SEO Glossary / Black-Hat SEO

Black-Hat SEO

What is Black-Hat SEO?

Black-hat SEO refers to practices aimed at increasing a website’s ranking in search results through methods that violate search engine policies. Black-hat SEO attempts to manipulate search engines and send organic search traffic to low-quality or even malicious websites.

Why is Black-Hat SEO a Risky Gamble?

Although Google has made significant progress in fighting spam and questionable SEO tactics through its algorithms, black-hat SEO continues to exist and can be effective in certain industries. However, using such tactics carries substantial risks, such as facing manual actions (penalties) or algorithmic actions if the website is detected engaging in these practices.

While black-hat SEO can work in the short run, it is a gamble. Building your website on a foundation of these tactics is like building a house of cards that can collapse due to a manual action or a new spam algorithm update. If this occurs, all your black-hat SEO efforts will be in vain.

The Most Prominent Black-Hat SEO Tactics

It's important to be aware of the most prominent black-hat SEO tactics to know which activities to avoid. Here are five of the most common black-hat tactics:

Buying links involves paying another website owner to include a backlink to your website from one of their pages. Because links are among the most important ranking factors for Google and because white-hat link building is neither easy nor cheap, many website owners opt to expedite the process by buying links. This can work if Google doesn’t catch you, but buying links is against Google's Spam Policies.

2. Using PBNs

Private Blog Networks (PBNs) are groups of websites created solely to link out to other websites, passing on link equity to artificially boost their domain authority and search visibility. While PBNs can temporarily boost your domain rating and search rankings, they can backfire if they draw Google’s attention.

3. Using Computer-Generated Content

AI-written content is a trending topic in SEO today. Google is not against AI-generated content if it provides value and is of high quality. However, Google’s spam policies specifically prohibit spammy automatically-generated content, which includes:

  • Auto-translated content without human review
  • Content spinning
  • Keyword-stuffed computer-generated text

4. Negative SEO

Negative SEO involves tactics designed to sabotage a competitor’s website and damage its search rankings. This may include pointing spammy irrelevant links to a site, scraping content to create duplicates, or hacking into a site to make on-page changes. Although a threat, Google is generally adept at ignoring negative SEO.

Paid links and PBNs are not the only types of black-hat SEO link building. Other tactics include:

  • Excessive link exchanges
  • Excessive guest posting campaigns
  • Comment spam
  • Overoptimized anchor texts

Google prefers natural linking from real users who find a website or webpage valuable. Engaging in "unnatural linking" practices puts your website’s search rankings at risk.


What is Grey Hat SEO?

Grey hat SEO is a combination of SEO methods that are considered both white hat and black hat. It is risky because it includes many of the same tactics that black-hat SEO does, though not necessarily to the same degree.

What is White Hat SEO?

White hat SEO encompasses tactics that adhere to the expectations and rules of search engines like Google. It focuses on providing high-quality and relevant content and an optimized user experience rather than relying on tricks or hacks that exploit search engine algorithms. White-hat SEO is more sustainable and effective for long-term growth.

Is Black Hat SEO Illegal?

No government laws regulate SEO practices. However, some black-hat SEO tactics, such as hacking and stealing intellectual property, are illegal. To avoid any legal issues, it’s best to steer clear of black-hat SEO practices altogether.


If you’re serious about your website and expect it to grow and generate increased traffic over time, limit yourself to white-hat SEO activities. White-hat SEO is reliable and provides cumulative benefits as your efforts scale and add up, making it a safer and ultimately more effective approach than black-hat SEO tactics.

For more information on ethical SEO practices, refer to sources like Google's Search Central Blog and Ranktracker's Guide to SEO.