Black hat SEO works, and can get you very far very fast, but not for long. Let’s discuss what it is, and whether it’s worth doing.
Black Hat SEO In 2020
Black hat SEO refers to the practices designed to get pages to rank in Google search results by targeting Google’s algorithms, rather than by providing a good user experience. It typically means practices that seek to manipulate Google algorithms whilst adding no value to internet users through better content.
To understand what black hat SEO is, you need to know that Google wants to provide their users with the highest quality web pages for each query. It does this using algorithms to scan the internet for the most relevant and highest quality content.
What SEOs do is target Google ranking factors to rank better. They can do this is a variety of ways, some of which Google likes, because it adds value to the user experience and because they make it easy for Google to index pages properly, and some Google doesn’t like, because no value is added to users. Welcome to the shady world of black hat SEO.
Black hat SEO typically means practices that seek to manipulate Google algorithms whilst adding no value to internet users.
Examples of Black Hat SEO Techniques
Cloaking: Presenting to Google content that is different to what is actually visible to the user when on the site
Private blog networks: Multiple sites linking to each other to boost one another’s authority.
Paid links (sort of): Paying other sites for backlinks. This is more a grey hat SEO technique because everybody does it and it isn’t always frowned upon depending how it’s done.
Duplicated content: This is just stealing other people’s content and passing it of as your own, hoping it will rank.
Comment spamming: Putting your URL in the comment sections of other websites when it is not relevant to the discussion.
Automated links: Same as above but using automated tools to do it en masse.
Link exchanges: Where you and other sites you’re buddies with agree to link to each other for no other reason than to boost rankings.
The Ultimate Black Hat SEO Technique
Possibly the greatest black hat SEO technique was Neil Patel buying WordPress themes. He bought a WordPress theme for a few thousand dollars, and inserted his URL into the code, so that his URL would appear on the site of whoever used that theme. Given that hundreds, even thousands of people can use the same theme, your URL would appear across hundreds or thousand of sites.
And that’s exactly what happened. Google algorithms saw his URL was being referenced by all these sites – some of them inevitably very high quality with great domain authority – and placed him number 1 for many of his desired search terms. His site received a huge amount of traffic and through the affiliate deals he had in place, he made around $100,000 a month. Very smart.
Did it work? Yes, and phenomenally well. Until Google figured out what was going on, that is. They hit him with a penalty and his search rankings fell, and his business disappeared. It’s a brilliant idea but, generally speaking, if you want a sustainable term business over the long term, this kind of practice should be avoided. The moral of the story is that black hat SEO works, but it’s only a matter of time until Google figures what you’re doing and hits you with a penalty or bans your site all together (read my story of getting banned and then unbanned by Google).
Is Black Hat SEO Illegal?
No it is not. It is simply something that Google disapproves of. There are no legal consequences to cheating Google’s algorithms – they’ll just punish your site for it with lower rankings or a ban. Some consider black hat SEO unethical, because it contravenes the accepted way of marketing your business, and people who play by the ‘rules’ don’t like it when others don’t. Personally, I don’t see it as a moral issue; it’s simply a case of doing what Google doesn’t like, and if they catch you, you get punished. It might work for a while, but at some point it won’t and unless you use it to make a lot of money very fast, you’ll be in worse position than you were before.
There are no legal consequences to cheating Google’s algorithms – they’ll just punish your site for it with lower ranking or a ban.
What Blackhat SEO Techniques Work in 2020?
There’s only one genuinely black hat SEO technique that works, and that’s private blog networks whereby you own several sites and point them to each other or to a main site, i.e, you put your URL on other sites you own and get the link juice from them. Google cannot seem to detect this activity, because it’s very difficult to distinguish private blog networks from sites legitimately referencing each other. SEOs do this all the time. That doesn’t mean I am recommending it, though!
How Does Google Punish Your Site When You Use Black Hat SEO?
Algorithms can automatically detect certain black hat SEO behaviors, and when they do they send you a message in Google Search console. Whether it’s for cloaking, paid links or comment spamming, they’ll let you know and give you a chance to fix whatever SEO crime you’ve committed. Then you submit a reconsideration request, and somebody from Google will manually check if you are compliant or not.
If you don’t fix the issues, they’ll stop showing the offending pages in Google, or ban your site outright. You’ll almost certainly be ranked lower in search results. You really don’t want this because it can cause a massive drop in traffic, and with that, potentially your entire business. So think carefully before engaging in dodgy SEO practices.
Is Buying and Selling Links Black Hat SEO?
Yes and no. Google doesn’t like sites buying links to improve SEO rankings, and if they catch you, they’ll contact you to recommend fixing it by contacting the webmasters of the sites linking to your site to delete the bad links. Depending on how many there are, this can be spectacularly laborious, and often a futile endeavor. You might get 10-20% removed if you’re lucky.
This is essentially showing to Google that you’ve made an effort to clean up your act. Once you’ve done that, you can submit a disavow report, asking Google to dissociate your site with these bad links, and clean the slate.
Although Google frowns upon buying links, this doesn’t mean buying links is not considered a legitimate tactic by SEOs. They all do it all the time.
Although Google frowns upon buying links, this doesn’t mean buying links is not considered a legitimate tactic by SEOs. They all do it all the time. The thing is that if you buy links in moderation from reputable sites with high domain authority or trust flow, Google will leave you alone. In fact, they openly state they don’t care about buying or selling paid links in and off itself, they just don’t like that it’s used to manipulate page ranking.
They suggest the parties selling links add the rel=”nofollow” tag to all links, which tells Google bots not to consider these links, meaning they won’t affect search ranking. Of course that makes the process of buying links redundant, but that’s a whole other story.
Black Hat SEO Tools
Black hat SEO tools are typically paid services that automate comments or scrape content etc. Here are some of the more popular ones if you want to go down this route:
SeNuke: Automated link building software, posting on comment sections to get you backlinks. You can bet the links won’t be high quality.
GSA Online: Same as above
Scrape Box: Same as above but can also use to get comments on your own sites to make them appear popular.
Rankxyz: Helps you build and manage private blog networks.
Traffic Booster: Scrapes content in different languages and auto translates to English (or whatever language) and posts to your site. Saves you having to create content and can avoid duplicate content. Google says they detect duplicate content even if auto-translated into foreign languages but I am not sure to what extent this is true. Either way, if you know anything about automatic translations, you wouldn’t want this kind of content on your site.
The Best Spinner: These kinds of programs rewrite articles automatically, saving you time and effort. They were popular a several years ago, despite creating terrible articles. I imagine they are no different now. If you want crappy content, go ahead.
Black Hat Vs White Hat SEO
Black hat SEO is practices that seek to manipulate Google rankings without adding any value to the user. Google doesn’t like that, and if you do it you must be prepared to accept the consequences – namely lower rankings and maybe even an outright ban. White hat is preferred by most SEOs, not necessarily because they want to follow the rules, it’s just a more sustainable way of driving traffic to a website over the long term.
You can fool Google algorithms for a while but you can’t fool them indefinitely. At some point they will identify black hat behavior and send you that dreaded message on Search Console.