‘Black-hat’ or ‘grey-hat’ SEO tactics are those that knowingly defy the search engine’s guidelines in order to get quicker results, i.e. quicker and better rankings. Although these may work in the short term, the search engines will eventually get wise to these tactics, incurring a Google penalty – and a drop in traffic to the site.
The risk of using black- and grey-hat techniques is too great for many companies, who simply cannot gamble the site’s authority and reputation. Even for businesses that can afford to take the risk, Google’s algorithms are getting more and more sophisticated by the day, meaning that it will become more and more difficult to outsmart the search engines with black- and grey-hat tactics.
We take a look at some of the most common tactics to see if their rewards outweigh their risks…
Private Blog Network (PBN)
PBN is the process of buying a group of expired domains that have good domain authority and creating links back to the main site in order to cheat backlinks and rankings, however, in reality PBN isn’t that simple. If just one of the sites in the network is given a penalty it can be passed through to any other of the linked sites, meaning that just one penalty could ruin the entire structure.
Content that is spun, scraped or keyword-stuffed
‘Scraping’ other people’s content, or ‘spinning’ one article to create numerous variations are two ways that people hope to create cheap content.
Google’s algorithms are now armed with a pretty good understanding of grammar and natural language, so these duplicate pieces of content – or content that has been keyword-stuffed – are far more easily detectable, and therefore much more likely to lead to a penalty.
This is an oftentimes illegal activity that is aimed at bringing down a competitor’s site. Buying bad links on their behalf, scraping their content and plastering it across many sites, or even hacking into a site to modify it are all techniques that must be avoided.
Buying links is sometimes used as a shortcut to improved rankings and traffic, however, both Google and Bing have very clear rules about not doing so. Buying links is also a false economy, as the average price for a link is between $350-600, which is money that could be spent on an effective traditional content marketing campaign.
Cloaking is a technique that shows one type of content to the search engine spider, and another to the user – which is a high-risk strategy as search engines heavily penalise or blacklist sites that use cloaking. Cloaking is easily caught by search engines, and the penalties are too high for it to be worth the risk.
Thanks to the increasingly sophisticated nature of the search engines, one is best advised to only use white-hat techniques in building a site – especially if the goal is to still be operating and prospering in the long run.