What is Black Hat SEO and is it Still Popular?

SEO is an ever-changing world and if you’ve spent any amount of time working in or around it, you know how true that is. 

Methods from even five years ago are starting to become less popular but black hat SEO is a strategy that has stood the test of time. 

Everyone is trying to get an advantage over their competition but do we want to resort to manipulative ways to get the results we want? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. Find out for yourself. 

What is Black Hat SEO?

Black Hat SEO is considered an unethical way to manipulate search rankings using methods that are against search engine guidelines. These strategies pinpoint weaknesses in the algorithm and take advantage of them for quick but unstainable gains. 

Google has made significant progress over the years at combatting these methods so it’s become more difficult for black hat SEO to work but there are still some tactics that work, if you’re willing to take the risk. 

I’m not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do and even the best SEOs may deploy small amounts of black or gray hat SEO on their websites. 

Why Use Black Hat SEO

Black hat SEO, despite being unethical and potentially harmful in the long run, can offer short-term benefits that could help you jump your competition. Here are some specific reasons why people still use black hat SEO: 

Quick Results: The main reason people use black hat SEO is because white hat SEO takes too long. There’s no other way to cut it, SEO is a slow game and if you don’t have the time or money to wait, you can’t make it work. Black hat techniques can sometimes yield rapid improvements in search engine rankings. This can be tempting for those looking for immediate visibility and traffic.

Competitive Edge: In highly competitive industries, some believe that using black hat tactics can help them outperform rivals temporarily, even if it’s not sustainable. If you’re trying outrank sites like Forbes and Inc with a new site, you just may be able to do it temporarily which can give you the short-term win you’re looking for. 

Cost Savings: Black hat methods often require less investment in terms of time and resources compared to legitimate SEO efforts, making them attractive to those on a tight budget.

Lack of Understanding: Sometimes the use of black hat SEO isn’t deliberate. Many people may not realize that any sort of link building is actually considered “black hat.” 

Malicious Motives: Online scams, illegal streaming, gambling, piracy, and prostitution are all reasons why someone may use black hat SEO to increase visibility. These websites are known to purchase a large variety of domains with different domain extensions like .io, .xyz, .to, .abc so they can quickly jump to another one in the event that the previous one gets shut down. 

Popular Black Hat SEO Techniques

Now let’s get into it. What types of black hat SEO are people using today and why? 

1. PBNs

A PBN or private blog network is a common black hat method of getting links from high DR websites to low DR sites. 

pbn example

Credit: OrangeSEO

In this example, the site owner also owns or cooperates with a network of websites that all link between each other to create a large web of backlinks. 

PBNs can be tempting because they offer control over the anchor text and placement of backlinks, allowing manipulative optimization. However, search engines like Google have become increasingly adept at identifying and penalizing PBNs. 

When detected, PBNs can result in severe ranking penalties, ultimately harming the website’s visibility and credibility.

2. Buying Links

Buying links involves the exchange of money or other incentives for the acquisition of backlinks that pass PageRank to you. This practice is a clear violation of search engine guidelines

link schemes

While it may seem like an easy way to boost a site’s authority and rankings, it is considered a black hat technique.

Search engines prioritize natural, organic backlinks earned based on the quality and relevance of content. When websites buy links, they manipulate this natural link-building process. 

So, let’s be realistic here. Everyone does this. It’s almost impossible to grow your website from scratch without some form of link building. 

The key is to do it carefully and correctly by providing value to the owner of the site so you don’t have to pay for the link. This is why guest posting is a popular and acceptable way of building links.

3. AI Content (sorta)

At one time, AI content was directly in violation of search engine guidelines. Now… It’s a little  muddy. 

comparison of rules for AI writing

This image shows you how Google changed their own rules since the growth of ChatGPT. 

AI-generated content is a gray area in SEO. While it’s not inherently black hat, using AI to generate content solely for the purpose of manipulating search engine rankings can cross into unethical territory. Some may use AI content generators to create large volumes of low-quality, keyword-stuffed content, hoping to improve their rankings.

That’s a means to an end. You want to make sure that even if you’re using AI to create content that it’s valuable and reviewed by human eyes. 

4. SEO Attacking

SEO attacking, often referred to as “negative SEO,” involves deliberately harming a competitor’s website’s search engine rankings. 

This black hat tactic can include creating spammy backlinks to the competitor’s site, duplicating their content, or spreading false information about them online. The goal is to trigger search engine penalties and decrease the target’s visibility.

This strategy is highly unethical and can even result in legal consequences such as defamation charges. Don’t do this because it’s just not right. You don’t need to hurt someone elses website in an attempt to succeed with your own. 

5. Excessive Link Exchanging

Excessive link building involves a frequent exchange of links between the same websites. This one goes hand-in-hand with personal blog networks because this is what they do. 

While many link exchanges are legit, if you abuse it, Google will likely notice and this can result in a penalty. 

I recommend focusing on getting backlinks through manual outreach and guest posting. Prioritize internal linking as well using a plugin like Link Whisper which helps with everything from finding links to picking anchor text

6. Parasite SEO 

Parasite SEO is a black hat strategy where content is created on third-party platforms with high domain authority, such as social media sites, forums, or other community-driven platforms, to rank for specific keywords. The goal is to siphon traffic and redirect it to the main website or promote affiliate products.

While this technique may yield short-term gains, it’s considered unethical and can lead to account suspension or content removal on the hosting platform.

Keep in mind that strategies like this also have a long-term impact on your success because you don’t actually own the traffic you’re getting. You’re simply borrowing it from another platform and if you ever get removed from it you can expect to lose all your traffic. 

Black Hat SEO vs Gray Hat SEO

You may have heard of some techniques being “gray hat” and this is often a safe middle ground. Here you’re doing things that may push the boundaries a little but when done carefully can give you the advantage you want without you standing out to Google. 

Gray hat techniques may include purchasing expired domains, buying links, or using automated tools for content creation. While less risky than black hat methods, they can still result in penalties and during core updates you’re likely to experience traffic fluctuations. 

Final Thoughts

So what’s your verdict on black hat SEO? There are some techniques that will never die like link building, PBNs, and AI content but outside of that; I don’t recommend you dabble in anything else. 

Google is constantly finding ways to track black hat SEOs down and deindex their websites. Don’t be one of them. 

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