Google despises black hat SEO techniques.
Whether performed intentionally or unintentionally, black hat techniques involve tricking users and search engines to gain rankings.
If any site incorporates these practices, Google eventually finds out and penalizes the site accordingly.
These penalties can be as minor as gaining a lower SERP position or as severe as being completely removed from the Google index.
In this article, I’ll share 11 black hat SEO techniques to avoid, and how to comply with Google’s search engine guidelines.
But first, what is black hat SEO?
What is Black Hat SEO?
The term black hat SEO is an informal classification system that describes the manipulative or spammy SEO tactics that violate Google’s overall content policies or spam policies.
While black hat SEO has always been around, we’re seeing a resurgence in the healthcare industry led by either inexperienced or irresponsible digital marketers trying to jump ahead to the finish line. Whether it’s done on purpose or not, Google still penalizes sites that display this behavior.
Here are some of the most common black hat SEO techniques to avoid.
11 Black Hat SEO Techniques to Avoid
1. Keyword stuffing
Avoid excessive use of your selected keywords in the meta descriptions and in the body of your web pages, such as in the heading tags and copy. In the body copy, keyword use should flow naturally within the context of the page.
2. Duplicate content
Duplicate content refers to content that shows up on your website on more than one page or URL. While it’s not a technical penalty, duplicate content does play a role in search engine rankings. Google wants to see original content on every web page to serve the most relevant page to the user. You can suffer rankings and traffic losses if you have multiple pages on the same topic.
3. Automatically generated (AI) content
Current technologies can’t produce high-quality long-form content, and it violates Google’s current Webmaster Guidelines.
4. Hidden text or links
Hiding text or links on your page (e.g., by making the font the same color as your background) has been a deceptive black hat SEO staple since the 90s.
5. Gateway pages
Every page on your website must have a specific purpose. Avoid creating pages solely to act as a funnel to other, less valuable content.
6. Link cloaking
Cloaking is a tactic that shows one version of a URL, page, or piece of content to search engines (to rank for terms irrelevant to their content) and another to the visitor.
7. Negative SEO
Be aware of cyber attacks that send several unnatural links to your domain. Though Google is getting better at recognizing and ignoring these attacks, it’s important to analyze your link profile regularly.
8. Buying links
Backlinks are highly valuable for SEO because they validate your site, especially when a domain with high authority links it. Buying backlinks or exchanging products or services for a link violates Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
9. Comment spam
Responding to patient feedback is essential to your content strategy as it helps build trust and loyalty. However, avoid sharing a link to your website unless it is relevant to your response.
10. Private blog networks (PBNs)
It’s okay to have a series of websites linking to each other (e.g., multilocation practices). However, webrings designed to manipulate search engine algorithms are considered a link scheme.
11. Article spinning
Taking one piece of original or high-value content and spinning it into several pieces of content without offering a fresh perspective or new data is article spinning, and Google will punish your site rank for it.
Now that we’ve covered the most common black hat SEO techniques, and answered the question, “What is black hat SEO,” let’s take a look at how it differs from white hat, or ethical, SEO practices.
What is White Hat or Ethical SEO?
White hat SEO practices are human-centric. They function within the rules and expectations of search engines to improve your ranking while maintaining the integrity of your website.
Healthcare is a notoriously competitive industry, but you can outpace your competition with these tactics:
The most important rule for white hat SEO is: to follow Google’s Guidelines.
Google offers very clear instructions for websites, starting with what it needs from a web page to show it in Google Search to key best practices, such as creating “people-first content.”
Here are some of our favorite white hat SEO techniques:
- Identify relevant keywords, topics, and search intent
Create contextually relevant and engaging content that satisfies the needs of your target audience—doing so will also improve your organic SEO.
- Make links crawlable so that Google can see other pages on your site.
Google doesn’t directly penalize non-responsive website design. However, they index mobile-friendly websites first, which indirectly impacts sites that aren’t optimized for mobile.
- Claim your Google Business Profile
Improve your business’s local ranking with a Google Business Profile. It’s free, builds social proof, and provides consumer insights.
- Deliver a high-quality on-page experience
Focus on building a responsive design, improving page load speed, and crafting high-quality, timely, and relevant content that meets the needs of your target audience.
- Improve user experience (UX) design elements
Keep usefulness, usability, enjoyability, and accessibility top-of-mind. Google rewards sites that keep the end-user in mind.
When you focus on black hat SEO tactics rather than ethical SEO best practices, it’s only a matter of time before Google finds out.
Avoid Google penalties and grow your business organically, ethically, and safely by following ethical SEO best practices, staying up-to-date on the latest Google algorithm updates, and keeping a watchful eye on your link profile.