*Updated for 2016

When a search engine is trying to figure out how to rank the hundreds of millions of sites that it’s tasked with organizing, it uses fairly a fairly complicated algorithm in order to determine the authority and relevance each individual page. Keywords are used to identify what the topic of a page is supposed to be, links from around the web are counted up to measure popularity, and several hundred other factors are tallied up before all is said and done.

Understanding how many of these important elements work, some web developers have sought to game search engine algorithms into perceiving their content with a false sense of importance, a practice more commonly known as “black hat SEO.” In short, these SEO practices involve designing content to appeal to search engine spiders rather than to human readers, and occasionally ignoring the rules prescribed by those search engines. Examples of these techniques include keyword stuffing, page stuffing, and link farming.

Black Hat Tactics

Keyword stuffing involves overusing keywords on a page, often with the aid of invisible text that closely matches the page’s background. Sometimes developers don’t bother with making their keywords invisible; instead they force keywords into their copy in a way that can drastically reduce its quality and make it sound less than authentic.

With page stuffing, web developers create one page that ranks well in a SERP, and then create duplicates of that page in order to drive competitors into the obscurity that is the second page of search results. In link farming, web developers buy, sell, or trade links in order to create thousands incoming links to their site.

And this is just the tip of the black hat iceberg. There are dozens of different ways that web developers have discovered to trick search engines, each more ingenious than the last. There are doorway pages, link wheels, automated queries, tricky redirects, automated content, link manipulation; the list just goes on and on.

Reasons to Avoid Black Hat

For the past decade, search engines have worked diligently to counteract black hat practices, and for good reason. Sites like Google are in the business of providing excellent search results, and pages designed with black hat tactics generally provide poor user experiences that are almost never well received by readers. To that end, search engines are constantly developing new ways to detect pages that are trying to game the system and penalize them. In more severe cases, these pages are even banned from search engines.

These days, black hat SEO is almost exclusively used by people who are looking to turn a quick profit on a website rather than creating a long term investment. Developing your site with black hat SEO may provide short term benefits for your position in a SERP, but in the long term it’s all but certain that your site will be found out and penalized.

No matter if you ask SEO specialists in NC or China, there’s no debate in the SEO community over the fact that the best way to optimize your site in the long run is to follow the rules and design for humans first. Although it’s not wise to ignore important aspects of SEO like building links and appropriate keyword use, quality should always be your top priority if you have any long term interest in the well-being of your site. For more tips from a top SEO Company give us a call!