What is Black Hat SEO?

What is Black Hat SEO?

    In Brief:

  • Black hat SEO is used to increase a website's traffic and rankings using underhanded and unethical tactics. 

  • Strict penalties can result from websites that use shady black hat SEO strategies. 

  • Learn more about what it is, some examples of it, and why you should avoid using it!

SEO is a key component of any digital marketing strategy and a great way to boost organic search traffic, increase your site’s keyword rankings, and drive leads and conversions. 

That is, if you do it right. 

Black hat SEO has been used by digital marketers for years as a way to “game the system.” While it may seem like a way to boost your website to success at first, it in fact can seriously hurt your marketing efforts by incurring harsh Google penalties. 

But what exactly is black hat SEO anyways? We take a look at what it is, some examples, and why you should avoid it at all costs. Let’s find out more about it!

What is Black Hat SEO?

Black hat SEO refers to a set of search engine optimization techniques designed to increase a website’s traffic and rankings in violation of a search engine’s guidelines and terms of service. 

Black hat SEO contrasts with white hat SEO, which are techniques and strategies designed to boost a site’s traffic and rankings that adhere to a search engine’s guidelines. 

Black hat SEO techniques spelled out in Scrabble letters on a wooden table

What are Some Black Hat SEO Techniques?

There are many types of black hat SEO techniques that include everything from link manipulation to underhanded content strategies. All of these tactics should be avoided at all costs if you wish to avoid any severe penalties that can seriously harm your site’s rankings and traffic. 

Some techniques include:

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is the practice of packing your content with low-relevance keywords to try to manipulate a page’s search engine rankings. This often includes filling content with the same keyword or phrase to the point that it looks unnatural to users. 

Google’s 2011 Panda algorithm update cracked down hard on keyword stuffing and other content manipulation practices in SEO, leading to penalties for sites who continued to use it. 

Paid Links 

The buying and selling of links is strictly banned by Google and can result in penalties for both the buyer and the seller of the links. 

In 2012, Google’s Penguin algorithm update targeted paid links and other forms of link manipulation and resulted in serious penalties for websites using these shady practices. 

Link Farms and Private Blog Networks 

Similar to paid links, both link farms and private blog networks constitute link manipulation which is strictly against Google’s guidelines. 

Link farms are collections of sites typically with low-quality content that link to each other solely for the purpose of link building to boost the sites’ SEO. Private blog networks are very similar, though the sites are generally more authoritative compared to link farms. 

Either way, both link farms and private blog networks are against Google’s webmaster guidelines and can result in tough penalties for websites caught using them. 


Cloaking is the practice of showing users a piece of content that’s different from the content that it shows to search engines. Black hat SEOs often do this to try to rank for search terms irrelevant to the content that the user sees. 

Low-Quality Content 

Content scraped from other websites or “spun” by rewriting with a few minor changes are against Google’s rules. White hat SEO, on the other hand, strives to produce informative, high-quality content that follows Google’s guidelines to rank highly in search results pages. 

Negative SEO

Negative SEO uses unethical tactics to hurt a competitor’s rankings in organic search, such as hacking their website, building masses of spammy links, and creating fake social media profiles to damage their reputation online. Websites caught doing this to competitors can face serious consequences. 

Black hat SEO tactics

Why Should You Avoid Black Hat SEO?

Using black hat SEO strategies can get your website seriously penalized or even banned from search engines such as Google, a serious blow to your business that can result in fewer sales and less brand exposure. 

While it’s true that using black hat SEO may provide a temporary boost to your website, Google and other search engines have become increasingly sophisticated at detecting websites using it and often administer harsh penalties that can have crippling effects on your website’s traffic and keyword rankings. Given the prominence of online search nowadays for businesses, these penalties can have devastating long-term effects for any company. 

Black Hat SEO: Avoid It At All Costs! 

The bottom line? Avoid black hat SEO at all costs!

It may seem like an easy way to get some quick SEO wins and boost your rankings and traffic, but it almost always results in tough Google penalties that can knock your website down hard and put you at a serious competitive disadvantage. 

Instead, use proven white SEO tactics and play by the rules. Your website traffic and keyword rankings will definitely thank you for it!