the context or content. That said, others might decide to mark you as spam, which brings you closer to being blacklisted by Google. So, it is better to avoid this practice altogether if you don’t want your SEO efforts to go to waste.

10. Duplicate Content

There is a saying going along the lines of “the more, the merrier.” Considering this, you might think that a duplicate could bring you more benefits. However, this does not apply to SEO. Duplicate content happens when you post the same piece on different domains you own, dominating a certain topic.

The goal of these types of posts is to get all of your pages to rank high on the search engine. This way, when someone puts in the search order, your articles will be all that appears on the first page. This could work in the short term, but Google usually catches on to this tactic, and you could end up being penalized.  

The Bottom Line

Black hat SEO might seem like a good idea to get you ranked, but the results are usually just short-term. Your brand will be at risk once search engines catch on to your strategies. This could also make it difficult to get yourself back up again. This is why you need to keep your SEO as “white hat” and legimitimate as possible, to prevent your marketing efforts from being ruined.