Everybody has their own definition of “black hat SEO”.
Put simply, black hat SEO includes any techniques that are against Google’s guidelines.
Some people view them as a fast track to achieve higher rankings.
In fact, many SEO practitioners believe black hat SEO tactics are useful and they encourage others to use them.
Some common black hat SEO practices involve:
- cloaked content
- automated link spamming
- keyword stuffing
- use of private blog networks (PBNs)
- forum and social bookmarking
- profile link spamming
- and more.
Make no mistake, however:
If your site uses black hat SEO, and Google finds out algorithmically or manually, you will be penalized.
Sometimes, you may notice a site that ranks well and clearly uses these black hat techniques without penalty.
This can (and has) misled some SEO pros into reconsidering whether it’s worth a move to the dark side of black hat SEO.
Instead of immediately believing that these black hat techniques are good ideas just because you find them working on a certain website, let’s try to understand why situations like this happen.
Here are six reasons why a site using black hat SEO tactics may still rank well in search engine results.
1. The SEO Campaign Is Still in an Early Stage
SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.
Many black hat SEO techniques will cause a sudden boost in rankings.
This allows black hat SEO practitioners to provide much faster short-term results.
But these quick results will also disappear quickly.
If the sudden improvement in rankings was shown in a presentation, a conference, or a meeting with someone that only saw the rise in ranking, and never looked at how it progressed in the future, they will never see the performance in the long run, and will tend to believe only what they saw in the short period of time thinking it is safe to do this in the long haul.
Many black hat SEO practitioners are even aware of this yet do it anyway.
Some of them do the churn and burn type of SEO, where they typically can be ad publishers or affiliate marketers*; doing SEO on their own websites, on their own domain name. If the site gets a sudden boost, makes a profit, then crashes down in rankings and gets banned, they simply throw away the domain and start over with a new one.
It’s great that some random black hat SEO guy did something that gave quick, immediate gains.
But that doesn’t mean you can do it with your SEO clients.
You want to make sure your clients remain in the search results for the long run.
Slow and steady progress is better than quick and unstable growth that may give risky results.
*Not all affiliate marketers and ad publishers are black hat SEOs. But many SEOs that do the churn and burn are often affiliate marketers or ad publishers because they are not invested in the long-term survival of a domain name.
2. Some Industries Are Competitive & Spammier Than Others
Many industries use aggressive marketing strategies.
You’ve likely seen some of the largest offenders in your email spam folder.
Oftentimes, the people participating in industries that do aggressive black hat SEO typically use every digital marketing channel aggressively.
Take, for example, industries such as adult entertainment, online casino, prescription medicine, and even mortgage and loans. These fields often include black hat SEO as part of their online marketing arsenal.**
So many of the sites within these particular industries use black hat SEO tactics. Google doesn’t really have much of a choice other than to include these black hat sites in the top ranking simply because there is no one else to choose.
SEOs that see this in practice may initially believe the black hat practices work, especially when every one of the top results in a competitive market is using black hat strategies.
Fortunately, most of the tactics used in industries saturated with black hat practices simply won’t work in less aggressive industries.
What are the chance of you ever getting close to the top ranking sites using spammy tactics (as defined by Google)? Slim – especially for the long run.
**Sometimes the companies in these industries aren’t the ones doing black hat SEO, but it is the resellers, dealers, distributors, or affiliates of these companies.
3. The Targeted Market Is in a Less Competitive Geographic Area
When listening to conversations with other SEO professionals from other countries in casual discussions, to online forum chat rooms, and even formal conference presentations, you’ll sometimes notice one or two SEOs preaching about how they believe black hat techniques work.
They will show complete case studies and actual results; therefore, you cannot deny the fact that it did work.
But, don’t be tricked by this.
Not all countries are at the same SEO maturity level.
Thus, the lack of competition alone provides an environment in which a site doing any kind of SEO will rank higher than those with no SEO at all, even if the SEO is black hat.
There are still some countries that can get away with these techniques, not because Google has a different algorithm in each country (although they do have small tweaks here and there), but because there are far fewer websites competing for rankings.
When listening to other people about their black hat successes, try to consider all factors of their situation, including geographic location of the target audience.
4. They Are Targeting a Very Long-Tailed Keyword
Black hat or white hat SEO, if the keyword phrase is long enough, it is more than likely that this phrase is very unique to the site you are optimizing; therefore, you are likely to rank for this term regardless of the type of SEO you utilize.
If someone is preaching how great black hat SEO is – and is presenting their ranking for an eight-word keyword phrase that includes a word or two that is totally unique – that is not impressive at all.
Almost anyone doing SEO can achieve this.
Most SEOs are knowledgeable enough to not fall for this sham, but I know there are still many SEO newbies that might go down the wrong path if they are not fully aware.
5. Even If They Use Some Black Hat SEO Tactics, They Are Overpowered by Their White Hat SEO Tactics
Many SEO campaigns involve a variety of tactics and strategies.
SEO practitioners doing multiple things simultaneously can get confused about which tactics are actually helping SEO performance the most.
If an SEO did a hundred white hat tactics and one black hat tactic resulting in outstanding rankings, the white hat SEO might be overpowering the black hat SEO at a large scale.
But, depending on who is interpreting these SEO ranking factors, some might be putting too much focus on the black hat tactics identified and failing to look at the white hat tactics implemented, likewise falsely attributing the ranking success to the black hat tactics.
When looking at a site’s SEO performance, and even if you identified some black hat SEO going on, try to assess all ranking factors involved.
6. Google Hasn’t Detected It Yet and No One Has Reported It
Black hat SEO tactics tend to be be very old.
Google is well aware of these methods.
They don’t work anymore in the long term.
Yet, there are times when SEO practitioners discover a new black hat tactic and seem to get away with it.
The tactic’s newness is like a loophole that Google just doesn’t know how to handle it yet.
Other black hat SEOs may notice it, see it’s working, and start doing it as well.
When it starts to become a popular black hat SEO tactic, more SEOs start finding out about it and some may report it to Google’s Spam Report.
As more reports are submitted, and Google becomes aware of it, they might start taking manual actions and begin working on an algorithm update to prevent these tactics from working.
This is the whole basis of many of the biggest Google algorithm updates.
Google’s algorithms today help prevent many identified black hat SEO tactics that were rampant in the past.
Consider All Factors of the Situation Before Deciding If an SEO Technique Works
This advice applies to not only assessing black hat technique but any technique in general.
Conduct a good scientific analysis and look at all factors possible to be able to draw the right conclusions.
If a theory comes out of your observations, just remember a good theory is a repeatable one.
If you think a specific factor is the main cause of a ranking change, you can confirm that by trying your best to keep other factors constant while observing the effect of a specific factor and changing it.
More Black Hat SEO Resources:
- What Is the Difference Between White Hat and Black Hat SEO?
- 11 Black Hat Techniques That Can Kill an SEO Campaign
- Old-School SEO: 6 On-Page Optimization Techniques that Google Hates