With so much pressure on optimizing your website for search, it can feel tempting to try shortcuts and gimmicks that promise SEO success. However, there are good and bad ways to increase the search visibility of your firm’s website. In today’s blog post, we’ll uncover 5 black hat SEO tactics to avoid as they can hurt your law firm’s website.
What is black hat SEO?
Black hat SEO is a broad term for unethical tactics used to help a website rank higher with Google. Sometimes, a firm has worked with a less than stellar digital partner in the past, and are utilizing black hat SEO tactics without even knowing it. That’s dangerous, because despite any short term gains, search engines will ultimately discover black hat tactics and penalize the websites that use them. Here are 5 items to be wary of.
Link popularity and authority is one of the measures Google uses to rank sites. The more links – and the more relevant that those links are – the more credible Google considers your site. However, a paid link is one purchased with money, and Google is getting better at spotting websites who farm out links. Not sure where your links are coming from? According to Entrepreneur, you should first look at the “anchor text,” which is the wording that is hyperlinked. If the text seems random with no connection to the link (or apparent use for it), it could be bought. Next, consider the number of links on a page. If a page is full of randomly linked text, they’re most likely paid links.
This is one of the more common black hat tactics. It involves having a keyword or phrase appear an inordinate number of times on a website page. Have you ever read a page and felt that the keyword kept appearing unnaturally or in odd wording choices? That was likely due to keyword stuffing. Since Google’s algorithms are always changing, it’s hard to know what percentage of keyword usage is “right”. Here is a good place to use common sense. If, when reviewing your copy, it feels like the keywords are used a little too much – they probably are. When working with a digital marketing agency, it’s important to ask them about their use of this tactic and what best practices they employ in this area.
Hidden links are just what they sound like: links that a viewer does not normally see. Search engine spiders will still find them, though, which can help with SEO. Text placed behind an image, off-screen links, text with a font size of zero, or using white text on a white background are all methods used by black hat SEO pros. You want to avoid doing any of these. Mozbar is an example of a tool you can use to go through your entire site and discover these penalty-causing tactics.
Cloaking and Redirects
Generally speaking, URL redirects and cloaking are when websites show search engine crawlers and users two different types of content. If you’ve ever clicked on one website and then somehow landed on an entirely different one, then you’ve experienced one of these sneaky redirects. These are becoming increasingly common due to the use of mobile. Simply avoid intentionally redirecting in this way and you should be safe.
Private Blog Networks
Backlinks are important for SEO. Because of that, private blog networks offer a way to build backlinks through a series of blogs. Typically, they can connect a network of blogs through information such as the same IP address, identical content, the same owners, or shared servers. Google has rapidly caught onto these and will penalize law firm websites who leverage PBNs.
Black hat SEO can and will affect your Google rankings. Do your best to avoid these 5 black hat SEO techniques that don’t solve for the searcher and often end in a penalty from search engines. It’s important to work with a highly qualified digital agency who understands how to optimize your website the proper way. If you need help developing an SEO strategy that improves your search visibility and effectively drives more qualified leads to your website, contact us today for a consultation.