There are a lot of tip and tricks floating around on the internet about how you can increase traffic to your website and improve your search engine optimization (SEO). But as you navigate the world of SEO, it’s important to be aware of black hat tactics which aren’t permitted by Google and may lead to manual action.
What is a manual action? Glad you asked. This is when search engines like Google have an actual human review your site, after being flagged as suspicious by a bot, to ensure it follows all quality guidelines. If it doesn’t, your site can be demoted in search rankings or possibly removed entirely from search results.
Before we look carefully at various tactics that could get you in trouble, let’s define exactly what is Black Hat SEO? Unlike white hat seo tactics which are in line with Google’s terms and conditions, black hat tactics are SEO efforts which manipulate Google’s search rankings through unnatural on-page and off-page tactics.Ironically, most of these tactics are nearly impossible to benefit from because of how intuitive Google’s search algorithm is. However, they have been utilized and websites have been penalized as a result.
Now let’s take a look at common Black Hat SEO tactics that could lead to a manual action.
A link scheme is any link, or group of links, intended to manipulate Google’s ranking algorithm which includes link networks and unmarked paid links. A link network is a group of webmasters who trade links to one another for mutual benefit. These links often aren’t relevant to what is on the page or exude characteristics that are seen as “unnatural” by Google. This is a flag for Google because links are the number one ranking factor in the search algorithm so a lot of irrelevant links, or unmarked paid links, can throw off the algorithm’s accuracy.
If you are going to provide links on a page, ensure that every link is relevant and backed by thoroughly written content. Be aware that too many links on a page can be flagged as the sign of a link scheme. The same is true for a backlink profile that does not have a diverse number of domains linking to it.
If your backlink profile has a large amount of links from very similar domains, that can be seen as a link scheme Google. When Google catches one domain with a link scheme they will follow the links to see where they link out to and penalize others involved in the scheme. So be careful who you link with to avoid unknowingly being involved in a scheme.
You’ll also want to add a nofollow tag to any paid links. This tag instructs search engine bots that the link should not influence the link target’s ranking in the search engine’s index.
Product Review Links
Black hat SEO practices like this are extremely relevant at the moment as Google is cracking down on perpetrators of this offense. Seen as a form of unnatural link promotion, this is the act of trading product for links and reviews. For example, if you are provided a free product as an influential blogger in exchange for writing a review and linking back to the product site this would be considered fraudulent in the eyes of Google.
It’s important to understand that providing or accepting free products is not the problem. And written reviews of that product are permitted without either party getting in trouble. The problem arises from domains benefitting from receiving inbound links as a result of giving out freeproducts. If there are links in a product review, they must be tagged as nofollow.
This is content which is generated by a bot as opposed to a human. Auto-generated content is relatively easy to detect by both humans and other bots. The phrasing usually seems awkward and has an unnatural flow of sentences. Typically the content will read overly formal as well. Not only could this type of content lead to manual action with Google, but it will also lead to poor engagement on your site. Visitors will easily notice that something about your content is off and will likely leave your site as a result.
Irrelevant redirects occur when a user is expecting to see a piece of content based on their search query, but instead are sent to a web page that is completely irrelevant. Usually this happens using a 301 redirect, or a permanent redirect which passes 90-99% of ranking power to the redirected page. Back in 2006, German automaker BMW was penalized for utilizing redirects in this way. They were ranked for the search query ‘used cars,’ but clicking on the search result sent you straight to their home page full of brand new beamers.