In the last lesson, I took you through the essentials of off-site optimization. Following those practices, you are guaranteed to enjoy long-term SEO success in the form of sustainable search engine rankings. As with all things in life though, there are good and bad approaches, ethical and unethical ways of doing things – SEO is no different. In this lesson, I will take you through some of the “Black Hat” SEO techniques that need to be avoided.

Whilst most of these techniques are simply ineffective (due to the search engines catching onto them as they pop up), even those that do work will only provide short-term results until the search engines catch you. It is essential that you are aware of and can easily spot bad practices so that you don’t get scammed into the next “wonder product” or service you see (and there are hundreds of these).

The following are commonly used “Black Hat” SEO techniques…

Link Farms – Link farms are a group of websites set up with the sole purpose of creating backlinks to other websites.  They have minimal or zero useable content and simply link out to other sites. You can usually purchase links from these farms (so as to increase your number of backlinks) for a price, but this is simply not worth it. As soon as the search engines recognize the site as link farm, they ignore all the links. In fact, you could get penalized for using such a service and ruin all you legitimate SEO efforts.

When I was new to SEO, I bought 1000 backlinks from one of these link farms and anticipated huge results. Google Webmasters only picked up about 30 of them (out of a thousand!) and within a month or two they were lost (or removed). I was just lucky that I didn’t get banned!

Cross Linking – Similar to link farms, this is the practice of linking between a whole lot of websites that you own. Apart from being ineffective, the cost of this sort of practice is simply a waste of money (considering that you can easily get links from writing articles, etc).

Cloaking – Cloaking essentially involves having two different pages – one that your visitors see and one that the search engines see. This allows you to create a heavily optimized page for the search engines, and a very “pretty” page for users. This practice is strongly frowned upon by search engines and will in most cases get your site banned within a few months.

Cloaking Explained

Cloaking Explained

Keyword & Tag Stuffing – This involves stuffing your title, meta and header tags with keywords unnaturally. Remember that SEO is all about keeping a balance between search engine readability and human readability. A header stuffed with keywords doesn’t make much sense to either party!

Hidden Text – In order to create keyword rich content on pages, some sly optimizers will insert a whole lot of keyword rich text at the bottom of the page, which is the same color at the background – thus making it invisible to humans but visible to search engines. This used to work quite well, until the search engines caught on… Don’t waste your time trying this.

Link Pages/Exchanges – Often you will find websites with “Link Pages” or “Resource Pages”. They will use this page to exchange links with other sites (thus increasing backlinks). Although this isn’t particularly frowned upon by search engines, it doesn’t carry very much weight, if any at all. They simply see it for what it is and ignore the links thereon. One-way, relevant links is what SEO is all about!

Example Of Keyword Stuffing

Example Of Keyword Stuffing

Excessive Internal Linking – Using internal links to direct visitors to relevant content on your site is an excellent practice. Using internal links excessively simply for the sake of creating links is not. Create internal links where you feel that they would make your site more user-friendly – don’t overdo it.

Spamblogs – These are machine generated blogs (or sometimes user created) that exist purely to push keyword rich content onto a blog and draw search engine rankings. If you are going to use a blog on your website (which I recommend you do), write quality content which will draw real visitors, not just search engines. If you are using the odd syndicated blog post, that is fine, provided that it is balanced with good, unique content. A good blog can generate a huge amount of trust for you or your company and make the sales process infinitely easier.

Wiki Spam – Due to the fact that anyone can edit the pages on a Wiki, like, sly optimizers used to insert their own links on relevant Wikipedia pages to get ranked well. This is now a fruitless effort for two reasons:

  1. These links are usually removed by other users before you can blink
  2. These links have what a called “no follow” tags – which means that even if Google saw the link in time, it would disregard it in any case.
Example Of Wiki Spam

Example Of Wiki Spam

There are countless other “Black Hat” SEO methods available, with new ones developing every day. The bottom line is this – if you want long term SEO success, you have to do things the right way. Understandably, legitimate SEO takes time and can be frustrating, but it’s all worth it in the long term. Remember that black hat techniques also take time, and ultimately have no guarantee.

If you’re not sure whether SEO methods you’re using are “White Hat” or “Black Hat”, just Google it or pop me an email and I’ll clarify it for you. Another great resource is the Google Webmaster Central Blog:

That’s all for this lesson. Your “homework” is simple – make sure that you’re not doing any of the above! I also suggest subscribing to the SEOMoz blog, as they offer excellent white-hat SEO advice, to ensure your site’s SEO longevity.

In your next lesson, we’ll be looking at Pay Per Click (also know as PPC) and how you can use it to get top positions for your desired keywords today!

Please feel free to post any questions you have below… To proceed to the next lesson, click here…