The dark arts of search engine optimization have been around almost as long as search engines have been around. Loopholes and ways to use the system were quickly discovered in the early 2000s when people began to discover the incredible power of search engines. There are many, many different “black-hate” SEO techniques. Over time, Google became more aware of these and developed strategies to combat underhand practices that can be harmful to users. Here are some of the most common black hat practices you may come across below.

Keyword filling

Keywords have long been a ranking factor for websites. Once upon a time, they were by far the most important ranking factor when it comes to SERP. The new algorithms are far more complex and take into account many more signals, which slightly changes the weighting of keywords, although they are still one of the key factors in determining the ranking. It used to be common to use something called “keyword stuffing”. Website owners have found that including keywords in text as often as possible can improve rankings. This resulted in content that was barely readable, didn’t flow naturally, and made little to no sense, and became known as keyword stuffing. This is now being penalized by Google. Keyword filling degrades the overall quality of content and affects the user experience. Websites that use this approach now find that their websites are faltering or no longer appearing in the search rankings.

It’s far better to have content that flows naturally and uses keywords in a way that makes sense to human readers. Google is now taking note of the keyword density. It is therefore important to ensure that keywords do not appear too strong during a passage of text in order to avoid penalties.

Over-optimization of internal links

Too much of anything is never good! Sometimes the webmaster creates internal links everywhere, even in places on his web site that are impractical or make little sense. Links are great, but they should add value and not detract from the usual experience.


Camouflage is essentially showing Google one piece of content, while showing your users something completely different. Camouflage practices are devious and often heavily penalized by Google. You should avoid camouflage practices as this can seriously affect your website’s rating.

Too many H1

Exaggerating the H1s on your website can confuse the search engine about what your content is about and what the most important information is. This can result in your website not showing up in search results for key terms at all because the algorithm cannot tell what your content is supposed to be related to. Your content should be organized around the keywords and audience that you are targeting the most. You can do this by using different attributes like H1, H2 and H3. It is best to just make your title or the most important information on your H1 page.

Copy content

Copying content is a bad practice that leads to cannibalization across the web. Google doesn’t usually show multiple results for the same content. Hence, copying content increases the chances that your page will not appear at all or that you will confuse the algorithm, which will decrease the results.

There are many more black hat practices that can lead to poor results or penalties, but these are just a few to be aware of. These practices may have worked at one point, but things have changed so it is important to avoid them.

Tina Johnson helped bring The Marketing Folks from a weekly newsletter to a full-fledged news site by creating a new website and branding. It also helps keep the website responsive and well organized for readers. As a contributor to The Marketing Folks, Tara mainly covers new industries.