In the world of SEO, there are two basic schools of thought: the white hat SEO people like Moz who believe that optimizing your site for search should be focused on creating great content and promoting it ethically according to the letter and the spirit of Google’s SEO rules, and black hat SEO people who believe that the ends justify the means, so manipulating search algorithms to get results faster is more important than following a set of imaginary rules for internet ethics.
We at NeONBRAND, like most people, don’t fall squarely into either category, but we’re definitely closer to the white hat side of things. There are plenty of ways to do SEO effectively and ethically, and that’s where we operate.
Black Hat SEO Tactics That Can Land You On The Blacklist
Black hat SEO, aside from sometimes being a little questionable ethically, presents some serious risks.
For one thing, spammy tactics might work in the short term, but they’re usually bad for business over time. People don’t like or trust spammers.
The bigger risk from a business perspective, though, is the possibility that your black hat SEO tactics will get you blacklisted from search engines. When you get blacklisted, your site doesn’t show up in any search results, and when people browse via Google Chrome, they may even get a warning screen before they navigate to your site depending on the reason you were put on the blacklist.
Most people who get blacklisted lose 95% of their website traffic. It can be devastating, and once you’re on the list, your best hope for recovery is to abandon that website and start again with a new domain, new brand, and a new host.
That’s a nightmare.
If you’re smart, you’ll do what you can to stay off the blacklist in the first place.
Inbound links, also called backlinks, are a major ranking factor. Google (and probably other search engines) evaluate both the number and the quality of your backlinks, and the more other people are linking to your site, the higher your search rank is likely to be.
That makes it tempting to try to build a lot of links quickly through black hat tactics like link buying…
But if Google suspects you of paying for links, they’ll blacklist you. That means that if you send out emails offering to pay for backlinks and someone reports you to Google, that can hurt your rankings and possibly get you blacklisted.
Since a sudden clump of low-quality, spammy backlinks is a sign that you might have bought a link package, Google considers that a red flag. Sometimes, this happens when another website or SEO company notices your page rising in the search rankings, and they try to sabotage your site with spammy links. Monitor the inbound links to your site with a tool like ahrefs, and if you suspect that this is happening to you, you can use Google’s disavow tool to minimize damage from those links.
Don’t disavow anything if you don’t know what you’re doing, though, because you can permanently damage your rankings by accident.
Do This Instead: White Hat Backlinks
There are lots of ways you can build backlinks that don’t break any rules, and when you do it right, you’ll end up generating much better quality links.
According to Google, backlink strategy looks like this:
Write great content, and people will find it and link to it because it’s so good.
According to people who actually do this stuff for a living, though, you’re going to need to give people a little more encouragement to link to your stuff. Asking for links is okay, although there are right ways and wrong ways to request links.
The Skyscraper Technique is a good link building strategy, and Brian Dean of Backlinko has plenty of advice on how to generate great backlinks.
Be sure that you’re respectful and honest when asking for links, and only ask for a backlink when it actually makes sense for that website to link to you. Sending out spammy emails asking random websites to link to you is ineffective, rude, and might get you reported to Google.
Here’s an example of what not to do.
On my personal Twitter account, my profile identifies me as a blogger and I frequently share blog posts that I wrote on various tech and entrepreneurship websites, plus other blog posts I like in the business space. In a @ tweet to me, a company that reviews casinos asked me to send them a message.
My first assumption was that they wanted me to write a review of a casino for them, because I live in Vegas and take occasional freelance gigs.
This is what happened:
Here’s the problem:
Notice that they’re offering to pay for a link, which could get MY site blacklisted if I accept payment, and that they never once mention the name of the site they want me to post on. They didn’t even give me a specific article that would be relevant to me, and expect me to go through their “600+ pages” to find something I like.
Note, too, that I don’t have any websites that talk about casinos, and I don’t post about casinos on Twitter. This is a copied-and-pasted mass message that they’re spamming out over Twitter, and what they’re asking me to do is actually bad for my website. Their Twitter feed shows that they’re doing this a lot.
These guys probably aren’t malicious spammers, even though they’re kind of acting like it. Most likely, they just don’t know how to generate good quality backlinks, and out of ignorance, they’re risking damage to traffic numbers and reputation both for them and for the people who accept payment for those links.
Most of the time when you ask for backlinks, you’re going to get ignored or turned down, even when you do everything right. Just be respectful, send personal messages, and write content worth linking to.
You can also build great backlinks by guest posting, giving interviews, blogging on other platforms, sending out press releases whenever you have a business announcement, and even commenting on other great blog posts with a link to your website included in your user profile.
This is important: Don’t spam links in other people’s comments. That doesn’t make you an SEO expert – it makes you a jerk face.
Creating new content is hard.
Creating new, quality content regularly is also important for your search rankings.
That leads a lot of websites to take content they find elsewhere on the web and post it on their own sites, which is not okay.
Content includes more than just text – photos and graphics, videos, and music that you find on other people’s websites (or in Google search results) is protected automatically by intellectual property laws, and if you use it without permission, you’re likely to run into problems.
If someone finds you using their content or someone else’s copyrighted content, they’ll probably file a DMCA takedown request with your web host. If you’re a repeat violator, you can get blacklisted and flagged.
Do This Instead: Original Content and Curation
Obviously, for best results, take your own killer images, create your own quality graphics, and write your own stellar copy.
All of those things are specific skills, though, and they take time to learn and master. You can always pay someone to handle specific functions, or you can use tools like Canva and Piktochart to create some of your visual content using templates.
If you need help with your written content, you’ll probably want a two-fold solution.
For your static pages like your homepage, about page, and product descriptions, the wisest way to handle that without writing it yourself is to use a copywriter, either freelance or through an agency.
For regularly updated content like your blog, curation can be a reasonable workaround if you can’t or don’t want to write posts yourself.
Be sure that you’re curating content and not just copying and pasting, because if you don’t do it correctly, you move from curation to plagiarism, and that’s not cool. When you curate correctly, the content you’re sharing is still hosted on the original website, and you’re able to add to it if you’d like. Here’s a beginner’s guide.
Outbound Links to Shady Characters
We are judged by the company we keep, and our websites are judged by the sites to which they’re linked.
Linking to sites that are low quality or flagged by Google can get you blacklisted quickly, because there’s a risk that you’re going to send Google’s traffic to sites that have malware, phishing schemes, and other nasty stuff that people don’t want to encounter.
It’s also not a good idea to link to sites that aren’t particularly relevant to your content, but linking to irrelevant sites will most likely just hurt your rankings rather than knocking you out of the results completely.
Outbound links are good for your SEO, and the more relevant and valuable the links, the better.
Just be careful about linking to reputable sites, and don’t accept payment for backlinks because you can get blacklisted for posting those spammy paid links.
Do This Instead: Link Thoughtfully
Think of an outbound link on your website like you’re bringing a person into your house. Would you let just anybody come into your home?
Take a look at the website to which you’re linking and decide whether it’s the kind of website you’d bring home to meet the kids, or if it’s the online equivalent of the strange guy at the park who yells at trees.
Pay attention to the security of sites to which you link – sites that obviously haven’t been updated in a long time are at a higher risk of hacks. If you link to a hacked website, they might end up on the blacklist for malware or phishing, and you definitely don’t want to link to blacklisted sites.
The bottom line is this:
Google’s grand plan of writing good content and building good websites is pretty solid. From there, success is a matter of good marketing and promotion, while outright manipulation is probably a bad idea. Do things right and work with quality people, and you’ll probably be fine.
Unless you get hacked…but that’s another blog post.