Black hat SEO methods can get you banned from Google. Here, we explain what black hat SEO is, the most common black hat SEO tactics and discuss whether you should employ them on your site.

Note: Black hat isn’t the only SEO method out there. Take a look at our pages on white hat SEO and grey hat SEO to learn more.

What is Black Hat SEO?

Black hat SEO is the use of SEO strategies that focus on increasing a site’s ranking in search engines rather than creating useful content for human users. These methods typically violate search engines’ guidelines, with the term “black hat” referring back to old Western films in which antagonists wore black hats.

Why should I avoid black hat SEO?

Webmaster guidelines exist to establish quality terms for sites. Within these guidelines there are certain rules to follow which ensure that web pages offer useful and safe content for a high quality user experience. Black hat SEO disregards these guidelines, leading to the creation of content which offers minimal value to human visitors. Bad webmasters who try to cheat the system to boost their ranking can end up seeing their sites banned and de-indexed by Google and other search engines, with these practises being against both Bing and Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Though black hat SEO may bring you some short-term success, search engine penalties are only getting more severe. For reliable and consistently good SEO performance, honesty really is the best policy.  Google Bots are hard to fool, and know exactly where to look for dodgy and deceptive SEO. For best results, stay genuine and avoid trying to find ways to fool the system.

How do I know if I’m using black hat SEO?

Generally, the easiest way to distinguish this is by reviewing your content and asking yourself if it offers value to users and will enhance their experience, or whether you’re creating pages specifically for search engines to crawl. If no value is offered to the user but the tactic is likely to help your ranking, then you’re employing black hat SEO on your site. The same evaluation can be applied to paid search methods to establish whether you’re taking part in black hat PPC.

Common examples of black hat SEO

Many black hat SEO techniques are explicitly banned by Google’s webmaster guidelines. Here, we take a look at some of the most common black hat SEO techniques.

Hidden content 

This doesn’t just apply to hidden text. Hidden content can be anything from invisible keywords to hidden links to keyword stuffing in a page’s code. Hidden content is used to try and boost a page’s ranking for certain terms without adding thought out and valuable and relevant content.

Duplicate content and doorway pages

If you have a site that has mostly the same content on two different domain names then this is duplicate content, something Google deems a form of deception. It makes sense to have all of your content on a single site instead of numerous, this allows for a simpler user experience and means people won’t see the same content repeated across a set of search results.

Doorway pages are one of the most common forms of user deception. This is where websites have almost exactly the same content but on different domain names, with the only thing replaced being the name of the city. This is deceptive because the same base content is being shown on all sites, but the surrounding text is altered to try to rank for multiple cities. This is a technique that mostly used by affiliate marketers to send visitors to a site that will pay them for the redirect.

A better way approach driving traffic up would be to have one useful and informative site about a city you are familiar with and provide content beyond what others are offering. Google rewards actions like this because they indicate a site’s usefulness.

Auto-generated content

Programmatically produced content, such as text translated using an automated tool, RSS scraped content or content created using a Markov chain generator. This content is low-quality and often produced to fill pages and appeal to search engine bots rather than to provide useful information for users.


Presenting one page to search engines which is completely different to that seen by a user. Cloaking is usually implemented to get desired ranking for certain keywords by tricking search engine bots into thinking content on a page is different to what it actually is. This can be done by providing inaccurate information or meta tags which do not relate to the page’s actual content. This is a violation of Google Webmaster guidelines because cloaked content often serves people with irrelevant results that they were not looking for.

Link schemes

Any links on a site that are intended to manipulate ranking in Google search results. The intended purpose of a link is to recommend a site that you feel would be useful to your visitors. However, a link scheme is a link made for perceived ranking or monetary gain instead of for any usefulness to a user. If you’re making a link for any purpose other than to recommend a genuinely useful site, you’re participating in a link scheme. Consequently, link schemes are against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines as they add no user value to a site.

Sneaky redirects 

Redirects made to deceive search engines, sending users to a page that differs to that made available to site crawlers. Sneaky redirects see users taken to pages that they were not searching for, therefore creating a poor user experience. For example, if a link says “click here for cake recipes” and a user is taken to a page with no relevance to cakes, you’re inadvertently using deceptive SEO

Anchor text should always be relevant to a link. You should never redirect a user to somewhere they’re not expecting to go as this is against Google’s webmaster guidelines.

Keyword stuffing

Perhaps the oldest and most obvious example of black hat SEO, keyword stuffing is the repetition of particular words that you are trying to rank for in content. This is usually done in a manner that produces text with the same words over and over in a forced and unnatural way.

Fake markup or content

Posting fake reviews or fabricating information like ratings will get you penalised by Google. Likewise, making markups in things like rich snippets with false information is another grounds for Google to discredit your site.

Should I use black hat SEO?

For each of these black hat methods, there are several more effective white hat techniques. No black hat SEO practises help to create valuable, high-quality content which benefits site users. Black hat SEO is known as spamdexing for a reason, with sites potentially ranking well in the short term, however being penalised later for presenting users with low value content in spite of this temporarily high search engine position. You should therefore avoid any use of black hat SEO. Ultimately, you’re trying to make your site appealing to people, not just Google and the best way of doing so is by creating valuable user friendly content.

We’re here to help

Don’t let black hat SEO drag you down. Here at The Content Works, our team of experts are well practised in the world of white hat SEO. We employ reliable SEO methods that will lead to long-term and sustainable traffic for your site. To find out more about how we can improve your SEO to deliver tangible results, give us a call on 0207 305 55 99 or email 

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