12 Black-hat Strategies Recognised By Google

Orthodox black-hat strategies that Google recognises and actively tries to protect against.

What is black-hat SEO?

Black hat SEO is a practice against search engine guidelines, used to get a site ranking higher in search results. These unethical tactics don’t solve for the searcher and often end in a penalty from search engines. Black hat techniques include keyword stuffing, cloaking, and using private link networks.

Padraig O’Connor

Black hat SEO is effectively cheating, misleading, and misguiding both Search Engines, and users. Search Engines exist to maximise the efficiency of query –> response algorithms, and therefore by misleading the crawlers, parsing, processing, or indexing part of the process, can lead to serious repercussions. Under no circumstance, should any website owner risk using any of the following orthodox black-hat strategies as recognised by Google. They are all monitored by several algorithms, and the most recent addition RankBrain, an AI algorithm that has quickly developed into Google’s “Law and Order.”

Any technique that does not abide by Google’s Webmaster Guidelines is considered black-hat.

The Strategies:

1. User-Generated Spam

Google detected spam on one of your pages. Typically this happens on forums, guestbooks, or user profiles. User-generated spam often comes in the form of spamming links, content, keywords, or malicious content. This may or may not be under the ownership of the owner, but anonymous accounts that are enabled to post freely may come in and “dump” illegal content to their own websites router websites.

2. Spammy free host

A significant number of sites hosted on the free web hosting service have been marked for spam. Google tries to penalise only the sites instead of the web-host, but if enough of the websites are marked for spam, the whole service may be taken down. This occurs when web sites are auto-created with user-generated spam in mind, whether or not the service provider knows about it or not.

3. Structured Data Manipulation

Using structured content markup to promote content that is invisible to users. Structured data manipulation often occurs to promote high traffic keywords across an unrelated website. For example the use of the structured schema “JobPosting,” which indicates the site to Google as a job-posting website, which it may or may not have. This is one of the most common black-hat techniques because Indexing occurs, THEN Google finds a mismatch between content and schema.

4. Unnatural links to your site

The use of unnatural, artificial, deceptive, or manipulative links TO your website. For example, link buying or link schemes which involve rapid back-link creation. This has been heavily marked down in the Panda Search Engine update, but is still very commonly used. Google is becoming far better at detecting fraudulent backlinks due to the RankBrain algorithm. Fake backlinks are used to manipulate the page rank and boost website SERP rankings.

5. Unnatural links from your site.

Detection of unnatural, artificial, deceptive, or manipulative links FROM your website. The above applies, but is more heavily applied to websites that conduct unnatural linking. These websites are often completely shut down through manual review, whereas “unnatural links to your website” often involves heavily penalisation, but not black-marking.

6. Thin content

Low quality pages, or pages with shallow content that are mass-produced, which do not serve users with unique or valuable content. Common indications of pages like this are automatically generated content, thin affiliate websites, content that is scraped from other sources, and doorway pages. Each of these is an attempt to quickly produce content in an artificial way, and often from higher DA websites in an attempt to replicate their SERP.

7. Cloaking

Showing users different pages to what Google is being displayed. This masks information and website purpose, as Google Crawlers are lead to believe the website is of different value than the one presented to users. Examples of this is showing HTML to Google, while images or Flash are shown to users. Another is inputting text information when Search Engine Crawlers call the website, “buffing” the reliability, ranking, and purpose of the website.

Cloaking can also mean extensive 301 redirects that “cloak” the real intent of the link. For example a link from https://site,com/page to https://site2.com/page2 to https://malicious-site.com. Google will navigate the pages and arrive at the malicious page, with potential trojans, script running, or illegal practice and trace it back. Each domain associated along the trace will be penalised and often de-indexed depending on the severity of the misconduct on the malicious-site.

8. Pure spam

Aggressive spam techniques are used on pages, or websites such as: automatically generated gibberish, cloaking, or content scraping. Websites are also punished under this under manual review if they have had several infractions with Google Webmaster Guidelines.

9. Cloaked images

Similar to web-page cloaking, this revolves around images. Cloaking images is displaying thumbnails, or URI redirects to images that do not reflect the experience users are greeted with compared to Search Engines. For example obscured thumbnails, or images that are “placeholders,” which when human users interact with become the “displayed” image, whatever it may be. This is a variation of “lazy loading,” which crawlers often make the mistake of detecting.

10. Keyword stuffing

Hiding keywords or text in white letters against white background, or colours that match and therefore are not detectable to the eyes of the users. For example if the first 100 words on a page are white/white it may read something about “family trips to Patagonia,” whereas the website below that only discusses blogs on illicit job postings. The Search Engine is misguided by the first 100 crawled words, and ranks the website incorrectly.

Keyword stuffing can occur with hidden keywords or in its own sense. Keyword stuffing is the over population of random text (similar to automated gibberish) that is aimed at ranking well for a particular query. For example sticking hundreds of words related to “mountains climbing” together in plain, or invisible text to rank for queries related to mountain climbing. There is no value for users per se, and Google punishes this very heavily.

11. AMP content mismatch

AMP content and the canonical web page should be aligned. Slight variation in the display of information is possible, as long as the same functions or information is effectively being displayed. There should not be identical overlap, but it may occur. Black-hatters use this to provide AMP optimisation for a black-hat web-page, providing a layer of security. By displaying the AMP version of a canonical web page, the Search Engine may not read the canonical page, in which the AMP and canonical version may completely differ. The AMP version may revolve around boating trips, whereas the canonical page could be about gambling.

12. Sneaky mobile redirects

Redirecting mobile users to content not available on the Google index. Mobile optimisation and crawlability is still being optimised due to it’s recency under Smart Phones. As a result Google has to take broad precautionary actions to prevent clients from sending users to non-Google affiliated web-pages. This is an attempt to ensure that quality content is maintained on Google.

Google’s black-mark.

Engaging in black-hat SEO could you qualified for domain wide, or page local penalties. Google developed a “black-mark” penalisation in late 2015, which fraudulent websites are often pinned with. This effectively kills the organic display, growth, and development of any website, and may even result in de-indexing.

Have I been impacted by black-hat SEO?

Sometimes previous domain owners conduct black-hat SEO on their websites, and then once the domain is black-marked, they sell them off for a return. This results in the customer receiving an absolutely worthless domain as a result of organic mutilation by the Manual review team. This is effectively jail for domains.

How do you fix it?

Well it requires extensive, and long-term investment to prove to Google that your domain abides by the rules, provides content, and has done everything it can to change it’s ways. Think of this as proving “reconciliation” despite you not having been involved with it in the first place. My best advice is get in touch with an Index & SEO agency that has experience with index expungement.


Index Expungement

The SEOSPIDRE team has helped clients in the past deal with faulty, and black-marked domains. The process is long, tiresome, but ultimately will lead to the removal of a black-mark and organic growth.

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