What Is Black Hat SEO?

Promoting a website in search results is becoming more and more difficult. Today, webmasters must spend much effort and money to get a minimum chance to successfully rank a project.

What Is Black-hat SEO | How Do Black-hat SEO Methods Work in 2022?

The speed of gaining visibility in organic search depends on niche competition, domain age, optimization quality, and other factors. Some site owners opt for black-hat SEO methods to promote their websites, which can speed up task completion.

Black-hat SEO is still in demand, but you should understand that the risk of permanently missing the chance for successful promotion is very high. Therefore, you need to set priorities and make the right choice. 

1. What Is Black-hat SEO?

Black-hat SEO, or black-hat techniques, is a set of approaches to website optimization, which are based on the manipulation of ranking algorithms. Webmasters use them to quickly reach KPIs.

These approaches were relevant 10-15 years ago, when Google was just starting to develop content ranking algorithms. Back then, it was possible to get a page to the top in a few days.

Website owners created pages with a list of keys or several versions of the content for search engine crawlers and users. Later, they would get targeted traffic with minimal effort and try to put the work on a conveyor belt.

So far, it is not so easy to break ranking algorithms anymore. Therefore, the effectiveness of using black-hat techniques is not as high as it was in 2005. But that doesn’t stop optimizers from experimenting.

Google has been developing neural networks and algorithms to improve the quality of search results for years. If users see SERPs from doorways or fraudulent sites, their experience will be ruined.

Any service is interested in maximum audience retention. Therefore, optimizers should not expect an easy ride when it comes to cheating ranking algorithms. In some cases, over-optimization still works, but you should not expect long-lasting results.

Black-hat SEO conventionally includes all black-hat optimization techniques based on weaknesses in ranking algorithms. Gray-hat methods are also included in forbidden SEO techniques, but the penalties for the use of these tools may be less severe.

Novice optimizers often do not realize the level of threat hanging over the project after using black-hat approaches. It can cost high positions and accumulated trust.

Google’s algorithms will block a resource without regret, despite the project’s previous history. Even a strong link mass and other advantages of the site will not help.

1.1. Why is it still relevant?

When novice webmasters ask about the feasibility of using black-hat optimization methods, they often get the answer that black-hat techniques still work. But it is worth bearing in mind that each case of successful promotion is unique.

For example, if some webmaster has created 10 doorway websites and was able to successfully promote one project, there is no guarantee that you will be able to repeat this success, even if you know all the details about the optimization scheme.

The fact is that Google’s ranking algorithms decide on sorting the top results individually. In some niches, competition can be very high, and somewhere, there is no competition at all.

There are also niche-specific ranking features. For example, a few years ago, Google added the YMYL algorithm to track the quality of content on sites that can affect people’s health and financial well-being. And today, in YMYL niches, it’s not enough to just write a quality article. It must be expert, truthful, and relevant. If ranking algorithms don’t get proof that these requirements are met, the site will drop far beyond the top 10.

Google’s neural networks are constantly being trained to identify sites that manipulate the weaknesses of ranking algorithms. If they perform poorly, it will negatively impact the user experience.

We cannot say that black-hat methods don’t work at all. Periodically, you may see pages of low-quality resources in a search engine. But that does not mean that any project can be promoted to the top with the help of black-hat SEO.

Gaps in ranking algorithms still exist, but the size of the black entry is getting smaller every year. Therefore, there is no point in counting on quick promotion through over-optimization or a network of doorways.

The best tactic for promotion in 2023 is optimization based on recommendations for webmasters. If you prioritize solving the audience’s problems rather than quick results, you can get more profits in the long term.

It is not necessary to refuse experiments, but it is better not to do them with the main project if there is a risk of being penalized.

2. Black-hat SEO Methods

There are many black-hat SEO techniques, but some of them remain only on webmasters’ blog pages and in old books on optimization. For example, the strategy of using invisible text hardly works anymore.

As for new methods, they barely appear. And even if some gap appears, Google is quick to close it. Algorithms regularly assess the quality of user experience and draw conclusions accordingly.

