If you are a business owner who is thinking of employing an SEO agency to help boost your rankings, as with everything that might be done online, there is right way and a wrong way to do it. We’ll come on to the right way shortly, but first, it’s only fair that we outline what the wrong way is, and more importantly how it can seriously damage your business.

We are talking about ‘Black Hat’ SEO and as the name might suggest it is an area of SEO that attracts all kinds of undesirables from chancers to outright scammers. It must be said that if you were to speak to Google, they might tell you ‘All’ SEO is wrong, simply because they do not want to see any actions which influence their search results. That being said they actually rely on SEO and organic searches, as it allows them to also show their paid results, and in turn, earn the billions of dollars that they do.

Where Google most certainly come down hard is when they find websites that try to rank themselves using SEO techniques that they have explicitly stated is against their terms of service. In other words, you could say that these black hat SEO tactics are outlawed, and just as with outlaws in classic Western movies, websites that break Google’s ‘laws’ normally end up getting caught and being punished.

Using black hat SEO may not necessarily be a crime that you could go to jail for unless it was being used as part of some kind of online criminal activity such as fraud. Nevertheless, the penalties that Google can impose on any website are severe and more often than not, final. The fallout from them can mean that a business’s online presence disappears completely, and if that business relies on their website for leads, customers, and sales, the hit is even more traumatic.

If Google believes that a website is using black hat tactics, it can be as a result of a manual review by one of its staff, or as a result of its spiders and algorithms flagging something. The action it then takes will be based mainly on the severity of the issue as it sees it.

It is possible that the website in question will have its ranking lowered for the keyword or keywords that the issue was found to be in relation to. If the keyword is one with a high search volume that can mean a dramatic drop in traffic for the website.

A drop from position 2 to position 5, might not seem much on paper, but it can mean a drop in hundreds of thousands of visitors every single day for high search volume keywords. Dropping from page 1 or 2 to page 3 and below could reduce traffic from a flow to a trickle.

The ultimate sanction Google can take is to delist a website from its results completely. In other words, you could search from page one to page 100 and you wouldn’t find the website in the search results. At this point, as far as Google is concerned the website doesn’t exist.

The sorts of tactics that can result in these penalties are designed to short cut the ranking process and basically trick google into giving a website a higher ranking than it truly deserves. One of the core methods of black hat activities is paid links. The reason is it used is because Google relies on backlinks throughout the internet to establish the relevance and importance of a website. Obviously the higher these are, the higher a website will rank.

By buying links, the hope is that Google will rank a site higher, as it will see those links going to it. The problem for the black hat brigade is that Google’s system is constantly updated to look for and identify paid links. It finds them with regularity, and as a result, the links are either ignored, so the money paid for them is wasted, or they will penalise the website.

This is all entirely unnecessary because it is possible to rank a website highly, and even in the top 3 spots, for multiple search terms by using legitimate SEO methods. The best way is to employ an SEO expert or agency who know what works, what doesn’t and what is allowed, thus ensuring your website, and your business, is never at risk from a Google penalty.