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Digital marketing is not unlike the wild west. It can be a lawless place where bandits roam free, taking advantage of well meaning internet users. That’s why search engines put algorithms in place to penalize anyone who engages in subversive techniques.

In the current digital landscape the terms “black hat” and “white hat” have come to describe two approaches to SEO. Black Hat SEO refers to sneaky or unscrupulous methods used to trick search engines for better rankings. While White Hat SEO is on the side of truth, morals and justice, following the letter of the law when it comes to gaining organic traffic.


Here are a few Black Hat SEO tricks only rotten scoundrels use and all good marketers should avoid…

1) Keywords From Nowhere Land

This tactic is dying out for obvious reasons, but still a frequently seen spam strategy, with the main objective to get users to click on a link.

The easiest way to describe this is to share a simple example of a spam title, like:

“Kim Kardashian could really use our weight loss app”

Whether or not she actually needs to use the app, or lose weight at all, is a matter of one’s opinion, but in the digital word – this would be called a clickbait.

Adding irrelevant keywords in vague titles is a total taboo when it comes to user experience and SEO.

The exact same thing applies to social media. Websites and blogs gain traction from their titles, using them to promote certain content, products or services. If the linked title leads the user to irrelevant content, they lose interest almost immediately.

But, with black hat SEO, relevant content doesn’t matter. Click baiting is meant to gain traction for a website and push it higher in search engine results through dishonest means. Black Hat SEO builds shallow domain authority using popular keywords with no substance.

2) Empty & Hollow Link Farms

Have you ever encountered a page that’s just a pile of random links, sometimes with no context at all?

Upon encountering such a page, any normal human would wonder, “What kind of an insane person would build something like this?”. But, if you’re even remotely familiar with Search Engine Optimization, you know this is a tactic as old as SEO itself.

Google really likes backlinks.

When Google crawlers scrape a web page and finds links, they assume the links are relevant to the source material. Google then categorize these pages and websites through their shared connection. The more connections Google finds to a certain website, the better it will show it in results pages.

Of course, in a perfect world, this would work for the benefit of quality search results. But, in the real world, many Black Hat villains have discovered how to build link farms, in order to dominate the most expensive search terms.

Soon enough, Google found out about this practice, and now their algorithm is updated to recognize this type of behavior. Though some sneak through and we are still seeing this practice in place.

3) No Good, False Talkin’ Scoundrels

We all love seeing a new comment on our freshly published blog post. It’s always great to see someone interacting and giving feedback on the topics you actually care about.

So, when you click on that notification to check a new comment by your new favorite or most hated person in the world for the next five minutes, you may encounter something like this:

This is very valuable information, please check this link *URL*

The comment is always left by someone with a random name that sounds fake, with an obvious stock photo of a person bluntly staring with a banal a smile, almost as if saying, “I didn’t actually read this. lol.”

Google does not track links in comments. It used to, but due to item #2 in this list, Google had to sanction this practice. Still, many Black Hats are utilizing this tactic, simply because they are relying on you, and anyone else reading the blog, to click on that link.

So, how can you tell the difference?

It’s not unwarranted for your readers to promote their websites in the comments, but if they want to engage in any valid conversation, the links in the comments need to be relevant to the topic.

If they post a link to their blog on the same topic, they probably aren’t trying to lure people under false pretenses. But, for example: if they post a link to an article about Kim Kardashian’s weight on a post about knitting, you can assume it’s spam and definitely a Black Hat tactic.

Feel free to delete that comment and forget that fake persona. Let the good old sherif Google take care of them.