Change is the only constant. It’s the world we live in today, and SEO is no exception to the rule. The SEO tactics that may have worked last year can actually destroy your SEO this year. That’s why it is imperative to stay educated on webmaster guidelines and keep updated on new search engine algorithms. It would be a shame to see all your hard SEO work land you on page 10.
Of course, we like to believe that there are loopholes in everything, but if you try to manipulate this system, you will do much more harm than good. With that being said, say “C'Est la Vie” to these four black hat tactics in 2017.
#1 Duplicate Content
Content should always be unique and original. If a crawler finds the same content more than once, how does it know which one to index? It is very difficult for a search engine to determine which is the original content. Remember, the search engine’s main priority is to provide information that is most useful to the user. Duplicate content complicates this, and therefore can hurt your ranking.
If for some reason you do have duplicate pages, be sure to label the duplicate with a noindex and nofollow tag. In terms of using content from another site, also known as “scraping,” just don’t do it. Even if you are linking back to that site, the crawlers will not understand that and it will be seen as duplicate content which will definitely hurt, rather than help your ranking. Google’s new and improved algorithm really cracks down on duplicate content, so make sure your site’s content is totally original and unique if you want to improve your search engine rankings in 2017.
#2 Keyword Stuffing
What is keyword stuffing you ask? Keyword stuffing is using the keyword, such as “keyword stuffing,” throughout your content just for the sake of using the keyword (keyword stuffing) to let the engines find you for the keyword, keyword stuffing.
Now, did that paragraph sound natural? Absolutely not.
As SEO marketers, we have to remember that although we do want to rank for specific keywords and phrases, we need to write content that is both natural and strategic. Search engines can recognize that you are trying to manipulate the system and your ranking will drop. Users will not find this information useful and this will contribute to a higher bounce rate, which will also drop your rankings.
Write for the user, not the search engine.
Remember Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility? While we may consider ourselves SEO wizards, the invisibility cloak will not assist us in our efforts. Black hat cloaking is when you present a version of a page to a search engine that is not visible on the page presented to the user in an effort to be ranked for certain keywords.
Search engines are getting smarter and smarter and they will recognize the deception on your page. Translation: if you try cloaking on your website, your ranking will eventually fall into oblivion. Not all cloaking is bad. In fact, there are white hat cloaking tactics, too. But Google can recognize the difference between the good and bad cloaking, so stick with the white hat tactics in 2017 and beyond.
#4 Paid Links
If you know about SEO, you know about the importance of link building on your ranking score. The goal is to obtain valuable, natural backlinks from pages that are authoritative in your industry.
Contrary to popular practice in the past, you cannot pay your way through link building. Some Black Hat SEOs will advise you to pay sites to link to your page, but search engines will figure this out and you will be severely penalized. Once Google penalizes you, it’s extremely difficult - if not impossible - to rank well.
Just remember that these sites are usually non-authoritative, low value sites. When you are link building, quality is always more important than quantity. Don’t build your links too fast. If you obtain thousands of links suddenly within a month or two, it will look shady and you will be penalized.
Still trying to figure out a New Year’s resolution? Start here: stay educated on black hat vs. white hat tactics, and remember to implement a user first strategy to get your rankings to soar in 2017