Buyer Beware! Avoid Online Marketers Using “Black Hat” Tactics

In our initial buyer beware article, we recommended that you stay away from online marketing service providers that use “black hat” search engine optimization (SEO) tactics.

What Are “Black Hat” Tactics?

As search engines refine their algorithms, they continue to get better at recognizing practices designed to exploit loopholes in order to achieve higher search engine rankings.

You should absolutely avoid service providers using these loophole types of tactics. This approach worked in the early days of search engine optimization, but this is no longer the case. Algorithms have become much more sophisticated and are much better able to discern good SEO practices from bad.

Some black hat SEO tactics that must be avoided:

  • Hiding keywords in the background of your website
  • “Stuffing” as many keywords in your content as possible
  • Over-linking your keywords to other pages (e.g. linking the term “online marketing” every single time it appears rather than just once)
  • Creating fake websites (doorway sites) to link to your website
  • Buying links from bogus directories or shady websites
  • Creating hidden pages on your website that aren’t accessible to regular users

If your “SEO company” has been using these black hat tactics, you may have noticed your search rankings and website traffic have decreased.

Black Hat SEO Providers Who Promise Quick Results Will Hurt Your Website’s Rankings

A number of online marketing companies promise a quick rise to the top of the rankings; some are using illegitimate practices to try to get these results.

Companies that engage in these activities will eventually be penalized by the search engines – it’s only a matter of time.

Unsuspecting business owners simply don’t know that SEO has vastly changed in the last few years. This is why you need to be aware of precisely what your service providers are doing and how are they doing it. It’s critical to ask potential SEO companies if they’re using any of the techniques we have identified.

Several clients we have secured over the past year had negative experiences with SEO companies that were engaging in these types of practices. They were doing well in search until Google changed its algorithm and penalized them.

An example is a client that was working with an SEO company that had built hundreds of “doorway pages”. These pages serve no other purpose than to drive traffic to the main website. The content on the doorway sites was thin and of minimal value. All the links out from the doorway site were to the main site, a definite red flag for the search engines. Over the course of eighteen months, this company’s website traffic decreased to the point where the business had been severely affected.

Another example is a client whose previous online marketing company set up thousands of fake inbound links. When Google launched the Penguin update to identify sites buying links or obtaining them through link networks, this company was immediately penalized. They went from page one for their most important keywords to page ten and beyond. It took us months to disavow the links and another six to twelve months to get them back on page one by doing the right things. In the meantime, their business took a significant hit.

It takes time to undo the effects of bad SEO practices. First, you have to reverse the black hat tactics, and then you have to re-establish your credibility with the search engines in order to regain their trust.

White Hat SEO Requires Time and Effort

The right way to optimize for search – the “white hat” way – is to consistently create and disseminate content that provides real value to the target audience, earn links from reputable websites, and ensure your website fulfills the needs of the searcher in making an informed decision.

White hat SEO requires thinking “user-first” – not “search engine first”.

Buyer Beware – Online Marketing

We will continue to post articles in this buyer beware series to highlight the things you should look for when selecting an online marketing service provider.

We’re offering this information because online marketing has become a key business development activity, and you can’t afford to have these efforts sabotaged by unscrupulous online marketers.

Our hope is that by educating you about these issues, you will make a sound decision about an online marketing service provider – thereby ensuring that online marketing contributes to long-term, sustainable revenue growth.

>> Core Online Marketing is a professional online marketing agency focused on strategy and business results. We can help with content creation, website design, SEO, social media, and more. Contact us for a free initial consultation.

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Ben Molfetta
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