In today's world, search engine optimization is an important part of online marketing and marketing in general. There are different methods to achieving success-some legal, and some not-so-legal. This is the first in a three part series discussing black hat SEO methods, how to recover from penalties after using these methods, if at all, and how ITC follows SEO best practices as set out by Google. We want to show you that although these techniques may seem quick-and-easy, there are very real consequences to using these crooked methods.
Hopefully by now, everyone knows what search engine optimization is, so I'll just get straight into what black hat SEO is, and how it can kill your brand.
I've read a lot about black hat SEO methods and seen quite a few cases where black hat techniques have been used on websites. Here are some real life examples of black hat techniques:
Excessive Low Quality Links
Agents with just a little bit of SEO knowledge can easily get carried away with get-rich-quick-SEO-schemes. Up until a few years ago, backlinks were an important part of SEO. However, black hat users have taken this method to the extreme by building excessive, poor quality backlinks. This involves creating backlinks on directory and article websites. A directory website is a site that has hundreds, if not thousands, of pages with the same content and only slight variations. Article websites are sites that accept articles, normally with spun, tenuous content, with obvious keyword stuffed anchor text. These sites do not have rich, unique content, which affects the quality of the website as a whole. As such, a backlink coming from a directory or article website adds very little value to your brand.
There are readily available tools that can aid in creating backlinks in bulk and distributing them to directory websites. There are even tools that can automatically spin articles and spread them out to various article websites. Yet another way to do this, is to hire cheap labor from overseas who can build 100s of backlinks for just a few dollars. So you can see how tempting it is for an agent to want to use these detrimental techniques.
Poor Quality Content
Another technique to get to the top of the search engines in a short time is the type of content on your site. The extreme version is stuffing keywords in the title of your website (the most important SEO factor) and adding numerous versions of the same keyword on the homepage (the most important page on your website). Agents can easily create content for every line of business for every city and suburb in their surrounding areas. The easiest and most time efficient way to do that would be to use the same piece of content and change only the cities and lines of business, which equates to similar pages with very little variation. Plagiarized content is also a quick way to reduce the quality of your website.
What Does Google Say?
Google addressed these very techniques in their Penguin and Panda algorithm updates in 2012 and 2011 respectively. They purposely down-ranked websites with excessive backlinks to directory and article websites. As such, sites with a high number of low quality backlinks that were ranking highly in the search engines, began to drop off in the rankings. The Panda update was responsible for down-ranking websites with low quality or "thin" content.
Although it may seem like a quick-and-easy method to get to the top of Google, these methods only serve to pull your website further down the rankings, thereby reducing your website and brand visibility. It also shows the search engines and other webmasters the type of techniques you are willing to use, with no regard to the effect on your brand, which in turn displays your agency's lack of integrity.
Google is invested in providing high quality websites to their users. Therefore, it's in your best interest to host a website with good quality, unique content with appropriate, relevant backlinks. If your content is good enough, other users will naturally want to link to you. This is the best way to get natural, relevant backlinks.
Stay tuned for the next part of the Black Hat SEO series, where we will discuss methods to recover from penalties received after using the methods above.
About the Author
Darmini Kara performs search engine optimization (SEO) tasks for ITC’s customers, including blogging, keyword research, backlink building, social media management, onsite optimization and some online marketing. She has a bachelor’s of arts in arts and technology from the University of Texas at Dallas. Darmini’s specialties include organic and local SEO, Google Analytics and Search Console, website design, and social media.More Content by Darmini Kara