Are you committing any black hat search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques unintentionally? Check your efforts for these five black hat SEO techniques and be sure to avoid them:
Stuffing an article full of keywords in high hopes of ranking high for those given keyword is nonsense from the start. For some reason it was believed to have worked in the past, but even in Google’s first few versions when it was still a university-based search engine it was clearly indicated that there was a limit to how many instances of a string (word) the algorithm would count before it ignores the other repetitions. It is an inherent safeguard to ensure that the algorithm does not rank any document for naturally repetitive words. It has been years since Google and the rest of the search engine industry placed regulations penalising keyword stuffing. Unfortunately, people still do it. Keyword stuffing is one of the blackest black hat SEO techniques out there — both useless and damaging to your SEO efforts.
What can be done instead is to practice latent semantic indexing (LSI), a fancy term for using synonyms or words with similar or relevant meanings. For instance, if your main keyword is “dog food myths,” you can also use “pet food,” “canine care,” and “pet food myths.” LSI addresses the issue of keyword stuffing and leverages smart algorithms within search engines to indicate the breadth of the discussion of a piece of website content, lending context clues in the form of semantic indexing.
“Spinning” articles is unfortunately a niche of its own. Spinning website content entails using synonyms or restructurings of articles so that they say the same thing with a few differences. Spinning software and services are still being used today, with some boasting certain degrees of “uniqueness” in terms of Copyscape originality percentages. Because the practice is online and not in a scholarly or professional frame, this is just a grey area instead of outright illegal, but the problem with spinning is not really the ethics behind the act as it is the ethos of its goal.
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Spun articles tend to be nonsensical. Imagine the sentence “the wolf jumped over the high fence on a clear day,” and it’s spun counterpart being “a wolf leaped above the excessive boundary on a distinct day.” That may be an extreme case, but since the replacement of synonyms is often automated, little to no human intervention will prevent “distinct,” one synonym of “clear,” to be used in its place; or “above” used in place of “over.”
Spinning is nearly at its limits, and with the penguin and panda updates from Google around, the best alternative is human repurposing and rewriting instead of machine spinning.
Link Buying and Farming
Buying links, once upon a time, was normal. Link farms, or websites whose only real purpose in their cyber lives was to link to other sites, were also norm. That was until it was abused. Boosting the authority or ranking of a website through link buying and farming jeopardised the very paradigm of search engines, making them useless annoyances to their end users.
Links drive a very important metric for search engine rankings. In Google’s case, they call it PageRank, a concept based on real life referencing. Documents in real life are cited in other documents that discuss similar or related topics. Therefore, if one document was cited or referenced in hundreds of other documents about pregnancy, ovulation, and menstruation, then it’s safe to assume that that document is about the same topics. Since hundreds of documents referenced it, it’s also safe to assume that that document is quite an authoritative discussion on the topics, or at least a treasure trove of valuable information about them. This is how PageRank works. This is why link farming or buying was abused.
Of course, today, you’ll get severely penalised for these practices. Best stick to proper link building efforts instead.
Unethical (and Useless) Linking Behavior
Unethical may be too strong a word, but it fits if your ethics are a search engine’s ethics. Basically, any linking behaviour hinting on a link being exchanged for something instead of being gained “naturally” can be investigated as unethical linking behaviour. Search engines have various means of figuring out if an exchange happened, and can easily pick out linking patterns in seemingly random linking. The best and only proper links for search engines are unsolicited ones.
Useless links, for our purposes, will be defined as links towards other places that the website content doesn’t even have the slightest connection to. For instance, if in the sentence “Natural disasters like mudslides can turn free parking lots into mud pits and the used cars in them wrecked toys,” the words “free parking lots” and “used cars” link to websites discussing these topics, then obviously something’s off. The sentence was evidently about mudslides and natural disasters. Also, if a link anchor such as “used cars” goes to a website about fine jewellery, then again, something’s off, and search engines will be itching to penalise.
The only real fix for this is to not try and game the system, otherwise, it’ll be gaming you.
Thin Content and Fluff
A rather recent addendum to black hat (or near black hat) SEO is what Google calls “thin content,” or content that does not provide valuable information, and, indeed, is very close to gibberish. One example of thin content is what is called fluff, unnecessary parts of an article. They aren’t there because of the writer’s style or to add depth or weight to the website content at all. Consider these examples:
“Weight gain makes people fat. Weight gain is caused by a sedentary lifestyle where the calories taken in are not broken down in proportionate amounts. Fat people often suffer from weight gain as it causes them to become fat.”
Repetitive fluff. Useless, often obvious and self-explanatory.
“Weight gain buster 2400 is caused by a sedentary lifestyle where the calories taken in are not broken down in proportionate amounts.”
Keyword fluff. Forced usage of keywords in an otherwise effective sentence.
How Google is alerted to thin content is anybody’s guess, but they are, and so it is only prudent that you steer clear of it.