Blackhat SEO is a practice which in simple terms tricks search engines to artificially get you better results. So you might be reading this thinking, why wouldn’t I want to do that. It’s not illegal, so are there any repercussions? Well, yes. There are.
Years ago when SEO wasn’t as it is today, law firms could and would get away with tricking Google. In the past decade though, Google has found and closed many of the loopholes that exist around blackhat SEO. Unfortunately though, there are so many law firms that will still fall victim to those same techniques purely by accident. Whilst in the past you might have got away with it, it will now do far more harm than good.
Let’s explore some of the biggest mistakes used in Blackhat SEO, and how you can avoid damaging your SEO.
1) Keyword Stuffing
The technique that law firms are most susceptible to, is keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing is as it sounds, but it’s essentially cramming your main keyword, alongside multiple variations of it into your copy content. Not only does this downgrade the value of your content from an SEO perspective, but it essentially makes your copy unreadable from a user perspective, and ruins your credibility to your audience.
If you look through your content and it doesn’t flow, or you hear the same word a lot, you’ve probably accidentally stuffed your keyword in too much. Google is clever enough to determine if your content seems unnatural. If you’re reading it and it seems odd, then so will Google. Keywords are important. Google depends on keywords (alongside other SEO) to determine what is on your web page. That’s why people make the mistake of just shoving in more and more variations of your keyword thinking it’s better.
“A copywriter walks into a bar/pub/grill/restaurant/free-house/tavern/club/inn etc.” You get the point. Cramming in additional words that add no value to your content and only serve to frustrate your reader won’t be good for your SEO.
You may have noticed a pattern here, but basically everything necessary for good SEO can get you in trouble if you do it wrong. Backlink portfolios are essential for your domain authority and will do wonders for your SEO strategy. There isn’t however a shortcut you can take when it comes to backlinks. Google uses links as a vote of confidence that your site/page is authoritative because this other page (that is also authoritative) says so.
Using fake/weak links and trying to shortcut this process will not work, and once again will do more harm than good. The only shortcuts to generating great backlinks are to 1) create great content and start generating links naturally, and optionally 2) Invest in a PR strategy to grow a reputable source of backlinks off the back of your great content.
There are a lot of directories, and legal databases that are reputable and credible, and these could be great for your portfolio. There will however be a lot that aren’t reputable whatsoever. This is where you want to take caution. Generally speaking don’t do any of the following:
- Buy or sell backlinks
- Do excessive “link exchanges” with other domains. I’ll link you if you link me
- Use automated programmes or directories to get you backlinks
As part of a PR strategy you might end up offering or exchanging goods and services for free ‘link juice’, but you should always ensure that you’re getting a credible link in return.
3) Scraping & Repeated Content
It’s important to note that scraping doesn’t just mean stealing from other parts of the internet. Many law firms will repeat content within their own website. Modifying content slightly by using a few synonyms will lead to penalties. You cannot copy content within your website from page to page, whether that’s body copy, videos, imagery, or media. Naturally, avoiding overlapping content is pretty impossible, but a ratio of 80:20 unique to repeated content is really the minimum you should be striving for.
Google needs to see original content to rank your site well. If every page on your site is just an amalgamation of the same few words and videos with some synonyms thrown in, your site will struggle to perform. Once again your user experience and credibility will also be massively boosted if each page on your site provides them with new information.
4) Blog Networks
Blogging is one of the best forms of content for your SEO. You can create great content and answer questions that your audience really wants to see. You have the freedom to create anything from anyone. Guest blogging is also a great option to improve your link portfolio, expand your audience, and gain valuable insight from other experts.
Blog networks however, should be avoided. Typically this is where a bunch of blog sites all connect in a big loop to one another in an attempt to provide ‘link juice’ to everyone involved. Google can identify when pages link within the same network of blogs, and will penalise websites that do this. Your blog outreach needs to point in multiple different directions and not in a circle.
5) Technical Cloaking & Structured Data
I’m running on the assumption that people who know about technical SEO, are also going to know that they shouldn’t be trying to trick search engines. Generally speaking therefore, these mistakes are far less common.
In layman’s terms though, several such methods that have been used in the past for Blackhat SEO are:
- Showing different URLs to site visitors depending on if they were a real human or a Google crawling bot. This is known as cloaking.
- Using fake reviews to deceive bots about what is on certain web pages.
- Redirecting visitors to a new URL than the original indexed URL they clicked on
Blackhat SEO Final Thoughts
SEO is quite simple in reality. The main rules are more or less common sense, but fundamentally you need to be authentic. Authentic with your content, authentic with your link portfolio, and authentic by not trying to cheat the search engines. Making simple blackhat SEO mistakes will end up hurting your overall SEO strategy, so try to ensure these mistakes are cut out and you’ll see your rankings improve for certain!