You know black hat SEO tactics are bad for your search engine optimization efforts. Everyone tells you not to use them. But what if you’re using black hat SEO tactics for your interior design firm’s website, and you don’t even know? This complete list of black hat techniques explains what they are and why you should avoid them. You can hold your content marketing team accountable when you are informed of best practices. That way, you can confidently focus on what you know best, interior design.
Duplicate content is a bad thing and is highly frowned upon by Google. While it’s ok to read and get inspired by top-ranking content, it isn’t ok to spin that content for your own website. You’re article spinning if you’re using the same information and content but replacing vocabulary with synonyms, changing sentence structure, and rewriting paragraphs. The result is a slightly different article with the same information. Avoid this by adding to, building upon, or taking a unique approach to already produced content.
Automated Queries to Google
This slightly more complicated black hat SEO techniques uses automation software to inflate search queries artificially. The goal is to improve a website’s search ranking by implementing a high number of automated searches that correspond with the keywords you’ve targeted. The result is specific website pages ranking high in Google because the algorithm thinks that is what people are looking for.
Creating Duplicate Content
Do not take content from someone else’s website and put it on yours. This is called stealing and plagiarism. Not only will you get in trouble with the search engines, but if the original owner catches you, you could face a lawsuit for copyright infringement. Additionally, you won’t magically rank at the top of a search query because you copied the top-performing website. Many factors go into how Google ranks search results. There is also a fail-safe built into the Google algorithm. If it discovers two websites that have essentially the same content, it will rank the one with more domain authority and other positive attributes higher.
Avoid the duplicate content issue altogether by writing original and different content. Don’t just rework someone else’s; even this is viewed as duplicate content. It’s all the same information in a slightly different package. If you want to write about what someone else has, you have a few options. Take a new perspective or point of view. Build or expand on what they have. Or provide updated information. All of this also applies to your own content. Do not make multiple pages that essentially have the same information. This is also viewed as duplicate content and is just as harmful.
If you have one piece of content that readers see and another that search engine crawlers see, then you are cloaking. Spam websites do this to hide the low-quality content that they provide to users. Other websites use this tactic to rank for a broader range of keywords. These days the bots crawling websites know to look out for this and can spot it.
This doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to change anything on your website. You can change the language that appears based on the visitor’s location. You can change the website size and layout based on the visitor’s device. You can even change the advertising based on the visitor’s interests and browsing history. These do not change the content, so the visitor and crawler “see” the same thing.
The potential for content automation makes this a tempting black hat tactic for many business owners. You have an interior design firm to run and clients to work with; you don’t have time to write in-depth original content. Content automation is done through the use of software that automates the manual part of content production. First, the software will scrape several websites that rank well for the keyword you want to target. For example, you know that sage wall paint is trending, so you enter that term. The software will then spin the top content into a “unique” and “new” piece of content that you can post on your website.
These are several reasons why you shouldn’t use these software services. First, your content will be viewed by the crawlers as duplicate content. It’s all the same information without adding anything new or different. Second, AI-produced content never sounds natural. This degrades the quality of the content and has a negative impact on the reader’s experience.
Using a doorway page allows someone to target a specific keyword with a highly targeted page. The problem is that these pages are solely built with the search engine rankings in mind and provide little to no value to the human visitor. The hope is that you can trick the visitor into moving from the doorway page to another set of websites. This is unethical and search engine manipulation. It’s a bait and switch that will results in your site rankings to plummet.
Hidden Text or Links
This is one of the very first black hat techniques, and these days, it’s viewed as a clumsy and clunky attempt at search engine manipulation. The process is to add white text on top of a white background. By matching the text color to the background color, you hide the text from the human visitor. However, search engine crawlers still register the text as present on the page. The page would then rank high because keywords were used many times throughout the page. This strategy no longer works because search engines are sophisticated enough to spot this tactic immediately. Additionally, search engine algorithms are more sophisticated than counting the times a specific keyword gets used.
We all know that you need to use the right keywords in your articles and blog posts so that Google knows what the content is about. This is how you get your web pages to show up on the right search engine results pages (SERPs). However, this isn’t a situation where more is better. Keyword stuffing happens when you use too many keywords too many times in your content. The keyword density then goes through the roof. Using a ton of variations of a single keyword throughout your writing makes for an awkward read. As a result, you aren’t adding value while decreasing the audience experience. The content feels spammy, which will make the content less enjoyable for website visitors. In addition, keyword stuffing can result in your website pages ranking for keyword searches that aren’t relevant to your design business. This happens when people stuff irrelevant keywords into their content. Ranking for keywords that have nothing to do with your website will only result in a higher bounce rate.
Google has a couple of examples of what it considers keyword stuffing.
- Long lists of phone numbers, states, cities, or anything similar where it doesn’t add value to the content.
- Repeating the same keyword or versions of it to the point where it sounds awkward and unnatural.
