7 Bad SEO Tactics that Can Get Your Site Penalized

Louise Armstrong
by Louise Armstrong on March 23, 2012 in Website
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Bad SEO tactics, also known as “black hat” techniques, are still pretty prevalent throughout the Web.  Would you recognize them if you saw them?  An even better question would be—what would you do if your SEO company or webmaster recommended them?

Thanks to the sophistication of today’s search engines, as evidenced by Google’s Panda algorithm (among others), sites utilizing bad SEO are being quickly identified and penalized.  If you don’t want your site to become one of millions of low-quality black hat sites that no longer get found by web searchers, avoid these tactics:

1. Hidden keywords
A favorite device among SEO hacks involves hiding keyword text on the page so that it is only visible to search engines.  Usually this is done by making the text the same color as the background, or by layering it. 

2. Gateway pages
Have you ever clicked on a link that took you to another page that you had to click on to get to the site?  This “gateway page” is heavily keyword-optimized in order to give the site another page by which to rank.  This is meant to trick search engines into ranking an essentially non-relevant page.

3. Comment spam
We’ve all seen it.  The comments made on forums and blogs that are clearly nothing more than keyword-stuffed advertising, trying to get you to click on spam sites that are useless at best, riddled with spyware and other unpleasantries at worse.

4. Poor content quality
While it’s true that “content is king”, it’s also true that bad content doesn’t qualify.  Populating your site with content that is not useful to readers no longer works.  Remember what happened to article directories after the Panda smackdown?

5. Title tag spam
Stuffing keywords into your title tags degrades their value.  Your tags should be unique identifiers for each page on your site, not another opportunity to over-optimize.  And yes, the bots are on to this bad SEO tactic, as well.

6. Automated software
If your SEO service offers it, run for the hills.  Using automated software to both create and submit your pages causes problems that devalue your site.  Repeated submission usually results in being ignored or even penalized as spam.  Creating pages with automated software results in repetitive, non-useful content that gets the same treatment.

7. Generic link and article directories
SEO link directories are like the Yellow Pages of the web.  So, getting a listing on free directories is like getting listed in the phone book.  Does anyone use the phone book any more?  Search engine optimization companies that want to get your listing on as many directories as possible are hoping that you’ll overlook the fact that links from these sites have little value. 

Most article directories, ditto.  Since Panda, many article directories have lost their ranking power due to the fact that they contain a high volume of poor content.  When it comes to links, it’s quality that matters—not quantity.

Bad SEO tactics can really hurt your site.  So, make sure you recognize them when you see them and avoid them like the plague that they are.

Louise Armstrong

Louise Armstrong

Louise is a Senior Digital Strategist at Bonafide. A pop-culture addict with a passion for all things digital. She's Scottish by birth, but don't ask if she likes haggis...