What is Black Hat SEO?

 • 6 min read

black hat SEO
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What is one example of Black Hat SEO?

To help you recognize and avoid Black Hat SEO practices, we asked SEO experts and business owners this question for their best insights. From low effort duplicate content to the use of doorway pages, there are several Black Hat practices that your business should abstain from to avoid penalties from search engines.

Here are 11 examples of Black Hat SEO practices:

  • Low Effort Duplicate Content
  • Indiscriminately Trading Links
  • Buying Backlinks
  • Fake Site Reviews
  • Page Switching
  • Spammy Links
  • Cloaking
  • Invisible Words
  • Keyword Stuffing
  • Automated Content Using Web Scraping Tools
  • Doorway Pages


Low Effort Duplicate Content

One example of Black Hat SEO is the creation of duplicate pages on a site with the intention of ranking for new keywords without actually providing useful information. A good example of this tactic is when a site features multiple location pages, but each page has almost identical content, save for a few keywords. High-quality, unique content that provides useful information for site visitors is an important ranking factor for Google. When creating new site content, be sure to avoid duplicate pages and always keep the user in mind.

Ravi Rouvier, Markitors


Indiscriminately Trading Links

Black Hat SEO is the practice of raising a website’s ranking through unethical actions that violate the search engine’s guidelines. An example is building links by joining a group of sites that redirect to each other, especially if the content on those sites is not related. Black Hat tactics are self-serving and do not create value for visitors and readers, looking to cheat the system rather than create content worthy of the top spots in SERPs.

Michael Alexis, TeamBuilding


Buying Backlinks

Black Hat SEO is like the cheating of the internet. Google wants to make sure it is able to return quality results to its users’ search queries and Black Hat SEO practices can skew the results that show up. Google and other search engines work hard to prevent these sidestepping tactics and every quality SEO company will tell you that the purchasing of backlinks is a poor Black Hat tactic that can cause Google to flag your site and remove it from the SERP.

Getting a lot of high-quality, relevant backlinks is a great thing for your website, but if these are done through the purchasing of links, don’t think Google won’t catch on. You’ll rank higher if these links are organically earned and if you get caught in the act, you will likely be penalized and bumped way further down the results page if you even show up at all.

Saneem Ahearn, Colorescience


Fake Site Reviews

Black Hat SEO is any practice that aims to manipulate the major search engines through deceit. For example, creating multiple accounts and giving your own site fake reviews is a Black Hat technique that can increase traffic in the short term. Ultimately, Black Hat SEO is not a viable long-term strategy, and gaining traffic through trickery is not ethical.

Wesley Jacobs, Apollo Medical Travel


Page Switching

Black Hat SEO is the practice of going beyond search engine standards to manipulate SERPs (search engine results pages) for higher ranks. Marketers who are caught using Black Hat SEO tactics may risk fines from Google, banishment from search engines, or a complete drop in metrics.

Page switching is one of the most common examples of Black Hat SEO. It refers to utilizing White Hat techniques to get a page to rank well in the SERPs, then replacing it with content from a less-optimized page. Users of this common Black Hat SEO method will keep the page title, meta description, and URL the same while changing the page content to retain page ranking.

They can then repeat the technique to build several high-ranking pages without needing to engage in content optimization. While it may appear to be a quick technique to increase website traffic with little work, page swapping is considered a major infraction that can result in search penalties.

Axel Hernborg, Tripplo.com


Spammy Links

For those that don’t know what Black Hat SEO is, it can generally be summed up in two words: spammy links. Black Hat SEO tactics can take many forms, but they always come back in the end to generating shady and unnatural backlinks to your website. An example I often cite is buying old blogs and redirecting them in their entirety into your site.

Essentially, you find a site that has backlinks to it, whether because it was once live with real content and traffic and attracted backlinks naturally, or because it was specifically built by someone overseas for sale purposes, then purchase the site, and redirect the whole thing to yours. This is a major red flag!

Google looks for the natural and slow acquisition of relevant links over time. An all-at-once inflow of backlinks with anchor text that is irrelevant to your site is a major Black Hat move and will likely get you penalized. And to come full circle, that’s because it’s entirely predicated on spammy links.

John Ross, Test Prep Insight



Perhaps the most dominant Black Hat SEO practice seen in Google today that has already led to the de-indexing of several websites is Cloaking. This unethical technique uses a sophisticated yet dirty technology called search engine spiders. Cloaking boosts the site’s rankings by delivering content abundant with all the right keywords to bots while organic visitors are left with ineffective content that doesn’t offer them any value despite the site’s rankings.

The most spot-on example of SEO cloaking that bypasses Google’s ranking guidelines would be if you clicked on a search result for the query “Modern Houses,” but instead of leading you to a page filled with images or information about houses, the result leads you to a spammy and sketchy downloading website.

Michael Knight, Incorporation Insight


Invisible Words

Black Hat SEO, to keep it simple, is the direct manipulation of a webpage in order to make search engines rank them higher. There are simple techniques for Black Hat and much more complicated techniques. A simple technique used is invisible words. People can take pages of words stuffed with keywords (which is another technique), make them a tiny font size, post them on their page and then make them invisible.

Doing this tricks the search engine crawlers into thinking there is a lot of relevant stuff on the page and should rank them higher. Well, it used to do that. Modern day search engine crawlers are much more advanced and typically do a pretty good job at sniffing out spammy websites that do not deserve to be ranked high.

Mark Jorgensen, CTL


Keyword Stuffing

Black Hat SEO is, essentially, manipulating the algorithms into making a page rank even though it doesn’t have valuable content or enough optimization to rank high on search results. One of the examples of this is keyword stuffing –– placing an unnecessarily high amount of keywords into the page when they are so overused that it’s hard to read the text.

It creates an unpleasant user experience and can flag the page as spam, which is not good for any business. Thus, it’s always a good idea to simply avoid Black Hat SEO, place relevant keywords in relevant places, and try to earn backlinks by providing exceptional value. In the end, it’s you who is an expert in your field, so simply share your expertise with the world, and the results will follow.

Gosia Szaniawska-Schiavo, Tidio


Automated Content Using Web Scraping Tools

Black Hat SEO is SEO that breaks search engine’s rules. For example, Google wants you to acquire backlinks organically –– so getting them via a link scheme, e.g. a private blog network, is a Black Hat tactic. Another example is creating automated content by using web scraping tools and artificial intelligence. This is basically paraphrasing other people’s content instead of creating your own, which is another Black Hat tool.

George PH, Shoethority


Doorway Pages

Black Hat SEO means using digital tactics to increase your website’s ranking on a search engine, like Google. Google doesn’t want anyone using tactics to improve their page rank that hurts its users’ experience, so Google has created an algorithm that is based on providing users with the content they want most, not the content that can stuff as many keywords as possible into the white space of their page. As such, they’ve created SEO guidelines to ensure that every website “plays fair” –– if you’re not playing fair, it’s considered Black Hat SEO.

Doorway pages are one example of Black Hat SEO that used to be quite popular, until they were outlawed by Google in 2015. A doorway link is a page that simply links to more pages on your website, essentially acting as a gateway to your content that increases the average user’s time on the website and click-through more links, both of which improve their Google rank while negatively affecting the user’s experience.

Cliff Auerswald, All Reverse Mortgage


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