For years people have referred to the internet as a sort of digital wild west. The analogy compares the wide open possibilities for both good and bad. There’s this image of an untamed land where people can make money any way they see fit. Some play along with the system while others try to subvert it. Since the start of the search engine optimization field there have been plenty of people eager to find any loophole they can and exploit it to make as much money as possible before it’s closed. These people are referred to as black hat SEOs.
Different people have different ideas about what black hat SEO is. One of the most basic generalizations is that black hat SEO is about results on optimizer’s end without regard to other people. As long as they are making money it doesn’t matter if their sites do nothing but waste the time of those who visit them. They also don’t care about search engine guidelines, either violating them explicitly or sneaking around them. Black hats might follow the letter of the law but ignore the spirit.
The definition of black hat SEO itself is complicated enough, but it gets more complicated when it comes to the techniques that have been labeled as such. There’s no official rulebook for how SEO should be done outside of the law and Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. These authorities cover a decent range of scenarios, but there are also areas of gray. It’s up to every SEO to determine what they feel is right. As you go forward it’s important to look at what techniques are widely regarded as black hat to give you a better idea of the concept.
One of the clearest examples of black hat SEO is spamming. If you’ve visited many blogs you’ve probably noticed people making irrelevant comments that include links to unrelated sites. This was once a popular and powerful back link building technique despite the obvious annoyance it caused for people running and reading blogs. It’s the sort of thing that’s exemplifies the black hat ethos, that a better ranking justifies whatever means are used to get there. Most blogs now use nofollow links to discourage this sort of thing but there’s still plenty of spammers out there.
Another move that’s just as wrong but harder to notice is link buying. In every field there are people who want to buy their way to the top without bothering to create anything of value. Google is working harder than ever to curb link purchasing and if you engage in this practice you’ll almost certainly get caught and punished. While spamming represents beating the system through trickery this technique is a prime example of trying to buy your way out of having to produce quality content. The bottom line is that Google is constantly at war with this mindset and will do everything it can to punish sites that disregard the needs of searchers in pursuit of selfish gains.
It’s important to remember that not everyone who uses review options does so out of malicious intent, look at the quality WME reviews. There are plenty of people who jump into marketing their website without taking the time to research the guidelines. With that said, ignorance of the law doesn’t get you off the hook. Google will punish your site one way or the other if you get caught violating their rules. That’s why taking the time to learn about them is so important. Visit Google’s webmaster site today to start reading up on what they expect.