There are penalties for every black-hat SEO method. The degree of harm to the project depends on several factors. The degree of fault of the resource primarily affects the severity of the search engine’s reaction.

If it is, for example, a technical error in the CMS or module, penalties may be removed after the resource is restored to normal operation. But in cases where there is a clear violation of promotion recommendations for webmasters, you should not count on the leniency of algorithms.

2.1. Broken links

Broken links were popular 10 years ago. This scheme still works today, but the security situation of popular CMS is very different from the 2000s.

If a webmaster informs Google that the project is broken and links were placed without their knowledge, the recipients may not get penalized. It all depends on the specifics of the individual situation.

Buying links from broken sites is unprofitable because, if the resource is controlled by owners, sooner or later the security breach will be closed. And then, link profiles of all those who benefited from the situation will suffer.

2.2. Doorway sites

Doorway websites are low-quality projects with automatically generated content and a template design. They provide minimal value to visitors and do not deserve a commitment to ranking algorithms.

Doorways get to the top through over-optimization. Resource pages are filled with keywords and are not focused on the revelation of search phrases.

The niche of developing doorways is gradually ceasing to exist, but you can still see such projects in search results. Sometimes, they get access to traffic, but the profit is unlikely to be long.

2.3. Cloaking

Cloaking is a black-hat optimization method based on the creation of two versions of pages. Users see standard content, and search crawlers – over-optimized text with a large number of keywords.

Ten years ago, cloaking was actively used for promotion in organic search, but today, it is very risky. Google can impose severe penalties up to the complete blocking of the resource in SERPs.

Tools for cloaking are actively used in contextual advertising to promote gray-hat and black-hat products and services. But even in this case, neural networks and moderators quickly detect manipulation. 

2.4. Link farming

Link farms are created to boost a site’s profile with minimal effort. Instead of building relationships with authority projects, the webmaster focuses on growing the profile quantitatively.

In some cases, link farms produce the desired result, but you should not expect a lasting effect. Search algorithms regularly update link mass data and can check the trust score.

Freelance exchanges and other resources offer to buy links from link farms, and it may be useful for SEO experiments. But their use on the main project is risky. 

2.5. Invisible text or link

Hidden text with keywords is a classic black-hat approach. The method was invented long ago, but it is still used today, although its effectiveness is almost zero due to the constant development of Google ranking algorithms.

Hidden text usually consists of automatically generated content and a certain number of relevant queries. Due to high density, webmasters manage to promote a page to the top with almost no link mass.

Invisible internal links help to distribute SEO juice and boost the right pages. But you should keep in mind that there will be no clicks on such links. Consequently, they will not be of sufficient quality according to search engine algorithms.

2.6. Cheating behavioral factors

User experience is one of the main factors of quality for search engines. If visitors solve their problems with the help of the project, it deserves high positions.

Cheating behavioral factors is one of the most common black-hat SEO methods. Webmasters take such measures when they have problems with promotion or want to experiment.

For Google, behavioral factor cheating is an unacceptable practice. It violates recommendations for webmasters and almost always leads to negative consequences. The affected project can lose its position for many months.

2.7. Using other people’s content

Creating quality content takes a lot of time and money, so webmasters sometimes go the other way. They use text creation tools or partially copy the content of niche competitors.

Obviously, this approach is not white-hat in SEO. Content owners can complain about the theft, and, if there is proof, a filter will be imposed on the site. It can take up to three months for penalties to be removed.

Quality content cannot be created with the help of automation tools, so you should focus on working with creators rather than wasting money buying synonymizers and other software.

AI content generation service

2.8. Link bombing (spam)

Link spam is the creation of a large number of links without regard to the quality of donors. Previously, webmasters used to promote profiles on forums, and after a few days, the site could get thousands of new links.

Today, spam tactics hardly work at all. They may temporarily affect rankings, but you should not consider Google’s neural networks to be underdeveloped. After encountering a site that violates SEO rules, their response may not be immediate, but it will be. 

