What is Black Hat SEO Compared to Bad Optimization Practices?

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Black Hat SEO

Believe it or not, these two ways of thinking about SEO are not interchangeable. While it’s true that bad SEO could be an umbrella term with Black Hat SEO tactics falling somewhere underneath, looking at black hat SEO practices and bad SEO practices differently can help you make sure you’re following the rules completely and don’t miss a beat.

In other words, many businesses tend to focus on one and let the other slide, thinking they’re covered – only to get into trouble in the end. It’s important that you’re first avoiding black hat SEO methods, and second making sure you’re steering clear of bad SEO practices if you want a successful strategy overall.

What is Black Hat SEO?

Black hat SEO tactics are just that – tactics. This means taking deliberate actions meant to trick search engine bots into thinking something that isn’t true, so that your website can get better rankings.

For example, a website may create a webpage for a term they know they can rank well for and then they’ll optimize that page for that term. When in reality, they’re just creating that page so they can try and send visitors to another webpage or domain. And that webpage or domain might be irrelevant and not tell readers what they wanted to know when they clicked on the link in the first place.

These are called doorway pages. And putting these methods to use means readers are tricked.

Black Hat SEO Practices

Below are some of the most popular, oldest trick-in-the-book, black hat SEO tactics:

  • Hidden Text
  • Doorway Pages
  • Cloaking
  • Link Farms
  • Buying and/or Selling Links
  • Link Exchanges
  • Content Duplicating and Spinning
  • Keyword Stuffing
  • Comment Spamming

Of course, all of the black hat SEO tactics above have been used for a while. So even if you do try and be successful, it likely won’t work for long. Google is onto many of these practices and they have algorithms and blocks in place to make sure that websites are not getting incorrectly ranked.

However, because spammers and Webmasters are always looking for shortcuts and ways to beat the system, new black hat SEO tactics pop-up all the time. It’s important to understand these tactics so that you’re not accidentally using them.

Check out some of the most recent schemes below:

  • Page swapping
  • Parasite hosting
  • Typosquatting/ domain squatting
  • Web rings
  • Poor footer links
  • Cookie Stuffing
  • Unrelated Keywords

If you don’t know exactly what all of the terms above mean, visit here for an explanation of some of the newer tactics.

Bad SEO Examples and Explanations

Bad SEO is definitely a combination of a lot of bad tactics, including black hat SEO tactics. But it can encompass more than that. You can be completely free of using what are labeled “black hat SEO tactics” and still have bad SEO. This is why it’s so important to understand some of the differences.

For the most part, bad SEO isn’t doing one specific no-good thing – instead, it’s the actions that you take as a whole.

Below are a few scenarios where a website might be practicing bad SEO:

Optimizing for Search Bots and Not Readers

This means you might create a piece of content free of all the black hat tactics above, but if it’s not engaging, not well-written, and/or not covering a relevant topic to readers, your SEO will suffer in the end because you won’t get many natural links.

Publishing Anything Outdated

You can do this, but again it’s not going to help you earn natural links and it could cause you to lose some credibility with readers. Always spend the time checking your facts.

Being Lazy About Website Design

Always remember that website navigation and architecture matters.

Referencing Spammy Links

Again, maybe the website isn’t selling the links, there was no buying involved, you may not have gotten a link back in return, it’s just a spammy website. Usually Webmasters can tell if a website is spammy, but sometimes websites become spammy, so you have to be careful when you link back somewhere the first time. This can come back to bite you.


In the end, if you want to think of everything mentioned above as either black hat SEO or just plain bad SEO, then you can. The most important thing to takeaway is that you understand all of the different problems that can result. And not just one category or the other.

What do you think the difference between bad SEO and black hat SEO is?

Hat Image via Shutterstock

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HigherVisibility HigherVisibility is part of the Small Business Trends Publisher Channel, offering a full range of professional interactive marketing services. The mission of HigherVisibility is to provide clients “Valuable Solutions with Visible Results.” HigherVisibility works with companies of all sizes, offering advice on topics ranging from keyword research to algorithm updates.

2 Reactions
  1. Your first assumption is that black hat seo is bad seo. It’s definetely not. Black Hat SEO is really good SEO that is not going to work forever, that’s all.

  2. I actually never used to think about the distinction between bad SEO and black hat SEO because for me these terms were pretty much the same. Now I see what you mean and it makes sense. Bad SEO represents the lack of effort to my mind. Have you heard of deindex.pro? The website is devoted to similar topics and maybe it’s okay to deal with. What do you think?

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