There are two ways to increase your search engine rankings: trick or treat. The treat is to follow the best practices; the trick is to use sneaky black hat tactics. The second option may bring you results faster, but it’s still always a bad idea. When Google notices that you’re using tricks (and it will), you’ll be penalized. This means that not only will the piece of content stop appearing in the search results but your entire site will see lower rankings. Talk about a scare!
Hidden Black Hat Monsters
Are there demons lurking in the dark? It’s possible that you’re engaging in black hat tactics without even knowing it. By making changes to the offending content as soon as possible, you can banish even the creepiest ghouls from your website.
Even if you’ve never intentionally taken a piece of content from another site and tried to pass it off as your own, there are other ways your site could feature duplications. For instance, you could have two or more variations of the same URL (such as due to analytics tracking code or different site prefixes). Another risk is that someone else is using your content. In this case, you can file a DMCA request and Google will take care of the monster for you.
There’s a major difference between an intriguing headline and clickbait. The point of content marketing is not just to get more people to click on your content — you also need to keep them there. If you’re seeing horrors like short time spent on page or a high bounce rate for any particular pages, consider whether your headlines are relevant and if the content is interesting.
Most Common Black Hat Strategies
Some devious marketers employ black hat strategies intentionally to save time and money. However, over the long run, these strategies fall apart.
Keyword stuffing is an old tactic. It involves shoving keywords into your content as many times as possible. As this results in an almost unreadable text, bounce rate is high. To resolve this issue, marketers often use invisible text. This used to work, but today search engines see this ghost text for what it is.
Low-Quality Inbound Links
A top off-page SEO strategy is link building. The difficulty is that inbound links are often out of your control. Some SEO providers have found a way around this by purchasing links to their content.
However, Google cares less about the number of links citing your content and more about the authority and relevance of the sites where it finds the links. Zombie sites listing links for a fee are some of the lowest quality, meaning that this black hat tactic definitely leads to lower rankings.
How to Do SEO the Right Way
Even monsters can teach you a lesson. In the case of black hat monsters, they can show you how to do SEO the right way.
Create Original Content
Go a step further than just avoiding duplicate content and create pieces that are completely original. Find a unique take on an issue, share your own ideas, or frame a topic in a new way — whatever works. Search engines are getting smarter all the time and will even notice if you rewrite existing content.
Give Your Audience a Treat
Writing for search engines may bring users to your website (sometimes), but only writing for the users themselves will keep people there. Consider what your target audience wants to know, how you can frame your brand as an authority source, and how you can pique users’ interest in learning more about your offerings.
Keep Keywords Under Control
In the past, marketers would try to reach a high keyword density in each piece of content. Often, this would lead to keyword phrases being repeated over many times in a single post.
Google now values quality much more than the use of particular words. For this reason, it is a better practice to just use a keyword wherever it fits naturally into your content and to focus on creating an enjoyable read for users.
Find Better Backlinks
There are more ways to gain control over your backlinks than buying them. For instance, one option is to search for high-quality directories in your area or those that list services from businesses like your own and send them a request. Another possibility is to build a genuine partnership with another business and agree to mention each other somewhere on your website. Finally, you can guest blog and use relevant backlinks within the content.
There’s no need to use black hat tricks at all. It’s barely less effort to do SEO the right way, and the results will be long lasting. If you’re an SEO services provider, make sure that your clients know what you’re doing. Businesses need to be confident that their websites are free from black hat monsters and that they will gain legitimate rankings, allowing them to maintain their positions at the top of the SERPs.