4 Black Hat Tactics to Avoid (& What to Do Instead)

Posted by Emery Pearson on Apr 8, 2020 7:30:00 AM

We updated this popular post from 2015 to ensure it's up-to-date.

SEO used to be a lot easier to do before Google’s search algorithm became as sophisticated as it is today. Couple of keywords here, a few links there, and you were sure to start ranking for some pretty competitive terms.

All that has changed. The problem, however, is that some SEO companies and “professionals” will still practice these tactics in order to see quick results. You know the type: the ones that can “guarantee” you top rankings on Google in 3 months. While these black hat tactics may still work to some degree, the risk of being penalized or de-indexed is a far greater threat to your business than taking a little extra time to rank on Google.

there are a number of ways that businesses work their ways to the top of search engines. Some of these tactics are what you would call “White Hat” SEO tactics. These go along with Google’s terms of service and take the approach of improving a website by focusing on users rather than rankings. Using these tactics can take a bit of time to get your website off the ground, but will garner you long-term results that will make it easier for your customers to find you through search engines. Just remember: "Slow and steady wins the race."


According to Google, White Hat tactics include:

  • Creating organic, high-quality content
  • Adding good descriptive tags: keywords, meta descriptions, image alt tags, page titles, etc.
  • Attending to technical SEO, such as site speed and architecture

White Hat tactics provide your website visitors with relevant information that expands the relevancy of your website. The reasons that these tactics work so well is because, over the years, Google has adapted their algorithm with updates such as Hummingbird, Penguin, Panda, and RankBrain. These affect how Google analyzes content, links, the user experience, etc.


Black Hat tactics traditionally involve methods of tricking the search engines and utilizing tactics that are purely based around exploiting certain characteristics of the Google Algorithm. All Black Hat tactics will damage your site and reputation.

4 Black Hat SEO Tactics That Are Still Being Used Include:

Hidden Content

Remember when you were able to put a bunch of hidden content on your site that was the same color as the background? The point of this was so that the search engine crawlers could read the content, but your users couldn’t see it. This allowed webmasters to put up walls of content without affecting the aesthetics of the site. Times have changed and the artificial intelligence that comprises Google’s algorithm has wised up to this tactic years ago.

Keyword Stuffing

Always a favorite go-to for an SEO six-plus years ago. Put the keyword you would like to be ranked for in your content, meta tags, and title tags over and over and you’ll be sure to rank for that keyword right? Google caught on to this tactic early and started dinging those websites for duplicate tags and over-optimization. It’s much better to keep your content as organic and natural as possible.

Link Farming

As a way to game Page Rank, SEOs of the past started to figure out that the more links pointing to a site, the more likely they will rank for certain keywords. Out of this, link farms were born with the goal of linking a bunch of non-related websites together. It wasn’t long until Google and the Penguin update destroyed this web of lies and made quality, relevant links one of the staples of Google’s ranking factors.

Gateway Pages

What’s wrong with creating a page that is specifically geared toward search engine crawlers that will redirect an actual user to the “real” page when clicked? Everything. Although this may have been a good idea in the past, search engine crawlers are constantly evolving and doing away with sites that employ gateway pages.

These tactics, while they can generate short-term success, can lead to your website being blacklisted by Google or other search engines. Once search engines catch on to tactics that violate their terms of service, a website utilizing these tactics could disappear from search results. This is why it is so vital to do SEO correctly. According to Google, "Not even the most experienced SEO can guarantee a certain rank for your site." If someone says they can- RUN. They are bad news.


For years, Google has been targeting companies using black hat SEO tactics, and Google has typically always won arguments against the companies doing so. One example of this is when Worldwide LLC started using black hat tactics to get ahead, this didn't go so well for them.

To discipline e-ventures Worldwide for their "bad behavior," Google de-indexed hundreds of their websites. These websites weren't de-indexed by Google's algorithms or webmaster guidelines, but rather were removed based off of an anonymous tip. In case you ever doubted that Google had the power to do this- well, they can. And they did. This is why we say time and again to avoid such black hat tactics. It never ends well.

After Jeev Trika, CEO of e-ventures Worldwide, caught on to Google's de-indexing of sites, he tried buying brand new domains and testing to see if Google would de-index those too. That was money wasted, as sure enough, Google de-indexed his sites.


According to Dan Blacharski at Entrepreneur, "The outcome of this case may well have a lasting effect on how companies move their marketing initiatives into the digital world."

A brief filed by Alexis Arena, e-ventures' attorney at Flaster Greenberg PC, says that Google has defined a search engine manipulator as: "any website owner that attempts to cause its website to rank higher, in any manner, could be guilty of ‘pure spam’ and blocked from Google’s search results, without explanation or redress."

The concern with this is pretty obvious to any SEO expert. By this definition, ANY SEO tactic (even generally accepted ones) could be accused of manipulation. This means that if Google wins the case, they have the right to suspect any and all SEO optimization. Online marketing could change dramatically with the outcome of this case.

Trika states, "Because of changes to Google’s algorithms, Internet entrepreneurs and Web publishers like myself now go the extra mile to provide websites and articles that are relevant, useful, and written to journalistic standards, and that has made the virtual world a better place." This should be the goal of every publisher and SEO expert.


There are many ways to optimize your website without breaking the rules or tricking the system to gain favor in search results. Make sure that you are doing things the right way when you are optimizing your site so that you gain proper search engine placement that will be long-lasting. Proper SEO takes time to do well. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Work hard, appropriately, and be patient. You'll see results over time.

Don’t get caught in the hype and make sure you do your research. Choose a reputable SEO company to do business with and invest in a sound, long-term strategy!

To learn about how Tribute Media handles SEO, contact us.

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Emery Pearson

Written by Emery Pearson

Emery is the content strategist at Tribute Media. She has an MA in rhetoric and composition from Boise State University, and she is currently an MFA candidate in creative writing at Antioch University. She lives in southern California with a bunch of creatures and many plants.