What Is Black Hat SEO?

Posted on June 13, 2012

Search engine optimization continues to be a focal point for nearly every business, and remains one of the most difficult marketing pillars to understand. Hundreds of metrics factor into your website's search engine visibility. Inbound links, meta data, keyword placement, redirects. Simply monitoring the changes in the search engine world can be daunting, let alone actually applying them to your website.

You may have already been contacted by several companies claiming to know Google's search algorithm, promising first page rankings within just hours. Even we got contacted last week by an SEO company who said that they meet with Google on a near daily basis and that Google is running their search algorithm changes through them first for beta testing. Just to be clear: those companies DO NOT know Google's algorithm and NO ONE can guarantee you a first page result.

So how do these companies exist? The simple answer is that some of what they do actually works! The problem is that much of what they do to accomplish their goals falls under the umbrella of "black hat" SEO practices. And while it may provide some momentary search benefits, the long term ramifications are not worth the risk. Here are some examples of the most common practices.

Unrelated Keywords:

A popular strategy that you can find throughout the internet, unrelated keywords are frequent marketing tools for black hat SEO specialists. Simply put, it is injecting popular search terms that are unrelated to the site to boost it's search engine rankings. For example, if you had a website selling watches, a sentence reading "Justin Timberlake wears brand name watches because of his funny cat videos" might be inserted into your site. Your website is focused on watches, but "Justin Timberlake" and "funny cat videos," two unrelated but wildly popular search phrases, are inserted simply to increase your search rank. And like this example, more times than not, these keywords are forced into website content with no interest in readability.

Keyword Stuffing:

While unrelated keywords try to expand the reach of a site by bringing in keywords that have nothing to do with the site's content, keyword stuffing is repeating words or a series of words to get as many relevant keywords onto the site as possible.

Strategically inserting keywords into your website is key in establishing your online presence, but sentences like "Diet food food diets lose weight low calorie food" are easily identified as keyword stuffing examples.


Often coupled with both of the above examples, black hat search engine marketers use various forms of deception to enhance their search ranks. For example, if your website has a red background, a black hat SEO practice could be to hide keywords in the background using a matching red font. Unseen by visitors to the site, this hidden copy can include hundreds of stuffed keywords. Sizing a font down to a miniscule level accomplishes the same result, allowing for hundreds of keywords to be placed on the site without letting site viewers know.

Bait-And-Switch: One of the oldest tricks in the sales book has made it's way into the black hat marketing realm. As you can guess, this philosophy begins by getting a page ranked high for choice keywords. Once the page reaches a sufficient keyword rank, the company replaces the optimized page with a different, and likely less optimized, page.

There are dozens of other black hat SEO techniques out there. URL hijacking, link farms, typosquatting, and various other practices are used by many shady SEO companies. While there is indeed a chance of seeing positive results, stay tuned for our next entry about what can happen as a result of using black hat SEO principles.

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