When it comes to SEO Tactics and techniques, you should really think about how much risk are you willing to accept to increase search engine rankings and more organic website traffic.
For years there has been ongoing deliberation, in the world of SEO, about whether or not “black-hat” or “gray-hat” SEO tactics achieve quicker and superior local ranking results, compared to their respective competitor, by circumventing the search engines’ guidelines.
Negative Impacts of a Google Penalty
While many critics take a principled tone regarding this topic, I prefer to look at it in terms of risk and liability. If you are willing to accept the risk of a Google penalty for the possible short-term payoff of quick or better rankings, then be my guest! Just don’t act too astonished when Google’s incredibly intelligent algorithm figures out exactly what devious tactics have been used regarding your digital marketing and your website traffic, overnight, takes a nose dive in the Search Engine Results Pages! It may be weeks, months or even a year, but you should always expect to pay the piper (Google).
Avoiding Black-Hat SEO Tactics
As a Professional SEO Strategist who works with all sizes of LLC’s and Corporations with much at stake, I make certain to navigate well clear of any type of gray-hat and black-hat SEO techniques, avoiding them at all costs. My clients understand my position from the start of our working relationship and therefore they never have to worry about their website being penalized by Google.
My advice to anyone working on a domain which they do not want to eventually go down in a ball of flames, there is simply nothing to gain, that would justify risking a site’s reputation and domain authority with such reckless behavior. Unfortunately, in the digital marketing world, there are plenty of so-called “SEO Experts” who are willing to accept that risk on your behalf. Business owners should steer clear of these amateurs. Several SEO strategists I know argue that gray-hat and black-hat SEO techniques are merely subjective, depending on which industry you operate within.
Though many local SEO strategists have multiple years of experience in this field, the fact remains, Google’s search algorithms continue to evolve and get much smarter by the day. Outsmarting such algorithms is becoming increasingly harder and harder for even the best SEOs. It’s fair to conclude that many of Google’s algorithms learn and autonomously evolve. Because of this fact, black-hat SEO methods have become far more hazardous to the future health of a domain, and not worth the effort.
So, what are the risks vs rewards of engaging gray-hat SEO and black-hat SEO techniques in 2018? First off, Google and Bing are both crystal clear on what goes against their respective policies. Here is a summary of the most popular gray-hat / black-hat tactics and my personal insights on each.
Private Blog Networks
Private blog networks (PBNs) emerged as a shortcut to creating domain authority. The simple premise: acquire dozens of expired domains with great domain authority and create backlinks to your website. Voila! Dozens of instant backlinks and superior keyword rankings, right?
No, not really. Nowadays, creating a PBN takes a great deal of effort and some deceitful tricks to avoid detection. For instance, you truly need to delve into a domain’s history and guarantee it’s squeaky-clean, be certain the domain has not ever had a Google penalty and/or various owners. Domains that have been purchased and sold many times are an instant red flag to Google and Bing. You would also need to make sure each of your websites is hosted by different hosting companies and that they each have different unique IP addresses.
Scraped, Spun or Keyword-Stuffed Content
Consistently creating great content is incredibly time-consuming and relatively expensive, so it’s no wonder that most business owners look for shortcuts.
While the majority of duplicate content problems, most likely, result from technical misconfigurations rather than intentional dishonesty, there are loads of people who believe they can cheat the system by harvesting other people’s content and utilizing article-spinning software to create many variations of the same article.
For those who truly favor enlightening, engaging content, it’s a blessing these spammy content-creation tricks don’t really work any longer.
Google’s search algorithms have evolved to possess a much more sophisticated understanding of grammar and natural semantics. Google can now detect these schemes a mile away, so be prepared to get hit with a Google penalty if you engage them.
Paying for Links
Make no mistake, soliciting backlinks from other legitimate websites to improve your search rankings or boost daily traffic to your site is a fundamental piece of any SEO strategy. It’s extremely time-consuming, somewhat frustrating and tedious. All that said, please don’t be fooled into believing that buying links is the answer. Paid links are against Google and Bing’s guidelines, so if your site is identified as doing so, you can bank on receiving a penalty and have your search rankings trashed.
Furthermore, buying backlinks is considerably expensive. A study by Ahrefs determined that the average cost of buying a backlink was between $350 and $600 USD. That same amount of money spent on a legitimate content marketing campaign could produce multiple links of higher quality.
Web Page Cloaking
Cloaking is the practice of creating one piece of content to present to a search engine web crawler while showing a whole different piece of content to the user.
As you probably surmised, websites that cloak their web pages are typically attempting to hide something from the search engines while seeking to ultimately manipulate their Google search rankings.
The use of web cloaking is an extremely high-risk method that will definitely get your website penalized or possibly blacklisted. Most search engines parse a number of factors regarding your website in order to decide what a respective site should rank.
Negative SEO Campaigns
The world is a ruthless place, and often times people seek to sabotage their opponents’ websites.
This behavior is referred to as “Negative SEO” and generally will involve the pointing of spammy backlinks at a website, buying links on behalf of their competitor, web-scraping their respective content and then replicating it over many spammy-sites, in an effort to crash the site by directing too much bot traffic to it.
This behavior is not only unethical but, much like hacking, illegal. As I mentioned earlier, Google continues to get better at identifying and disregarding spam links. In summary, negative-SEO is a huge gamble, and there is no guarantee it will bear any fruits for you.
Another shameful “Negative SEO” tactic is to posture as the competitor and begin a link removal campaign. Be aware, some of the link removal requests you may receive as a webmaster will be from fake accounts created by your competitor.
Adopting black-hat SEO methods will require a lot of creeping around to obscure your online trail and avoid being penalized by Google. This seems pretty obvious, but there are still many people who disagree with that statement.
Some SEO professionals believe the choice is up to you, the business owner, to decide. I too believe the choice is the business owners. But if a business owner decides they want to hire an SEO specialist who will utilize gray-hat SEO techniques, I can confidently say I won’t be the SEO who is running their campaign. I choose not to work with organizations who go this route.