Black Hat SEO Link Building

Kendall Brennan
By Kendall Brennan

Black Hat SEO is a practice that could boost a page’s ranking in search engine result pages (SERPs), but also violates the search engine’s terms of service. Using Black Hat SEO strategies is risky for any business, because although it can temporarily improve your site’s rank in search results, it could also end up getting your site banned by the search engines.

The name “Black Hat” is actually a reference to old Western movies, where the bad guys typically wore black hats while the good guys wore white. SEO tactics can be considered “Black Hat” if they boost your rankings, but otherwise add no value to the user. While you might enjoy a temporary boost in traffic from using a Black Hat SEO strategy, it most likely won’t be worth it in the long haul, as penalties from Google or Bing could be catastrophic to your business. If you rely on search to bring you business, you don’t want to risk being removed entirely from search results.

While there are several different Black Hat SEO strategies that are commonly used, including cloaking and hidden text, we’re here today to discuss link building.

What Is Black Hat SEO Link Building?

Before we dig into the bad (Black Hat), it helps to understand the good. White Hat link building is the preferred process where a company makes a deal with bloggers, editors, webmasters, and publishers to add a link back to your site, a process some call “earning links.”

While Google can’t catch everything, you are really putting yourself at risk if you employ any of the Black Hat link building tactics, so it is best to avoid any such practices. For those who are worried that some of your marketing tactics might fall under Black Hat SEO, you can actually police yourself by checking Google’s and Bing’s  webmaster guidelines. But to help you out, here are a few link building strategies that might get you flagged.

  • Link Buying 

Proper link building is a long and tough process, which is why it can be easy to be tempted into buying links to boost your SEO because the process is so, well, easy, but it is a Black Hat strategy that you’re better off avoiding. In fact, it directly goes against one of the Google webmaster guidelines that we linked above.

“Buying or selling links that pass PageRank: This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link”

Most recently we have seen many sites being penalized for product reviews. While this practice used to be used as a traditional PR strategy, many websites started gaming the system for SEO benefits, so Google has now directly said that you cannot exchange money or product for a followed link that will pass value to your site. Check out this blog post about the dangers of product review link building to learn more about this rule and its impact on websites.

 

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Google wants companies to rank well in search results because they deserve to, not because they are throwing cash around to buy links that add no other value other than to boost a company’s rankings. But they aren’t policing just for fun–Google has to worry about user experience as well or else people will use another search engine.

  • Exploiting A Security Flaw To Inject Hidden Links On A Website You Do Not Own

Like Black Hat link buying, this process involves utilizing someone else’s website without their knowledge. You would actually actively find a loophole in a site’s security and exploit it for your own site’s gain. This is pretty cut and dry Black Hat link building. It also won’t gain you any long-term benefits, because Google is always on the lookout for these tactics, meaning if you’re caught, the work you’ve done and rankings you’ve gained can be gone in an instant.

  • Using Private Blog Networks

With this tactic, you will create several obscure private blogs that exist only to link back to your main site. Linking back to your key pages will give you a ratings boost. This process actually takes a lot of work, as you have to register the sites and create the blog posts that go on them. Even if you don’t get flagged for this tactic, it most likely isn’t worth the hassle.

  • Using Duplicate Content

Using duplicate content is a major Black Hat tactic that will almost always get your site taken down. Instead, try the White Hat strategy of repurposing content to make it useful.

Related: Black Hat Tactics That Lead to a Manual Action

Grey Hat Linking

Some other strategies exist in a sort of grey area, thus earning them the nickname “Grey Hat” tactics. They are OK for right now, but might eventually become no-no’s for Google as well.

This include sponsoring events, just so you can get backlinks. When you sponsor an event and they link to your site, Google actually would prefer that you make a “no follow” request. Directory submissions are generally OK, unless you pick up hundreds of directories. Using widget links is edging ever closer to being full Black Hat, but you can sneak by if you use widgets sparingly.

Related:What are Link Penalties and How to Avoid Them

Comment links and website footer links are fine, but really won’t gain you much traffic. Regarding commenting on blogs, the plus side can be that if you comment enough, the blogger will know who you are and you can potentially leverage that relationship to achieve your goal. With footer links, it goes on the opposite direction. If you use too many, you will enter a penalty area.

 

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Kendall is a Senior SEO Strategist at Power Digital. She specializes in SEO, but also has a passion for the holistic view of digital marketing and seeing how all channels work together to create a strong digital presence.