Black Hat SEO: What It Is and How It Can Hurt Your Affiliate Site

The more traffic on your affiliate site, the better. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can help boost your site’s page rankings, and attract more visitors. However, search engines are also designed to punish sites using specific types of SEO tactics.

Luckily, there are clear guidelines you can follow to avoid using these ‘black hat’ SEO techniques. This will ensure that your site is not being pushed down in the rankings by factors within your control, and can help you attract a wider audience to your affiliate website.

This article will go over what black hat SEO is, discuss the factors search engines use to decide whether or not your content is ‘spammy,’ and explain how you can avoid any negative tactics you might be using unintentionally. Let’s get started!

A Primer on Black Hat Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

It’s important to understand ‘black hat’ Search Engine Optimization (SEO), before you can learn how to avoid it. The term itself originated with the black hats villains often wore in old movies, and is meant to signify techniques one might use to ‘cheat’ the system.

One example of a black hat SEO tactic would be intentionally overloading your text with highly-searched keywords in an attempt to drive lots of traffic to your site, a practice known as ‘keyword stuffing’. This generally creates hard-to-read, unnatural content that’s not very valuable to readers.

In contrast, more genuine uses of SEO techniques are referred to as ‘white hat’. The white hat alternative to keyword stuffing would be to write text primarily focused on what’s important to your readers, working in keywords only when it is natural to do so.

How Search Engines Judge Your Content

You might be wondering where and how search engines draw the line between black hat and white hat SEO. The primary difference between the two is in the value you’re adding for your visitors. SEO favors fresh, original content. On the other hand, it punishes tactics that involve scamming the system, trying to boost page rankings without necessarily offering additional value.

That isn’t to say that black hat SEO is always intended as malicious. You may be using some of these techniques already, without being aware of it. Whatever your motives, however, you’ll want to learn about and avoid black hat tactics, as they will usually lower your rankings. In turn, that means viewers will be less likely to find your site via organic searches, which can cause your page views (and affiliate sales) to drop.

3 Black Hat Tactics You Might Be Using (And How to Avoid Them)

Now that we’ve covered why black hat SEO is undesirable, let’s get a little more practical. In general, to avoid black hat SEO, you should focus as much on quality as you do on optimization. More specifically, however, here are three of the most common SEO mistakes to avoid.

1. Keyword Stuffing

We briefly touched on keyword stuffing already. This is the practice of overusing keywords, especially when they’re not relevant to your content. In turn, keywords are commonly searched-for words or phrases, which you can add to your site to help search engines figure out what your content is all about.

Search engines detect keyword stuffing by finding frequently-repeated words or phrases, or lists of keywords without any context at all. When you abuse keywords this way, it creates bloated text that’s hard to read and sounds unnatural. Worse, if you use keywords that aren’t related to your text, you may be leading your visitors towards content they weren’t looking for, decreasing its relevance.

You can avoid keyword stuffing by focusing on writing text in a natural way, and only mentioning keywords when they fit in organically. You also want to provide valuable content. For example, if you were selling a 100% silk sweater, it’s not enough to simply repeat the phrase “100% silk sweater” over and over again.

Instead, you might want to write a description about the organic, eco-friendly conditions the silk worms were raised in, or a blog post about outfit pairings that are cute for spring, and work in mentions of the sweater as relevant. Ultimately, content comes first – and then keywords.

2. Abusing Anchor Text

Another tactic you’ll want to watch out for is overusing anchor text. Anchor text is the word or phrase a link is attached to, and can be beneficial in link building – an important part of the SEO process.

If you are writing an article, and it touches on content you’ve already written on your site, it’s useful to post a select number of links back to that content. Links can also be used to point towards external sites, and even for advertisements.

However, there are right and wrong ways to use links on your site. For example, behavior that’s interpreted as spammy includes creating many links containing the exact same anchor text. Stuffing your text with similar links can tank your site’s SEO, just as with keywords.

What’s more, as an affiliate site, your reputation is paramount. If your site looks spammy, businesses and affiliates may not want to be associated with your brand. Having an overabundance of links to low-quality content can lower your brand’s reputation, and its overall influence.

You can avoid this black hat tactic by focusing on only including links where relevant, and pointing towards high-quality sources. For each link you add, think to yourself – will this create value for my visitors and/or affiliates? In addition, make sure to vary your anchor text, rather than using the same phrases over and over again.

3. Copied Content

Finally, copied content is another SEO killer. Remember back in school when you needed to produce original work or risk expulsion? Duplicate content must be avoided here as well, as it can lower your SEO rankings significantly.

Some website owners will copy text exactly from other sites, which is obviously a bad idea. However, even if you’re not doing that, search engine algorithms might still see your site as copied content. For example, if it has multiple pages that contain the same or similar text, they may show up as duplicates. This can happen if you have one copy of your website with the www extension and one without, or if you have a mobile version of your site and another version for desktops.

To avoid this, one solution is to use canonical links to tell search engines when you have multiple versions of the same content on your own website. In other words, this is a way to let search engines know you’ve intentionally created duplicate versions of pages, as for a mobile site, so that it isn’t assumed to be a black hat tactic.

Conclusion

Using strong SEO techniques is vital to the success of your affiliate program. The lower your SEO is, the less likely it will be that anyone sees your affiliate site’s content. At the same time, you can overdo your efforts in this area.

Fortunately, you can easily avoid the most common black hat SEO tactics. To recap, you’ll want to:

  1. Use keywords only where relevant and natural.
  2. Incorporate links strategically, and don’t repeat the same anchor text ad nauseam.
  3. Avoid duplicate content, or indicate clearly when it’s been created for a purpose.

Do you have any other questions about how to stay away from black hat SEO? Let us know in the comments section below!