3. Black-hat SEO Tools 2023

Interest in using black-hat SEO is not waning completely because there are many automation tools available in the public domain. For example, you can set up cloaking for pages in minutes.

A similar situation with cheating behavioral factors. You can order services on the stock exchange or a specialized service. After top-ups, users will begin to come to the site and perform the tasks at hand.

The list of the most popular black-hat tools usually includes:

  1. Xrumer. The program allows you to create links with the right anchors in large numbers.
  2. GSA Search Engine Ranker. This is one of Xrumer’s main competitors, also specializing in link burst creation. The developer offers additional tools to automate link building.
  3. RankerX. The SaaS platform provides links from thousands of resources thanks to automation algorithms.
  4. WordAi. The service allows you to save on content creation. After setup, the system generates content based on preset filters.

RankerX promotional page

On SEO blogs and other niche sites, you can find less popular tools for using black-hat SEO tactics. For example, there are several dozen services and scripts for cloaking.

The general principles of using such software are known even to beginners. If search engine algorithms find evidence of using black-hat methods, the site can lose visibility and traffic permanently or for a long time.

4. Benefits of Black-hat SEO Methods

Webmasters use black-hat SEO because they believe this tool is the fastest path to high positions. But not everyone correctly assesses the degree of risk and harm a site can receive.

In the media, you can read that black-hat methods no longer work, so you can use them for experimentation. But that’s not entirely true – Google actively fights any manifestation of manipulation in SEO.

In theory, black-hat optimization techniques have their benefits. But no one knows how long they will act in the context of a particular resource. Sometimes, sites get banned a few days after the application of prohibited techniques.

4.1. Quick results

When a webmaster creates a new site in a competitive niche, they can obtain stable traffic only after six months or a year. In any case, it is impossible to make an accurate prediction in advance because dozens of factors influence the development of events.

Black-hat methods can reduce the time for promotion through the use of manipulative techniques. For example, if you cannot make the keyword density for quality content high enough, black-hat methods can cope with this task.

If you manage to get traffic as a result of a particular case, the outcome can be both fast and vice versa. When you have to wait several months for traffic, it is better to invest in white-hat optimization.

4.2. Automation possibilities

Dedicated tools provide automation of routine tasks. If they were not available, webmasters would have to do everything manually. For example, a cloak can be created by yourself using ready-made scripts, but it is unlikely to compete with existing software.

This advantage is only of value if using black-hat SEO is beneficial. Otherwise, the expense of buying access to the services will be in vain. It is important to calculate everything in advance and make decisions based on specific facts.

5. Disadvantages of Black-hat SEO Website Promotion

When newcomers are faced with the concept of black-hat SEO, they focus only on benefits. And they forget that all the advantages will be leveled if the site quickly gets subject to penalties and loses authority. Before using prohibited optimization methods, you must examine their features and clearly understand the consequences. Any tactic built on the manipulation of algorithms is harmful to Google.

If users see pages with zero value in a search engine, they develop a negative attitude toward the search engine. And the main task of any search engine is to prevent such cases. 

5.1. Poor liquidity

Even if the webmaster manages to get traffic and positions for relevant queries, they will have difficulty monetizing this. It is unlikely that visitors who see the list of keywords will want to return to the site.

Poor liquidity is one of the main disadvantages of black-hat SEO, which beginners often ignore. Even in the case of doorway websites, monetized by aggressive advertising, the profit in the long term will be less than with white-hat monetization. 

5.2. Poor longevity of outcomes

In 2023, search engine algorithms are still not perfect, but they easily repel head-on attacks. So, do not expect to get results for years to come.

The difficulty in applying black-hat optimization methods is that the project can lose traffic and credibility at any time. And if the penalties are severe, it may be impossible to regain credibility.

5.3. Topic lifecycle

When new black-hat optimization techniques emerge or you can partially reactivate old approaches, you should still consider the short lifecycle of the topic. In some cases, it may only be relevant for a few hours.

