Understanding SEO, Black Hat Techniques, And The Ethics Of Digital Marketing

Here’s an interesting question that was sent to us this week—

What is black hat SEO, and is it something that I should worry about?

If you’re new to the term “black hat SEO”, here’s how Wikipedia defines it:

Black hat SEO attempts to improve rankings in ways that are disapproved of by the search engines, or involve deception.”

But if you’ve already heard about it before, it’s most likely that you’ve also heard of link farms, keyword stuffing, cloaking, and all the other examples of stealthy Google SEO techniques. Each one is meant to go around the rules that Google set for its users; and what they are, essentially, are short cuts.

Now, as a marketer, should you worry about it? Well…you should only if you’re actually using black hat strategies to get your business off the ground.

Be warned, it’s not easy to stay away from the lure of what black hat SEO tools promise. Top ranked pages, large followers and likes, engaged users, exceptional pageviews—all the Holy Grail of digital marketing and everything achieved within a fraction of the time that doing things the proper way can.

I think that’s the mistake that most people make when they approach SEO—they focus too much on achieving the numbers. Yes, it’s important, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s not everything. SEO is about finding the right balance between what the search engines want and what your readers want. Focus too much on search engines, and your content suffers. Focus too much on your readers, and the search engines might not even pick it up.

It’s a tricky line between technology and creativity—one that black hat SEO tools try to circumvent. And if you think that this is one of those cases where the end justifies the means, just remember that Google is tracking your every movement online. Black hat SEO tricks will eventually hurt you. You might see your numbers picking up now, but once Google finds out what you’re up to, you can literally be banned from the search engine altogether.

So here’s my advice.

Instead of focusing on finding a loophole around Google’s rules, focus on what really matters:

  1. SEO is playing the “long game”—it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Don’t expect to win it by taking short cuts.
  2. Make an effort to produce really good content. That is your loophole. If you have something to say and you have a good product, it’s not a difficult thing to do.
  3. Understand that, like most things in life, hard work will pay off.  (Even if it doesn't always work the first time!)

To that end, here are some DON’TS that you should keep in mind:

  • Don’t get sucked into using link schemes as a way to increase your page rank.
  • Don’t use hidden links or hidden text.
  • Don’t attempt to use cloaking (showing search engines different content and your site visitors another)
  • Don’t stuff your page with irrelevant keywords.
  • Don’t create duplicate content.

The best way to rank well on Google searches is to actually create and deliver high quality, shareable content. Build your pages with your visitors in mind as the priority and work in your SEO strategy after you’ve already ensured quality of your content. That should always be your formula—not finding out what black hat techniques you can use to copy the ranking signals that leading sites have.

Now, before I end this blog, here’s something that you can do–
Seriously Simple Marketing Hack

  1. We recently wrote a post about what makes a credible, legitimate and perfectly SEO’d article. Take the time to check it out and learn the basics.
  2. Based on what you learned about from the above post, adjust your writing of your blog or articles.
  3. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the fundamentals of SEO, you can install WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin–to ensure that you automatically improve your SEO.

– Mercer

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About The Author


Chris Mercer, who typically goes by "Mercer", has a sales and marketing background that stretches over 20 years. He began his online marketing career in 2009 and has become a sought after analytics & conversions expert, helping other top-marketers to improve their own offers and sales funnels. Now decades of real-world experience are brought to you post-by-post as he delivers Seriously Simple Marketing tips that you can use to build your own business!