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The Internet is saturated with online businesses, each scrabbling for higher search engine rankings in order to draw in more customers. When faced with such stiff competition, the dark side of SEO can be very tempting for driving traffic to your website. Black hat SEO techniques promise quick results for comparatively little effort. You can even hire people to do it for you, if you want to keep your hands “clean” and disavow knowledge that these shady strategies were done with your knowledge.

It’s a temptation that you have to fight if you want your business to last and to thrive in the online marketplace. While there are very real positives to black hat SEO, there are far more negatives—and big ones at that.

The Effects Don’t Last

Although black hat techniques like keyword spamming and link farming can shoot your rankings up in fairly short order, they’re unlikely to bring you any higher in the long run just like with over marketing. That is because these techniques are relying on “fixed” sources to work. For example, if a website wants to increase a link farm’s effectiveness, the owner has to set up another link farm to do it. And so on and so forth, adding farm after farm, and spending more.

A site grown organically, on the other hand, increases in ranking over time by building relationships with real websites. These “genuine links” count higher towards a website’s search score than fake links (and yes, search engines can tell the difference). Other white hat techniques bring genuine traffic that increases your rankings and, more importantly, helps deliver more sales.

Black Hat Techniques are Unreliable

Many think they’re clever when they’re using black hat techniques—that they’ve found a sneaky way to get ahead of both their competitors and the search engine companies. In reality, search engine companies are way ahead of the black hatters. Most, if not all, black hat techniques are already known, and search engines are programmed to detect and flag websites that use them. To combat keyword spamming, certain search engines are ordered not to read keywords at all, and instead rate a website based on other factors such as interlinking and content quality.

It’s Bad for the Customer

One of the ironclad criteria that search engine developers use when assessing a website (and determining if something is black hat or not) is the question, “Is this helping the visitor?”

Most black hat website SEO techniques are crass, ugly, and do nothing to improve a visitor’s experience. Some websites have almost a thousand words of text that is just an excuse to cram it full of keywords. It’s a pain to read, and few customers are going to want to do business with that kind of website. What’s the use of being easy to find when the website turns people off? You have to listen to your customer and tweak your SEO campaigns.

Harsh Penalties

Search engine companies hate black hat SEO with a vengeance. They have very strict rules about what constitutes a “good” website, and impose harsh penalties on people caught raising their search engine ranks via illegal methods. Most of them give you a grace period for you to get your website up to their standards, but noncompliance gets you removed from their search engine or, in extreme cases, shut down entirely.

As I mentioned, search engine companies already know most of the tricks. It’s not a matter of if they find you; it’s when.

So does black hat SEO still sound good to you?

Mash Bonigala

Mash B. is the Founder & Creative Director of Logo Design Works. Since 1998, Mash has helped thousands of businesses express their brand messages through creative and award winning logo designs.