Google has great resources and is interested in providing users with a perfect search engine experience. Therefore, any deceptive schemes by webmasters can quickly fall apart. 

6. In What Niches Can You Use Them?

Gray-hat and black-hat optimization methods are especially attractive to those who promote sites in difficult niches. When a project cannot find donors, the owner must make difficult decisions.

For example, previously, it was hard to build a strategy to strengthen the link profile for gambling and betting projects. They were considered gray, and popular media refused to cooperate with them. Today, you can find dozens of such reputable projects with powerful profiles. This has been made possible by the transformation of niches. Betting and other gambling games are no longer perceived as something forbidden. 

6.1. Adult

The promotion of adult projects is very different from working with resources for which all avenues are open. 18+ sites exist mainly thanks to an effective digital marketing strategy, which allows receiving traffic without links.

Black-hat promotion methods in the adult niche often involve link building. In the profiles of such local resources, you can find links from doorway pages, broken projects, and sites without moderation. Keywords on pages are also a very common phenomenon. 

6.2. Gambling

As for the promotion of bookmaker offices and analytical portals, it is unacceptable for them to use black-hat methods in 2023. This niche has already been greatly transformed, so there is no point in fighting for traffic by means of manipulation.

If you open search results for any highly competitive query, there will be dozens of relevant projects with good profiles and high-quality content. These two elements will ensure success in the long term.

6.3. Other gray and black niches that require quick results

Gray and specific niches usually make experienced webmasters want to go the wrong way. And instead of white-hat optimization, they use doorways, cloaking, hidden text, and other tools.

You can only find out in practice whether the use of black-hat optimization methods will be relevant in your particular case. But you should remember the possible devastating consequences for the resource.

7. Basic Penalties

Penalties from search engines are conditionally divided into two groups: temporary and life-long. In the second case, the chances of recovery are close to zero. Even if you manage to reach the support for webmasters, there are no guarantees that they will help. 

Google is interested in each page in the index of the service to reveal the intent of relevant queries. If this condition is not met, it makes no sense to spend resources on indexing.

7.1. Ban

Lifelong project blocking is the most severe format of penalties applied to resources with obvious signs of using black-hat SEO. For example, if the page redirects users to a phishing project and it lasts for many months, it is difficult to overcome penalties.

Sites in the ban cease to exist for search engines. New pages do not get into the index, and the old ones are removed from it. You can forget about the traffic and positions for a long time if the ban was not accidental.

7.2. Filters

Temporary penalties can be imposed by algorithms or assessors who manually check the quality of the resource. In both cases, do not expect the problem to be fixed soon. Algorithmic filters are usually available in the webmaster’s console, so you can learn about them from your dashboard.

Penalties can be removed only after eliminating the causes of their occurrence. If the problem is a spammed profile, it will take a long time to filter and remove spam. The use of Disavow Tools can reduce the time, but there are no guarantees.

8. How to Protect the Site?

It is not possible to 100% protect your project from penalties. Even if you do not use prohibited optimization methods, your competitors may cheat on behavioral factors or damage the link profile.

Search engine algorithms impose penalties based on a set of factors. And it will be difficult to prove that the suspicious activity is not related to the activities of the site owner but is the result of unfair competition.

It is important to keep the situation under control to quickly identify problems. For example, if the pages fall out of the index, you need to respond as soon as possible. Otherwise, valuable time will be lost, and the results may be more severe and long-lasting.

8.1. Set up notifications in Google Search Console

Google sends emails about page problems and penalties. Most algorithmic filters are available in the console, but there may be a delay in updating the data.

If there is no information about the actual violations of the console, the penalties can be manual. You should not rely only on data from Google Search Console because the search engine does not provide comprehensive information. You need to use third-party tools to analyze the site.

8.2. Backlink audit

Backlink audits are standard and should be done at least once a week. And when the profile is growing rapidly, you should analyze it even more often. If the site experiences problems, it’s better to notice them right away.

You should use a combination of Google Search Console and external services to get as much data as possible. Information from the console is very valuable, but you need to see the situation comprehensively.

