Those who have been chugging away at SEO tactics over the past few years have surely come across the terms black hat SEO and white hat SEO. If you couldn’t guess by the color designations (and the title of our post), black hat tactics hurt your rankings, while white hat strategies boost your PageRank. Black hat SEO attempts to manipulate the system, but thanks to the algorithms behind Panda and Penguin, Google is able to crack the whip on poor tactics. The punishment for enacting such heinous crimes? Don’t expect to find your website on the first page of Google—actually don’t expect to see it on the first 10 pages!
The Panda algorithm is aimed at low-quality content, while Penguin fights against spam and bad links. What are common black hat SEO tactics and how can you implement better strategies for your business?
Common Black Hat SEO
- Low-Quality Content: Don’t have much to say on your site? Is your content riddled with spelling errors and poor grammar? Google will push it to the back. Low-quality encompasses poorly written text, overuse of keywords and links, and duplicate content.
- Content Spinning: Did you write a really great blog post? Did you then copy and paste that same blog post on multiple sites which all link back to your website? That counts as duplicate content. Always write unique content across the board.
- Keyword Stuffing: A very common practice years ago, keyword stuffing was actually a proven method to rank highly. Websites would fill their pages with dozens of keywords, usually tacked onto the bottom of their site. “Savvy” web developers would take keyword stuffing a bit further and hide the keywords by making the text white against a white background so users wouldn’t see it. Today, these practices can be detrimental to your site.
- Link Stuffing: A close relative to keyword stuffing, this is a similar practice but with inundating your pages with links. The more links, the less purpose they serve.
- Over-Optimized Anchor Text: Using keywords for anchor text is awesome for SEO, but not when it’s all over your site. Vary the anchor text on the site so it sounds natural.
- Unnatural Link Building: Link building can be a tricky game. Never purchase links and do not spam sites with links to your website. Be careful with affiliate links as well. Clients linking to your site increases your inbound links, but Google devalues them and could actually penalize you. Instead, make no-follow links so you can still enjoy the traffic without annoying Google.
Quality Content Reigns Supreme, Both On- and Off-Site
SEO back in the “good ol’” days wasn’t much of a concern. Toss in tons of spammy links and keywords somewhere on your website and there was a good chance you’d rank fairly well. Those days are long gone. Websites today actually have to be informative—that means full of useful content. You don’t need to write an encyclopedia, but people do read what’s on a website. A good website begins with a clean, easy-to-navigate page. Headers, drop-down menus, and search bars organized and paired with an excellent color scheme will make for an approachable site.
Long-form or short-form content? When it comes to your onsite page, long-form is actually better. Despite our increasingly short-term attention spans, people still read so your conversions will be higher. Just imagine yourself shopping for an appliance repair service. Would you choose the company that lists only a form of contact and a laundry list of services they provide, or the company who goes into more depth about what they offer, their company history, testimonials, and troubleshooting articles?
Investigate Suspicious Links and Get Rid of Them
Just as important as the content of your website are the inbound and outbound links. What constitutes suspicious and unnatural links? Links from poor-quality pages that have tons of outgoing links, a high number of keyword-rich inbound links, links from unrelated industries, links from articles with unrelated topics, and a high number of links from website footers and blog comments.
Google Webmaster Tools makes it easy to view your inbound and outbound links. If you find questionable links, follow Google’s guide to disavow the links. Once disavowed, you can once again build your link portfolio with only relevant, quality links.
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