Black Hat SEO

The term “Black Hat SEO” describes methods of search engine optimization that do not comply with the guidelines for webmasters that Google has established. It goes back to old western movies, where the color of the hat was often used to characterize the characters: The good cowboys wore white hats, while the bad guys had black hats on their heads. Accordingly, analogous to Black Hat SEO, there is also “White Hat SEO”, in which the above-mentioned guidelines are adhered to. In addition, in online marketing or search engine optimization, one also speaks of “Grey Hat SEO”, in which certain rules of Google are not followed exactly, but which also do not clearly violate the guidelines.

Detailed explanation Black Hat SEO

The term “Black Hat SEO” sounds quite tame and unspectacular, but the methods behind it can have a drastic effect on the ranking of a website in search engines – both in a positive and negative sense.

The goal of Black Hat SEO is – as with any search engine optimization – to achieve a better ranking on Google and other search engines. Since especially in the time around the turn of the millennium – when the internet gained massively in importance – a lot of tricks were used to improve the ranking, Google decided to draft guidelines to regulate SEO. Over the years, these guidelines were refined more and more, as were the methods for detecting violations.

This resulted in two things: firstly, Black Hat SEO always had something disreputable about it, and secondly, most methods of Black Hat SEO only brought short-term success – and that hasn’t really changed to this day. However, Black Hat SEO is just as little forbidden as White Hat SEO. Google does take active action against this type of optimization and punishes every page where violations of the guidelines set up by Google are noticed – nevertheless, even with Black Hat SEO, one is moving within the legally permissible framework. This hint is quite necessary, because often the “black hat method” in search engine optimization is presented as something forbidden, which is not the case. Black Hat SEO is rather comparable to a very pushy advertising representative in the pedestrian zone: he is annoying and usually does not offer what customers really want, but he does nothing forbidden.

The methods of Black Hat SEO

The possibilities in “dark” search engine optimization are manifold and they also keep changing. The reason for this is the various Google updates that have occurred over the years, improving the algorithms used to detect Black Hat SEO and other methods undesirable by Google. Accordingly, each method becomes ineffective over time and must be replaced with a new one. This makes the use of this type of search engine optimization additionally risky, because in the worst case scenario, one relies on an outdated method, with which one achieves no effect for one’s website, but is penalized by Google. Therefore, before using Black Hat SEO, one should be aware of the possible consequences: If the violations of Google’s guidelines are noticed or reported to Google, this will lead to a downgrade of the page in the ranking or, in the worst case, even to a complete deletion of the page from the SERPs.

If one wants to rely on Black Hat SEO despite these risks, these five variants are among the choices:

  • Cloaking: Cloaking refers to measures with the help of which users are shown different content than the search engine. While such measures can also be used sensibly, for example in an accessible website design, they often serve Black Hat SEO.
  • Invisible texts: This method works similarly to cloaking, as it is also intended to present content to the search engine that the user does not see. Text is often placed in front of graphics in a similar color, for example, so that it is no longer recognizable.
  • Doorway and network pages: Here, dedicated pages are built that have been optimized for specific terms and redirect the user to the actual page. It is also typical for such pages that the linking is only in one direction – namely to the main page.
  • Keyword stuffing: This method is probably one of the oldest in Black Hat SEO – a website is stuffed with keywords on a certain topic and is supposed to suggest to Google that it has a high relevance for the corresponding topic. It’s not quite as simple as it was in the early post-millennial years, but if keyword stuffing is done to just the right degree, it can still be effective.
  • Spinning: In this method, an article is created on a topic for which the ranking is to be improved. Subsequently, the text is changed with the help of software, but not in terms of content. Only words and short passages are replaced by synonyms and phrases with the same meaning, so that a “new” article is created in seconds. The texts, including a link to their own site, can then be uploaded to news portals, blogs or social media sites and thus disseminated.

Now that the methods of Black Hat SEO have been presented, we will now look at how effective they are in comparison to the approach of White Hat SEO. The verdict here is quite clear and damning for Black Hat SEO. It is true that spinning or network pages can often quickly attract a large number of visitors to a page, but if the content of the website is not convincing, these visitors will disappear just as quickly and the conversion rate will be close to zero. The high traffic therefore remains only a false success, which in the worst case can permanently damage the image of the website. After all, if you have been disappointed by a website once, you will usually not visit it a second time.

The very manageable advantages are offset by a great risk and the associated massive disadvantages in terms of ranking. If Google discovers a violation of its guidelines – and thanks to better algorithms this happens more and more often and faster – the website is massively penalized in the ranking or even completely removed from the search results. As a result, the site’s visibility drops to zero, making it practically useless for online marketing.

It is true that the risk of being discovered by Google while tricking can be reduced somewhat by optimizing a large number of pages with Black Hat SEO – in the hope that Google will overlook some of them. Nevertheless, the successes with Black Hat SEO remain dubious compared to White Hat SEO and are also usually short-lived.

As an alternative, some website operators therefore rely on Grey Hat SEO, in which the margins between “allowed” and “forbidden” are exploited and in which the possible penalties by Google are nowhere near as drastic as with Black Hat SEO. In the long run, however, this area will also become less attractive, since the algorithms of the search engines are constantly improving and the margins in the gray zone are thus becoming smaller and smaller.

Conclusion

Black Hat SEO is a form of optimization of pages for search engines, which was quite promising a few years ago. However, due to growing user demands and better protective measures of the search engines, the effect of Black Hat SEO has decreased considerably and now usually only allows for dubious successes at high risk. Under certain circumstances, Black Hat SEO can still be useful, but for the vast majority of site operators, the rule-compliant White Hat SEO is certainly the better option.

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