“I had a crazy idea.” We’re always up for crazy ideas, so we asked him to elaborate.
“What if we put a bunch of white text on our website so nobody can see it?”
He went on to explain that we could hide keywords across the site to rank higher on Google. Immediately, we knew this practice went against Google’s guidelines. Ethical web practices are sort of like a sixth sense for us. We knew what he just described was Black Hat SEO.
Black Hat SEO is a way to increase page rank in search engines through means that violate search engines’ terms of service. Although Black Hat tactics may dramatically increase search results, Google sees these practices as deceptive.
The internet is sort of like the wild west, but Google is trying to tame it with standardized safety protocols. And that’s the thing—most people don’t realize how lawless the internet is without Google, let alone what Black Hat SEO is. Of course, our client was in the same boat. We explained the Black Hat basics to him, and we could hear his surprise through the phone. He had good intentions but didn’t know there are website rules with such significant consequences.
“I thought it was a brilliant idea, but I don’t want to be docked by Google.”
And he was entirely right. It is a brilliant idea, but it’s a brilliant idea in a mad scientist type of way.
That probably sounds like a joke, but this term originated from Spaghetti Westerns. Remember, this film genre had a breakthrough moment in the early 60s. Most households didn’t have color television until the latter half of the decade. So, these cowboy films needed a quick way to differentiate between the good and bad characters. Typically, villains were distinguished with black hats. That way, viewers could quickly tell them apart from the protagonists, who wore white hats.
As color TV became popular, Spaghetti Western protagonists began opting for tan and brown hats. Still, black hats remained the norm for villains, and so the black cowboy hat became synonymous with deviance.
SEO organically increases search engine rankings. We do this with keyword-rich website content on the front end of your website, and technical SEO on the backend. More web traffic and qualified visitors are a result of optimization. This process is called White Hat SEO.
A Black Hat website is a dumping ground for everything annoying about the internet—pop up ads, website counters, and viruses. Black Hat SEO is about deceiving humans. These tactics are geared towards search engines with a disregard for actual readers. By contrast, White Hat SEO is intended for humans. An ethical website will have content and photos that users will want to see. An unethical site will most likely be a garbage pail of mismatched, irrelevant, and low-quality content.
Black Hat SEO is self-sabotaging. Although you may have some short-term success, you have to keep this in mind—Google seeks and destroys these Black Hat sites.
If you’re lucky, you will be hit with a Google penalty. This is Google’s way of telling you that they’re on to your Black Hat tactics. From here, search engines will lower your ranking. In the worst-case scenario, Google and other search engines will de-index your website. Essentially, this means that your website is banned from Google.
You’re looking at lost rankings, lost website traffic, lost business, lost revenue—you get the gist. It can take months, even years, to recover from Black Hat SEO. And it’s not uncommon to spend thousands of dollars in the recovery process. Not only is it expensive, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever make a full recovery.
If you haven’t already caught on to this, we run a squeaky-clean SEO operation over here at PMG. We want to stay far away from anything that may damage our good standings with Google. Unfortunately, some digital marketing firms want to make a quick buck and will do whatever it takes.
Here are some quick ways to identify Black Hat SEO firms.
- Typically, Black Hat SEO is much cheaper than ethical SEO.
- Ethical SEO is achieved through strategic research and copywriting. Black Hat SEO often outsources copy overseas or uses auto-generated writing.
- The SEO consultant will have vague explanations of their copywriting process and will lack a clear content plan. They’re not out to create high-quality content.
- Of course, there are some Black Hat SEO gurus that’s take pride in it and brag about getting fast results. SEO is a journey that takes tedious work. Quick solutions are probably unethical solutions.