What is Black Hat SEO and how do websites use it to rank higher on SERPs?

Search Engine Optimization - SEO

Black hat SEO is a group of techniques that boost one’s search engine rankings by going against the SEO guidelines. You must be wondering how is that even possible. It operates in bad faith and aims to ignore search intent and out-compete the best practices by using certain tactics.

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A good search engine only aims to show the best and most relevant results over the results that are not that relevant. Earlier, the algorithms of popular search engines were primitive, and many marketers used them to their advantage in order to list their sites above others. That is essentially unethical and keeps the users from the content they’re looking for.

However, a lot has changed since then and if your website is found to be involved in Black hat SEO practices, you might never be able to revive your website from that setback. Here, we are going to discuss a few techniques in order to avoid using such techniques and what could be done about them.

What exactly is black hat SEO?

Search engines like Bing, Google, etc. have a standard list of practices allowed under their usage. Black hat SEO is when someone tries to manipulate these engines and violate the guidelines to rank higher in the SERPs.

It could result in being penalized for having a dead website with minimal organic reach.

What are the risks of using Black hat SEO?

Google’s Webmaster guidelines have clearly suggested avoiding any tricks to fast-track the high rankings of a website. They’ve given a rule of thumb to make marketers avoid resorting to such tricks. If you are comfortable explaining your little trick to a Google employee or your competing website for that matter, go ahead and do it.

If you would do this same thing had search engines not been in place, go ahead and do it. But if your answer to these questions is no, avoid risking your website’s reputation to have quick popularity.

Because as satisfying and gratifying as the results might be, this success is short-lived. If a tactic wouldn’t help you in the absence of a search engine algorithm, it is not going to help you without it. As simple as that!

Reasons why you should avoid Black Hat SEO

The first and foremost reason is that it gives a poor user experience. You should understand that a good search engine is keen on pushing the relevant content higher in rankings than one with some random tactics to hack the algorithm.

Your aim should be to serve the best user experience and the best content as per your ability. If a site is optimized for users, it is optimized for search engines too. But if a site is optimized for search engines, you can never be sure if your users will like the content.

The second reason to avoid black hat SEO is that it isn’t sustainable. It could take Google some time to figure out that you’ve been cheating your way up, but once it happens, you are going to lose traffic.

And the final reason is that it will impact your rankings negatively. Once a review is conducted or an algorithm is updated, your site will not only lose traffic, it will start losing out on the reach that could’ve been achieved without the Black hat SEO techniques.

Now, if this reason is enough for you to never indulge in malpractice, let’s go ahead and know what techniques you should be avoiding.

If you are new to SEO, most basics will be white hat techniques you could use regularly. But as you advance, the attention to detail has to increase, and that’s when the Black hat practice starts. Also, if you are new, a lot of tips and tricks could attract you to them. But they are not advanced techniques. It is just black hat tricks wrapped in the form of tips and tricks.

1. Keyword stuffing:

Sometimes, people include a keyword more than necessary across their website. This could be the target keyword and they use it unnaturally without any flow or relevance of the content in order to rank their site up high in the search engines.

Usually, this keyword stuffing is done in random blocks of words lying around without any context. When you read this content out loud, it will sound repetitive or senseless to you.

2. Copied or duplicated content:

Copying content or creating multiple location pages with the same content is not taking you anywhere. Creating content is extremely difficult, and it takes a lot of time and energy. But it is one of the top three ranking factors of Google and will definitely help you rank better and for a longer time.

If you are using some tool to automatically generate content with the target keywords, that won’t help you either. All these are vain attempts to rank better at putting in the work, and sooner or later you will be recognized for it.

3. Use of hidden text:

If you have a website, you might also have a long list of target keywords that you are looking at ranking for. A lot of marketers hide these keywords in plain sight and stuff them into the site by various means. It could be done by using the same color of the font as that of the background, by using a font size of zero or by hiding the text behind images. The purpose is to not make the site look bad but to continue with keyword stuffing, anyway.

This is a deceptive technique and we wouldn’t ever suggest you use this. Search engines have become far smarter and it would only be okay to avoid using this tactic because it doesn’t even take months for this trick to fall apart.

4. Creating gateway pages:

Creating pages that lead to only one page through their content is not permitted by Google. If you direct specific search queries to your website is violating the guidelines of SEO. These gateway or doorway pages do not have any specific purpose except acting as a funnel to your website.

Following are the examples of gateway pages:

  • Pages specifically created to direct search queries to a web page
  • Funneling your users to a single page by using pages that target geographically targeted keywords, which include locations that do not have a physical presence.

5. Cloaking:

Essentially, cloaking is the practice of serving different URLs and content to their users and search engines, providing a different experience for each of them. It is a clear attempt to deceive the users by using the content for search engines but pointing users in a different direction.

6. Negative SEO:

Tanking the reach of your competitors is not only unethical but also a crime in the digital world. That could be done by pointing a lot of unnecessary and unnatural links to competitors’ sites and hoping they would be penalized for the same.

That means you will be violating the policies of Google not on your site but on your competitor’s site. Avoid doing this because Google is becoming more and more aware of these attacks. Also, you can get rid of such attacks if they are happening on your site. By using the Audit tool of SEMrush, you can remove all these irrelevant links and protect your site against such attacks.

7. Manipulative links:

Backlinks are proof of trust from other websites. However, link building is no pure area of faith and some marketers have tried black hat SEO in this area too. Link schemes are highly prevalent when it comes to manipulative SEO techniques. It completely changes the page rank on Google and manipulates the relevance of the content. Here are some link scheme tactics prevalent in the market:

  • Selling or buying links
  • Paying for posts that contain links
  • Providing services or goods in exchange for links
  • Using bots or programs to direct links to your site
  • Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links.
  • Excessive link exchanges or cross-exchange of links

8. Exploited well-organized data and Snippets:

This is a common black hat tactic where well-structured data is meant to outline online relationships, and entities are misused for using it to give away inappropriate information to the public. For example, marketers tend to upload 4- or 5-star reviews of the company’s products to get higher positions on the SERPs. Similarly, many such tactics are used to acquire the audience’s attention online.

9. Deceptive redirects:

Redirecting your audience to a site while you are migrating or going for a new URL is an acceptable SEO tactic. It ensures that your users and search engine crawlers can navigate to your new site effortlessly. But black hat SEOs tend to redirect the audience to some sneaky links with an aim to deceive the audience from their desired content.

For instance, many sites providing music or movie downloads redirect the audience to some random application. However, the search engine will index these sites, but users are redirected to a different URL when they try to explore the site.

Steps to report Black Hat SEO

Imagine your competitors using black hat SEO tactics to outgrow your business online. You might definitely wish to report the issue to your search engine. Here’s how you can do that:

  1. Filing a spam report: Whenever you notice a site ranking higher due to the violations like paid and deceptive links, spam, etc., you can report it to Google. This will help the search engine to detect misconduct and improve the algorithm further to curb this.
  2. Have patience: Any search engine cannot take direct actions when you report a site violating the SEO rules. But they surely note your issue and try generating stricter algorithms. So, don’t forget to report a site using black hat SEO tactics. They will definitely face issues with ranking in the near future when the search engine resolves this issue.


Black Hat SEO tactics undoubtedly help the sites gain better rankings on the SERPs. But they are actually a violation of search engine rules. You can help the search engine to detect such practices by filing a report. And remember that these unethical tactics will negatively impact the sites in the long run!

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