8.3. Checking for duplicate content

In the content quality checking niche, there are services that periodically scan search results and send messages about copied content. To protect yourself from negative consequences, you need to monitor the site and keep an eye out for updates.

Many webmasters set up DMCA to successfully fight unfair competitors. You should also additionally use other tools. For example, the Copyscape service completely solves the task of monitoring duplicates.

9. What to Do if Black-hat SEO Methods Are Being Used Against You?

It is difficult to protect yourself from the attacks of competitors because they can approach from any direction. It is necessary to be on guard and promptly eliminate the consequences of such attacks. The services listed above help with this.

Some webmasters do not know what black-hat SEO is and encounter problems after the attack is over. For example, if the behavioral factors have been cheated on for more than one month, the consequences can be very bad, and if you notice the problem on the second day, you can minimize the damage caused to the project.

9.1. DMCA

When competitors blatantly steal content and do not place a backlink, you must deal with it. A powerful tool is the DMCA copyright protection system. It allows you to send requests to remove pages that violate copyrights.

DMCA works effectively in niches where projects distribute copyrighted products. For example, if a site shares links to a cracked version of the software, it can be blocked after a complaint. 

9.2. Abuses

If there is evidence that competitors are intentionally trying to destroy a resource, you can try to contact Google. But you can hardly communicate with a moderator.

The search engine has a form for notification of the use of prohibited optimization methods. You can submit a request even without authorization, but there are no guarantees that after reviewing the complaint, appropriate action will be taken.

10. How Has Black-hat SEO Changed in Recent Years?

The importance of black-hat methods in SEO has been steadily decreasing. This is due to improvements in Google’s content ranking algorithms.

All search engines want to eliminate the projects that spoil user experience at all costs. You should clearly understand this before investing in black-hat SEO.

In recent years, Google has taken many steps to reduce the impact of link mass on resource promotion. Hidden text, cloaking, redirects, and other black-hat methods have almost no effect today.

11. Alternative Methods

The only effective alternative to black-hat optimization methods is white-hat SEO. This approach involves active improvement of internal and external optimization to defeat competitors in the battle for traffic.

White-hat SEO is the exact opposite of black-hat SEO. In the aspects where the work is based on manipulation, white-hat methods allow you to act within the official guidelines of Google. This provides a lasting effect.

Instead of investing in acquiring access to black-hat tools, it is better to stack up on backlinks. A powerful link profile will allow you to win in a niche with any level of competition.

PRPosting will help solve all link-building tasks. After registering in the system, you can create a list of donors in a few minutes. Then it remains to add content and send requests for placement. 

11.1. Black-hat SEO vs. White-hat SEO

The division of promotion methods into white, gray, and black is conditional. SEO is a specific industry where optimization approaches are mostly based on accepted norms. At the same time, the situation with the promotion of the site may go against the standards.

The global difference between black-hat and white-hat methods is that the latter ones are focused on solving the audience’s problems, while the former ones are a tool to gain an advantage in the short term.

Promotion by white-hat optimization methods is long, expensive, and difficult, but it’s the only way to get the results you want. At the same time, you should forget about black-hat approaches and not use them. 

12. Conclusions

The importance of black-hat SEO is greatly exaggerated. Today, most of these methods do not work. Consequently, it is better to focus on creating quality content and using effective website promotion tools.


What are black-hat SEO methods?

Black-hat promotion methods are based on the manipulation of ranking algorithms. Webmasters look for gaps through which sites can get traffic faster.

Why should you avoid black-hat SEO methods?

Because they cannot give a lasting effect and reduce the chances of successful promotion of the resource in the future.

What penalties may be applied to the site?

From the temporary absence of page indexing to eternal blocking. It all depends on the severity of violations and the history of the project.

What are the alternatives to using black-hat SEO?

An alternative is white-hat SEO, based on audience needs. Quality content and useful tools will ensure good behavioral factors and commitment to Google.

Kyryk Oleksandr
SEO Consultant

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