Not long ago, search engine optimisation, or SEO, was a bit of a wild west when it came to climbing the ranks of Google. There were lots of cheats and shortcuts that helped people play the algorithm and make short term gains in search ranks.
Of course, Google got smarter, where these tactics did not. These tactics can now actively hurt your website if overused, and can look incredibly spammy in the eyes of the search engine gods.
What was at one stage a handy shortcut to success, is now a nasty lesson to learn when your ranking gets nuked overnight. Many websites that used to rank highly using tactics like the ones below, fell out of grace with Google and were doomed in an instant.
Tread Carefully with Black Hat SEO
If you look up Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, you’ll find a list of things that Google likes to see in your SEO strategy. It also lays out what it’s not so keen on. If you use these tactics that expressly violate Google’s rules, then you’re dabbling with black hat SEO.
Whilst you may see some short term gains from going the black hat route, if Google catches on then you might be penalised. And you might get more than a slap on the wrist. Google is known for lowering an offending website’s rating score (and therefore, search engine ranking), or even worse, completely delisting them from search.
Are you worried that your SEO strategy has fallen afoul of Google’s rules? Bluefrog Digital is happy to take a look and fix any issues you may have in this regard. We’ve been doing the SEO dance for years! We certainly don’t advocate the use of black hat SEO tactics. The risk to your Google rank is simply not worthwhile.
Top 5 SEO Practices to Avoid in 2021
1. Keyword Stuffing
Keyword stuffing is the classic overused strategy of early days SEO. It’s the process of stuffing your web pages with keywords and search terms that you want to rank for. Around ten years ago, a search engine would pick up the words on the page, and assume the high volume of usage was a sign that the page was relevant to users.
It can lead to some pretty janky sentences, with unnatural structures that are jarring to read. For example, trying to rank for the term “value printers” might have had the following copy: We sell the best value printers! Our value printers are affordable, and our selection of value printers is the best around!” Pretty naff, right?
Another bad practice, that’s even worse than the above, is hiding keywords on the page. For example, “value printers” copy and pasted 100 times in white font on a white background. Your readers wouldn’t see this, but Google did. They are now very wise to this trick though, and using it is an almost guaranteed trip to the bottom of the rankings. Don’t do it!
2. Purchased Backlinks
Inbound links to content you have created is a good thing! However, if you have purchased the content, such as paid guest posts or sponsored content, then Google might discredit the links gained.
Basically, link traffic needs to be normal. This means that you should rely on people sharing your content naturally, and gaining inbound links like that. If this is something you struggle with, then you can work with our content team to put together a plan. We’ll create content your readers will love to share!
3. Using Private Blog Networks
Private blog networks (also known as PBNs) are black hat SEO on overdrive! They were used to quickly supply back links from a network of high-authority websites. The big no-no here though, is that the sole purpose of these websites was to build links and boost other websites.
As such, they were nicknamed “link farms”, being purpose built to take advantage of Google’s PageRank algorithm. They possibly weren’t worth the price of admission then, and they certainly aren’t worth it now.
4. Cloaking Content
Cloaking is when you purposely deceive a search engine with content that isn’t displayed to your readers. This is done by displaying content to crawlers specifically, which gives the search engine the wrong idea of what the website is about.
Whilst it may work for a while, should you get caught out utilising cloaking then you could earn a spot on Google’s blacklist. Search engine algorithms receive updates all the time, and it doesn’t take much for them to spot cloaking in play.
5. Spammy Comments
Anyone who runs a blog or website with comments should be well aware of spam bots. There was a time when these blighters would relentlessly spam any comment field with gibberish and backlinks. There was a time when these were given weight by Google, making it an attractive way to gain backlinks quickly.
It’s not so much of an issue now though, as most links posted in comments sections are marked with “nofollow” html tags. Anything marked “nofollow” has no effect on search rankings.
Using any of the above is bound to land you in a bad place. Whilst you might see some short term gains, these will quickly be followed up with serious penalties from Google. It simply isn’t worth the risk.
Want to do SEO properly? Then focus on making your website appeal to human readers, and not what you think Google wants to see. Bluefrog Digital is happy to lend a hand with this. Send us a message today to see if there is anything we can do to help.