Recently, Google has penalised some websites and their webpages for manipulating search engine rankings and violating SEO guidelines. If you are into digital marketing and SEO, you might have come across this news. The thing is not new and is a routine activity for Google to penalise the wrongdoers and their strategies, i.e., black hat SEO.
Oh, before we start. What is black hat SEO? Let us put it out. Black hat SEO refers to a set of practises used to increase a site’s or page’s rank in search engines by violating the search engine’s terms of service. It means you can be a topper in the SERP within a week or month just by finding loopholes in search engine algorithms and manipulating search engine rankings.
Why it is a serious affair?
The use of black hat SEO techniques can lead to several significant issues for website owners and businesses. It can cause irreversible damage to your business. Here are some of the key problems associated with black hat SEO:
Search Engine Penalties
- Search engines are continuously updating their algorithms to detect and penalise websites that engage in website malpractice. If detected, it would increase the website’s spam score. In extreme cases, Google would stop indexing the web page, leading to complete removal from the SERPs.
- Let us illustrate it with an example. We assume that you use e-commerce websites. But where is eBay these days? What caused eBay’s downfall? The company received a manual penalty and an unspecified drop in rankings in 2014 for black hat practices. Today, this penalty would lead to a loss of around 6.11 million for one day.
Black-hat tactics can provide short-term gains in rankings. But once caught redhanded by search engines, the website’s progress will go in reverse gear. Thereby causing a significant drop in traffic and a loss of business.
This thing happened to Genius. Google penalised them for asking bloggers to provide lyrics in exchange for link promotion. It led to a 10-day ban and a drop in page rank. Now they are lagging behind their competitors like Musixmatch.
Loss of Trust
- Search engine algorithms are designed to make things easier for users. By deceiving search engines, you are defrauding users. When things go wrong, this loss of trust can result in reduced customer loyalty and trustworthiness in the eyes of potential clients.
- We believe you are aware of the issues concerning Johnson and Johnson. The firm topped the baby care and cosmetic products market some years ago. But where are they now? Nowhere. Why? You have the answer.
- It is easy to lose public trust. Reputation, once damaged, is hard to recover. When the public gets to know that your brand was caught for malpractice, the word will spread like thin air. Users may view such practises as deceitful or untrustworthy, leading to a negative perception of the company.
- For instance. Do you believe the Washington Post did this in 2007? We did not believe it at first. The portal was caught selling links on their blog without adhering to Google’s best practises. The paper’s PageRank value dropped from PR7 to PR5, It was restored only after a couple of months.
Long Term SEO Damage
There is a common saying that nothing gained fast will last for long. It is true because recovering from search engine penalties can be time-consuming. Rebuilding a website’s reputation and authority can take months or even years.
In February 2006, BMW was caught manipulating search results for the term ‘used car’ by redirecting searchers to the regular BMW webpage. What happened next was ridiculous. The site was completely removed from search results for three days.
Compromised User Experience
- The only people you have to prove your worth to are your customers. Black hat SEO practises like click baiting, cloaking, and aggressive pop-ups can cause a shady user experience. Remember, there is no supply without demand.
- For example. Have you ever visited torrent websites for downloading movies and games? Don’t say otherwise. We all did. Was your user experience good? We were bombarded by a lot of web redirects and filthy ads that prompted us to get off the website. The same thing happens when you use black hat SEO .
The act of black hat SEO is simply an anti-competitive practise in various legal jurisdictions. It may violate copyright laws, violate intellectual property rights, or result in legal action against the website owner. This has the potential to put anyone behind bars.
In particular. Google punished its own browser, Chrome, for violating SEO best practises. Netizens found Google guilty of buying links to promote its own browser in January 2012. As the news spread, Google penalised itself with lowered rankings for the Chrome homepage for two-months. Although they claimed this was accidental, it was considered a mere act to save themselves from legal challenges.
- Black-hat SEO is simple and powerful. It can ensure results within a stipulated time. But the gains are unsustainable and will backfire. Time and money invested in black-hat SEO are a waste of valuable resources.
- We have a question. Have you ever visited Forbes.com to get backlinks? Yes right? It is now one of the toughest exercises to get a backlink from them. Want to know what caused this? In 2011, someone posted “Forbes Selling Links” on the Google Webmaster forum. Google acted immediately and recommended that Forbes remove the paid links to avoid penalty. It prompted forbes to remove the paid links in 2011 after receiving the penalty.
So what’s up? As search engines continuously improve their algorithms. It is better to avoid manipulating the loopholes. Instead, focus on learning white-hat SEO techniques that adhere to search engine guidelines. It creates a win-win situation by adding value to users and long-term business progress. White-hat SEO follows SEO guidelines and focuses on providing valuable content and positive user experiences. Although it may take longer to see the light, it ensures long-term growth and credibility.
Another route you can consider is avoiding getting caught. Although the practise is unethical, it is still done by businesses across the world. It is gray-hat SEO. You will find it somewhere caught up in the middle of black-hat and white-hat SEO. This consists of slightly shady SEO tactics. While they are not against search engines prohibited practises, they are not listed in webmaster guidelines. Many grey-hat practises have become black-hat practises over time, once search engines learn about them.
There is a single rule in this competitive world. You can be a winner or a loser, but not both. Whoever has more resources and potential will overpower the other without much effort. But not everyone has the same potential to achieve these So it is natural for humans to engage in deceptive practises. It is a psychological fact that humans want attention. We are not denying it.
But some risks are not worth taking. Not because you do not deserve it. but because you deserve better. As Google is becoming authoritarian and playing the role of Digital Police, it is essential to avoid black-hat SEO practises and building a castle out of cards.
We understand that destiny is important. But what matters equally is the path we choose to reach it. So it is better to reach your goal slowly than never. Always remember that success has no shortcuts. Either you crawl, walk, or run; keep moving. One day, you will reach your destination. That will make the digital world a better place.