Black Hat Link Building

Adam Steele
Mar 17
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In the SEO world, there are two types of practitioners: those who engage in black hat SEO tactics, and those who follow white hat strategies.

Black hat SEO practitioners use unethical methods to improve their website’s search engine rankings.

A practice that is viewed by Google as a serious breach of their search engine guidelines.

Contrastingly, white hat practitioners stick to the more scrupulous side of life, employing tried and tested tactics that don’t risk the integrity of a website.

To prevent you from unintentionally breaching any search engine guidelines, here we detail:

  • What black hat link building strategies look like.
  • Why black hat tactics are a bad SEO strategy.
  • What defines black, gray, and white hat strategies.
  • And, we’ll even list 6 black hat link building tactics you should most definitely avoid.

What is Black Hat Link Building? (Definition)

When it comes to backlinks, Black Hat Link Building is the process of acquiring links through illegitimate or unethical means. A proportion of site owners and SEOs use black hat link building tactics because they believe it is the most effective way to improve their website’s search engine ranking.

While true in some circumstances, black hat tactics are very often not worth the risk.

Sure, while these methods can provide short-term results, over the long-term, they are unsustainable.

Why?

Well, there’s a reason black hat link builders try to conceal their methods.

Typically, these tactics are frowned upon by search engines, and, more often than not, will result in a website taking a significant hit to their organic traffic.

You see, black hat SEO techniques go against Google Search Central’s guidelines (formerly Google Webmaster guidelines). And while many of these tactics were effective back in the day, Google’s algorithm has improved dramatically over time and can now easily detect any SEO tactics that are viewed as manipulative or nefarious.

In the context of black hat link building, there are two key algorithmic changes that Google uses to detect and penalize dodgy link building tactics. These are:

  • Google’s Panda update (2011). This core algorithmic component focuses primarily on thin content, sites with above average ad-to-content ratios, and content farms. All tactics employed by low-quality websites to manipulate search engine rankings.
  • Google’s Penguin update (2012). This core algorithmic component primarily cracks down on keyword-stuffing and black hat link schemes. Devious little tricks commonly employed by link farms.

In this example, you can clearly see how destructive both the freshly rolled out Panda and Penguin updates were to this site at the time of release.

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Unfortunately, it’s unclear what tactics were being used to receive such a heavy-handed penalty. But one thing’s for sure, whatever they were, Google was not about it.

Check out the other side: 3 White Hat Link Building Techniques (That Work)

Why are Black hat backlinks bad?

As Google’s algorithm considers a variety of factors when ranking websites, the quality of backlinks being one of them, low-quality black hat backlinks can hurt a website’s reputation with search engines.

There are multiple reasons black hat backlinks are detrimental to your website. These include:

  • Algorithms are constantly improving. Constant improvements to Google’s algorithm make it hard for practitioners and SEO companies to keep track of updates and changes. For this reason, even if black hat tactics are working now, they are unlikely to continue to work in the future.
  • Penalties can be very harsh. Google penalties can be extremely severe. Penalties most commonly include a complete loss of all search traffic and a drop in search engine rankings.
  • Punishment can affect your bottom line. Severe penalties can cause a complete loss of business, seriously affecting your business’s ability to generate revenue and profit.
  • Recovery is slow. If a website is penalized, it can take days, months, or even years to recover.

Black Hat vs White Hat vs Gray Hat

The tactics employed by SEOs, site owners, and content marketers can be divided into three categories: black hat, white hat, and gray hat.

  • Black hat. Black hat SEO strategies involve techniques that are frowned upon by search engines. These techniques are implemented with the aim of artificially boosting a website’s ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs), often at the expense of the user experience.
  • White hat. White hat SEO strategies are ethical techniques that improve a website’s visibility and organic search results in a way that complies with the search engine’s guidelines. White hat SEO techniques are considered more sustainable over the long term, as they typically result in better user experiences and higher search engine rankings.
  • Gray hat. Gray hat SEO strategies are those that lie somewhere in the middle of the black hat and white hat spectrums. They may involve some unethical techniques, but stop short of outright deceit or damage to a site’s search engine ranking. Gray hat SEO is seen as less risky than black hat tactics, but are also riskier than using white hat tactics, and can lead to Google penalties if the envelope is pushed too far.

6 Black Hat Backlinks (To Avoid)

Black hat backlinks can seriously affect your website’s overall SEO metrics.

To help you avoid penalization, here are 6 black hat backlink tactics you should avoid.

1. Private Blog Networks (PBNs)

A private blog network (PBN) is a group of websites that are owned by the same person or organization for the purpose of artificially inflating the authoritativeness of a target website.

How is this achieved?

PBNs are created by purchasing expired domains that have high PageRank, meaning they hold a high level of authority that can be passed on through backlinks. Once purchased, the owner of a PBN adds content to the non-targeted sites and then links out to their own site – the targeted website that PBN circles refer to as their “money site”.

