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Unethical practices that help a website rise to the top of the search engines are referred to as black hat SEO.  Sometimes, the owner of a website doesn’t realise that they have been performing black hat SEO, and in other cases, a website owner has hired a black hat SEO company, drawn in by the promise of a #1 position and lots of traffic.  No matter what the reason, black hat SEO can lead to your website being penalised, and in some cases de-indexed from the search engine altogether.

We spoke to white hat SEO Belfast company WSI Digital about the top black hat SEO signs to look out for.  If you are guilty of any of these, you will want to rectify the problem quickly.

Hidden Links

Placing hidden links on a page used to be a common SEO practice, but thankfully it’s not one we see too often any more.  Hidden links are exactly what they sound like; they’re links that the reader of a page technically cannot see, but that are still able to be picked up by the search engine spiders.  The Google guidelines specifically outlaw using a white background with white text, using text with a font size of zero, off-screen links, and placing text behind an image.  You can use an SEO tool to analyse a website’s link profile, or go into the backend of a site (if it’s yours) to determine whether hidden linking is at play.

Private Blog Networks

If you run a blog that accepts guest posts, it’s likely that at one time or another you have been contacted by another webmaster asking to trade links.  If the webmaster then goes on to say that they will link back to your site from a different blog in their network, you know you’re dealing with a private blog network.  These are generally built in order to build rank for a central website; however, all of the blogs on the network are on the same server, have the same or similar content and IP addresses, and are owned by the same person.  The problem with private blog networks is that they are set up to manipulate the search engines, and while it may seem like an easy way to build links, it’s one of the quickest ways to get your site de-indexed.  So, don’t create your own private blog network, or agree to trade links with anyone who runs one.

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is one of the most common black hat SEO techniques, and also one of the easiest to identify.  What this involves is including one keyword a ridiculous amount of times on one page in order to rank for it in the search engines.  The best way to identify whether you’re doing this is to read your content and see if it appears unnatural.  If it does, you’re using too many keywords.  Not only is this frowned upon by the search engines, but it won’t appease your readers either.  And, while it used to be a common way of boosting your rank in the SERPs, it now doesn’t work, so it’s pointless as well.

If you’re struggling to understand the ins and outs of SEO, contact a professional company for advice.  The last thing you want is to be penalised.