7 Black Hat Link-Building Techniques You Should Avoid

7 Black Hat Link-Building Techniques You Should Avoid


Backlinks are a vital factor when it comes to a website’s ranking on search engines. Optimizing your website and improving relevance through link-building is crucial for business growth, but not at all costs. 

“Black hat” link-building refers to harmful methods you should avoid using to maintain your website’s authority and reputation. These techniques might seem fast and easy at first, but they can harm your brand image in the long run. Black hat link-building is unnatural, unethical and can lead to penalizations from Google and loss of profits for your company.

Let’s learn more about the seven most harmful black hat link-building techniques that can ultimately lead to your site losing search rankings, visibility, and traffic.

  1. Using Private Blog Networks

There are many strategies and techniques for SEO link building, and it is easy to fall into the trap of using harmful or “black hat” ones if you aren’t well informed.

One of these harmful techniques is obtaining links through private blog networks. The term “private blog network” (PBN) refers to a group of websites that have the same owner and serve the specific purpose of providing links to a primary website, often referred to as the “money site.” 

Private blog networks are usually set up by buying expired domain names that have built up SEO-worthiness over the years and have high-rank authority. Because of this characteristic, PBNs can help boost the authority of the “money site,” at least for a limited time. Why is this technique considered “black hat” and against Google’s rules?

Backlinks are the main ranking factor for Google and its algorithm. Google understandably wants to provide users with the most relevant and reliable results to their queries. Every natural link to your site is an endorsement and proof that people can trust you as a source. PBNs violate this trustworthiness principle, as they are manipulative and unnatural.

While Google might never discover some PBNs, relying on such a sketchy technique is still too big of a risk. If Google finds your PBN, all the SEO you invested in will be negated. The entire structure will crumble, and your website will lose all the credibility you tried hard to achieve. 

Getting natural backlinks as a new business takes a lot of work and patience, especially in highly saturated fields. It might seem like a good idea to try and get faster results. But with such significant risks to your business, using PBNs isn’t worth it in the long run. 

  1. Comment Section Spamming

Most blog posts have a comment section where users can leave comments and links to their articles or websites. It is entirely acceptable to leave comments, but only in moderation and if they’re highly relevant to the topic. However, spamming comment sections with links and promotional, automated posts is a tactic that will do much more harm than good.

This link-building technique might be affordable and accessible, but users frown upon spam as it seems highly sketchy and untrustworthy. You also have a high chance of getting penalized by Google and harming your reputation and authority.

  1. Buying Low-Quality Backlinks 

As previously mentioned, getting natural backlinks is very challenging, so many companies opt for exchanging backlinks with other websites to boost their rankings. Although paying for backlinks isn’t illegal, Google advises against such practices.

To save money, website owners sometimes buy backlinks from websites that are unrelated to their niche and have very little authority.  However, this strategy will likely lose you money in the long run.

The key to obtaining quality backlinks is reaching out to sites that post content relevant to your industry. You need to exchange high-quality, contextual links placed within well-written articles. Try to find companies that post content relevant to your field, reach out to them, and pitch a meaningful reason why they should link to your website. HARO is a great platform for doing so.

  1. Keyword and Link Stuffing

Getting keywords right is crucial for the rankings of your website. You need to place them carefully and sparsely to achieve the best results. However, black hat link builders tend to put too many keywords and links into their content, making it sound unnatural and prone to getting penalized by Google. 

Stuffing content with excessive keywords can render your content unreadable and weaken user experience. When users discover that the content on a website is spammy and illegible, they usually leave immediately.

When engaging in link building, ensure those blog posts don’t have too many keywords and links. Also, keywords and links should be placed logically and only if they are relevant to the topic you discuss in the article.

  1. Cloaking

Another risky SEO  technique, “cloaking,” refers to showing one piece of content to users and a different piece of content to search engine bots.

Websites that use black hat techniques SEO will use cloaking to make content rank for various keywords. Spam websites will frequently do this to avoid a search engine bot discovering low-quality content they put out. It is also often used to mask affiliate links and gain customers’ trust. 

Some forms of “cloaking” are acceptable as long as you don’t change the content for search engine crawlers. For example, you can change the language of a page based on the country someone is accessing it from. But using cloaking in service of deceiving, and misleading users is highly unethical, leads to penalties by Google, and diminishes your brand image.

  1. Misleading 301 Redirects

A 301 is an HTTP status code that indicates a redirect from one URL to another. Simply put, a 301 code ensures that when a user requests an old URL, they will get an immediate redirect to the new one.

Redirects commonly happen when you move or remove a website page or change your domain name. Redirects are a regular occurrence and are so quick that users are usually unaware of them. They might not even notice that the URL differs from the one they clicked on or typed in. 

However, people sometimes use redirects in a sneaky way that misleads the users. For example, they might redirect a highly authoritative web page with many backlinks to another irrelevant page to try and boost its position in search results. Similar to cloaking, this can include redirecting a search engine crawler to one page and all other users to another page. 

7. Negative SEO

Negative SEO entails creating a large number of black hat links to your competitor’s site and then reporting it to have them penalized. Black hat link builders sometimes sell these low-quality spam links. Engaging in these tactics is obviously very cruel and unethical. 

Luckily, Google’s algorithm aims to devalue spam rather than the entire website domain. It is getting better at determining whether a website is acquiring low-quality links to manipulate rankings or is a victim of a negative SEO attack. Also, websites can audit their backlink profile to detect and remove any harmful links.

Keep Your Brand Image in Mind

Utilizing clean, sustainable white-hat link-building strategies is necessary to follow Google’s guidelines and keep up with its ever-changing and improving algorithms. Some marketers might mislead you and offer black hat link-building techniques that seriously harm your business. Now that you know more about risky and unethical link-building, you can prevent negative consequences.

Stay informed, play fair, and communicate with your SEO services provider about their methods.