Believe it or not, these two ways of thinking about SEO are not interchangeable. While it’s true that “bad SEO” could be an umbrella term with Black Hat tactics falling somewhere underneath, looking at black hat SEO practices and bad SEO practices differently can help you make sure you’re following the rules completely and don’t miss a beat.

In other words, many businesses tend to focus on one and let the other slide thinking they’re covered and then get in trouble in the end. It’s important that you’re first avoiding black hat SEO methods and second making sure you’re steering clear of bad SEO if you want a successful strategy overall.

Black Hat SEO Specifics

Black hat tactics are just that—tactics. This means certain actions that a Webmaster takes in order to trick search engine bots into thinking something that isn’t true so that their website can get better rankings. For example, a website may create a webpage for a term they know they can rank well for and then they’ll optimize that page for that term. In reality they are just creating that page so they can try and send visitors to another webpage or domain. It might be irrelevant and not tell readers what they wanted to know when they click on the link in the first place. These are called doorway pages.

In the process of putting these methods to use, readers are usually tricked as well. Below are some of the most popular, oldest-trick-in-the-book black hat tactics:

  • Hidden Text
  • Doorway Pages
  • Cloaking
  • Link Farms
  • Buying and/or Selling Links
  • Link Exchanges
  • Content Duplicating and Spinning
  • Keyword Stuffing
  • Comment Spamming

Of course all of the tactics above have been used for a while, so even if you do try and be successful, it likely won’t work for long. Google is onto many of these practices and have algorithms and blocks in place to make sure that websites are not getting incorrectly ranked.

However, because spammers and Webmasters are always looking for shortcuts and ways to beat the system, new black hat tactics pop-up all the time on the Internet. It’s important to understand these tactics so that you’re not accidentally using them, so check out some of the most recent schemes below:

  • Page swapping
  • Parasite hosting
  • Typosquatting/ domain squatting
  • Web rings
  • Poor footer links
  • Cookie Stuffing
  • Unrelated Keywords

If you don’t know what exactly all of the terms mean above or need a brush up on black hat SEO, visit here for a list of the most popular and common terms and here for an explanation of some of the newer tactics.

Bad SEO Examples and Explanations

Bad SEO is definitely a combination of a lot of bad tactics, including black hat tactics, but it can encompass more than that. You can be completely free of using what are labeled “black hat tactics” and still have bad SEO, which is why it’s so important to understand some of the differences. Of course this depends on your definition of “black hat,” but for the most part bad SEO isn’t doing one specific no-good thing—it’s the actions that you take as a whole.

Below are a few scenarios where a website might be practicing bad SEO:

  • Optimizing for search engine bots and not readers. This means you might create a piece of content free of all the black hat tactics above, but if it’s not engaging, not well-written, and/or not covering a relevant topic to readers, your SEO will suffer in the end because you won’t get many natural links.
  • Publishing anything outdated. You can do this, but again it’s not going to help you earn natural links and it could cause you to lose some credibility with readers. Always spend the time checking your facts.
  • Being lazy with your website design. Always remember that website navigation and architecture matters!
  • Referencing spammy links. Again, maybe the website isn’t selling the links, there was no buying involved, you may not have gotten a link back in return, it’s just a spammy website. Usually Webmasters can tell if a website is spammy, but sometimes websites become spammy, so you have to be careful when you link back somewhere the first time. This can come back to bite you.

In the end, if you want to think of everything mentioned above as either “black hat” or “bad SEO,” then you can. The most important thing to takeaway from this article is that you understand all of the different problems that can happen with your SEO, and not just one category or the other. If you’ve been steering clear of everything mentioned above but have been classifying all of the actions as “black hat” then that’s okay, just keep at it.

What do you think the difference between bad SEO and black hat tactics is? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.