This purportedly helps boost the money site’s standings with Google, helping it to rank better on the SERPs and bring in higher levels of organic traffic.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself: “I own multiple sites and they link to one another. Does this mean I’ll be penalized?”

To answer your question: probably not.

To be clear, what Google bots and other search engines web crawlers are looking for when cracking down on PBNs is spammy, low-quality backlinks that add no value to the reader and the SERPs. This is a clear indication to Google that the site owner is trying to manipulate the algorithm, and punishment will be handed down accordingly.

Conversely, if you own multiple websites that link between one another, as long as the backlinks are topically and contextually relevant, aren’t excessively linking to one another, add value to the audience, and the content is of high-quality and not spammy in nature, you are very unlikely to run into any problems with Google’s algorithm.

2. Spamming Blog Comments

Blog comments can be a valuable source of links for a website, but they can also be used as a black hat link building tactic to boost a site’s backlink profile artificially. This is done by leaving comments on blogs that include a link to the site being promoted, often using complex academic jargon to make the links seem legitimate.

You can see this in action below.

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Here you can see this WordPress website being bombarded with low-quality spammy links. As you may have noticed, one practitioner doesn’t pull any punches and wears their black hat badge with pride.

Blatant and very questionable black hat link building tactics that are likely to be penalized by Google.

3. Low-Quality Guest Posts

Guest posting and guest blogging is viewed as a white hat link building strategy and can be an effective way to improve a website’s SEO. High-quality content is written by a guest blogger and published on a third-party’s website.

This type of exchange awards the publishing site with content that is valuable to its readers. And in exchange, the author receives a high-authority backlink that would otherwise be hard to obtain.

The thing is, bad actors abuse this technique through the use of producing and publishing repetitive, low-quality content.

This can be achieved by circulating spammy articles on third-party websites. The written copy is often spun, thin, or duplicate content that is stuffed full of keywords – a practice referred to as keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing can lead to a poor user experience and a decrease in a site’s rankings.

To give you an example of spammy, low-quality content, take a read of this web page.

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It is chocked-full of jargon, broken sentences, bad grammar, and punctuation. To make matters worse, by the looks of how the content is structured, it has likely been compiled by an AI tool – a clear signal to Google that shortcuts are being made and nothing about this is useful to search engine users.

4. Cloaking

Cloaking is a black hat SEO tactic that involves serving one version of a webpage to search engine crawlers and another version to website visitors. The page that is served to crawlers is typically filled with keywords and backlinks, while the page served to users is typically jam-packed with relevant content that the user finds helpful.

It’s important to note that not all cloaking is performed under the pretext of being manipulative and tailoring content to suit different demographics is accepted by search engines in the right context.

For instance, some cloaked content will appear in different languages, depending on where the reader lives. While in other circumstances, publishers cloak content to tailor their on-page ads to suit specific audiences.

However, cloaking can be used to improve a website’s search engine ranking through less scrupulous tactics.

This is conducted to hide spammy or black hat activity.

Some publishers cloaking black hat link building strategies to boost the rankings of websites unnaturally.

5. Devious Redirects

When a site owner wants to redirect traffic from one page to another, they can create a 301 redirect. This tells the search engine that the page has permanently moved.

Seems harmless enough, right? Not always.

There are many reasons black hat practitioners might use a 301 redirect, but one of the most common reasons is to hide spammy or low-quality pages from search engine results pages (SERPs). By 301 redirecting these pages to other, more relevant pages on the site, black hats can help improve the overall quality of their website while also hiding any negative signals that these low-quality pages might be sending to search engine algorithms.

6. Purchasing Low-Quality BackLinks

Another commonly used tactic to artificially boost the domain authority of a website is to purchase low-quality backlinks. These links are often obtained from websites that are not related to the topic of the website being promoted, and they are often placed on pages with low authority.

By now I think you can guess, this has the potential to hurt the SEO efforts of a website and dramatically reduce its standing with search engine algorithms.

This isn’t to say that purchasing high-quality links can’t help your digital marketing efforts, though.

In fact, the purchase of backlinks that are contextually relevant to your site’s industry niche can have a significantpositive impact on your site’s SEO metrics.

To be sure you aren’t hurting your website’s rankings, when looking to purchase high-quality backlinks, it is important to outsource link building to a trusted vendor, like Loganix.

We provide our clients with the best quality links through our extensive network of publishers and editors. And our strict quality criteria consider a variety of factors, such as the website’s topicality, relevance, and authority.

That way, you can be sure they’ll have the greatest impact on your site’s rankings and avoid any mistakes.

Summary

While black hat SEO tactics may seem like an easy way to boost your site’s ranking, they should be avoided at all costs.

Not only are they unethical and unsustainable, but they can also get your site penalized by Google.

Loganix’s link building services, on the other hand, are a far superior option, and will help you achieve the long-lasting results you’re looking for without risking your site’s reputation.

Written by Adam Steele on March 17, 2022

COO and Product Director at Loganix. Recovering SEO, now focused on the understanding how Loganix can make the work-lives of SEO and agency folks more enjoyable, and profitable. Writing from beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.

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