Instead of focusing on shoehorning a specific keyword into your writing, focus on a topic. The result is more natural writing and broader use of relevant terms for a more focused and targeted SEO approach.
Link Farms or Link Networks
Some people build a website whose sole purpose is to create links to other websites. The goal is to inflate the number of backlinks pointing to the main website. Search engines then see this high number of backlinks and give more preferential treatment to the website in ranking. You may hear of link farms referred to as private blog networks (PBNs). The problem with these link schemes is that most link farms have low-quality content and an unnaturally high number of outbound links. Then the links on these pages have highly targeted anchor text for the search term that the webmaster wants the website to rank for. These things make it painfully easy for search engines to identify link farms. Get caught using link farms, and Google could de-index your website.
A much better approach is to focus on creating high-quality content. The user experience will be better, which will make people more likely to return to your website or share the content with others on social media. This will naturally drive traffic to your website.
All you have to do is search “link building services,” and you will see countless people offering to help you gain backlinks to your website. These sound so promising. You pay a simple fee, and your interior design website will have backlinks from websites with high domain authority. There’s just one problem. Paying for backlinks is against Google’s webmaster guidelines, and if Google catches you, it can impose a Google penalty and manually deindex your website so that it no longer appears in search results. Additionally, these paid links are typically from private blog networks (PBN), which are irrelevant to your website. There is low organic traffic coming from these websites and they won’t do a whole lot to boost your conversions.
Building backlinks is important for gaining domain authority, but they need to be from websites with a relevant topic and have their own reputable status. For example, a PBN may have high domain authority, but it’s artificial, and they typically have tons of blog posts on a wide range of topics. Their traffic generally is a one-time hit that doesn’t stay long or come back. A better alternative is to do manual backlink outreach yourself. As an interior designer, websites like Houzz, ElleDecor, Apartment Therapy, Architectural Digest, The Spruce, This Old House, or Southern Living would all be better options. These are large-scale established websites with high domain authority. Google views them favorably. Getting free backlinks from them would be white hat SEO and deliver a stronger boost to your website. You can also work with industry relevant websites to do some guest posting. Perhaps there’s a furniture company that you work with often that you could write a blog post for. Then within that post, you include a link back to your own website. You can target a web page that you want to see more traffic to. This ensures you stay within search engine guidelines while also boosting traffic to a specific page.
Overly Optimized Pages
Did you know that can overly optimize your website pages and blog posts? There’s such a thing that there’s too much of a good thing. When you overly optimize, you use too many internal links, outbound links, keyword uses, targeted anchor text, and descriptions. These are all good things to have, but when you have too many, you’ve gone overboard, and the search engines don’t like that. So, calm it down, keep things simple, and use the right amount.
If you see other people using black hat SEO techniques, you can report them to Google. Once a report is filed, Google will investigate and take appropriate action. However, do not weaponize this reporting system by filing reports on a competitor interior design firm that isn’t using black hat tactics. If Google catches you making false reports in an attempt to rank higher, then your website could end up getting punished, not theirs.
Rich Snippet Markup Spam
Using rich snippets or schema allows you to change how your page’s content appears in search results. This gives you more dynamic search results, making your website stand out from other interior design websites. An example of this would be if you included FAQs where you answer commonly Googled questions. This gives you more real estate on the search results page, making it more likely for someone to click on your links, thereby increasing your traffic.
The black hat tactic is to take the rich snippet and use it to create false information. For example, they could create a fake review website and then give their interior design service five stars. They can then use rich snippets to have this five-star ranking appear in Google search results. This tricks people searching into thinking that the five-star rated interior designer is the one they should hire.
A redirect is when you send someone to a different URL than the one they initially wanted to go to. Under normal circumstances, redirects are normal and accepted. However, some webmasters use redirects for unsavory purposes. For example, they could code the redirect to send the crawler to one page and everyone else to another. Or using a 301 redirect to pass the majority of page rank authority from one high-ranking page to another lower-performing page.
Avoid getting in trouble by only using directs for their intended purpose. For example, you can use them to redirect people to a new website domain or to consolidate two pieces of content.
The comments section is a great place to engage with others. You can start a dialogue with potential, current, and past clients where you answer questions and provide further explanations. In addition, you could reach out to other interior designers and firms, helping you to stay abreast of industry trends. Unfortunately, like so many other black hat SEO practices on this list. Spammy comments take what is a normal and accepted part of internet content marketing and uses it in a way that’s not intended. Site owners will link to their own websites by spamming the comments section of other websites. While this tactic used to be widespread, you see it less often these days. Search engines have updated their algorithms to ignore these types of backlinks, so they don’t provide the SEO benefit they used to. Many bloggers also prevent people from putting links in comments or totally block comments that contain links. Despite this, you will still see people advertising blog commenting services. Don’t fall for these offerings; they won’t help you.