How black is your hat?

Posted on May 14, 2010

 

Most people with a passing interest in SEO have heard of the phrase ‘black hat’, though not everyone knows what it means or what it entails. It certainly doesn’t mean wandering around the Wild West sporting a lovely black hat while telling people to get off their horse, before giving them a taste of your ‘shoot’n irons’.

No, black hat means something much worse. It means to conduct SEO practices it a dodgy, underhand manner and to ignore the rules of fair play laid down by Google and the other search engines (mostly Google to be honest, but we don’t want to appear biased).

Now you may be thinking that using black hat tactics and getting one over on the search engines is a good idea. They’ve loads of money and they’re too big anyway, we may as well do our best to slip one past them. You would of course be wrong, very wrong. More wrong in fact than the decision to remake ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’, another example of wearing a hat and doing bad deeds.

While getting one over on ‘the man’ isn’t necessarily a bad thing, donning your black hat and selling your soul to the devil isn’t going to set your website up for years of top rankings and quality traffic. When you engage in black hat tactics, or worse yet – hire the SEO services of an agency that uses them – you could be getting far more than you bargained with. You could be paying good money for someone to use, abuse and destroy your website in the rankings.

So, how black hat can it get?

Here’s an example for starters. We all know that links help websites in the rankings. If your website has links from other websites, using anchor text that you want to rank for, your website will receive a little boost. One black hat technique used by an otherwise reputable SEO company in Manchester was to disguise links to other clients’ websites in the code of their SEO on each website they worked on.

This means they would add code to your website, the client, linking to other clients of theirs, using your website for links. This would be done without your knowledge, and hidden in the code so it couldn’t be seen on the page. That’s against Google’s TOS, and very, very black hat.

If you wish to employ the services of a black hat SEO agency, you need to be careful what you wish for.

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