After finally getting a new website up and running, many small business owners breathe a sigh of relief and wait for the traffic to stream in. They are almost always disappointed. Without best-practice, small business SEO, there’s little hope of landing the top page of the organic search results.

So how is that other people talk about paying to land on page one of Google? What about emails from companies guaranteeing to get you there? Beware…they are almost certainly talking about sketchy techniques that are collectively known as black-hat SEO.

Small Business SEO: Avoid Black-Hat Techniques

There are a few ways to distinguish black-hat SEO from white-hat SEO. With black-hat SEO, the focus is on search engine spiders instead of actual human visitors. Techniques are used to trick spiders into awarding higher rankings.

Another way to distinguish black-hat SEO techniques is by considering how quickly they work. A legitimate SEO strategy takes time to produce benefits. Patience is critical and there are NO guarantees. With black-hat SEO, underhanded techniques may produce results quickly but search engines catch on quickly. Once caught, offending sites are pushed down in the rankings or banned altogether.

Common Black-Hat SEO Tactics

To combat black-hat techniques, the major search engines continually tweak their algorithms. Just this year they released Penguin (questionable inbound links), before that it was Panda (aimed at low quality content), and before that … well, let’s just say that ethical practice, aimed adding adding value for customer, wins every time. Here are some of the most common black-hat tricks.

Keyword stuffing: the practice of over-saturating content with high densities of keywords. Always use relevant keywords wisely.

Buying or exchanges links: don’t be sold on buying or exchanging links as an SEO strategy. Go for quality links over quantity every time.

Irrelevant anchor text: the text you use to link to other content is counted by search engines as ‘important’. If you link with words, and the page you link to doesn’t match, that’s not good for end users. Black-hat!

Hidden content: putting keywords in white text on a white background so that they can’t be seen by the human eye.

Doorway page: Also known as bridge page, gateway page, etc — this trick creates a doorway page that spams users by promising one thing but leads to another.

Content manipulation: With the value of unique content so high in search rankings, people have tried to take advantage without actually creating fresh content. Tactics include article spinning (rewriting content so it appears as new) or scraper sites (scrape content from other sites and then serve it up as their own).

These and other black-hat techniques have something in common: They ruin the web-browsing experience for users and put websites in jeopardy of being relegated to the bottom of the heap.

Always Play by the Rules

Search engines are in the business of providing quality search results. It’s critical to follow their guidelines which are intended to give the best user experience possible. With over 80% of the search market, Google Webmaster Guidelines is the best place to start.

Remember, effective SEO strategies take time to produce results. Follow a reputable sources, our blog or elsewhere. Learn as much as you can, sign up for a free 7-day trail with our SEO software. We promise, no black-hat SEO allowed!