Recently updated on August 8th, 2022
Let’s be honest – growing and marketing a business can be extremely challenging. Even the best marketing team with years of marketing experience often finds it difficult to keep up with the latest marketing trends. When things get tough, it can be tempting to find shortcuts to achieving your business goals.
While marketing isn’t a game, there are many ways to try and cheat your way to success using black hat techniques. Sometimes these marketing tactics can get you results, but they’re likely going to negatively impact your marketing efforts – in the short and long term.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common black hat marketing strategies, why they can hurt your business, and ways you can create sustainable marketing campaigns that continuously hit your target audience to promote your products and services.
What Is Black Hat Marketing?
Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is black hat marketing?
Black hat marketing uses strategies that are unethical and manipulative. Think of it kind of like cheating or breaking the law. While the occasional person gets away with it, you’re almost guaranteed to get caught.
If you do see results from these tactics, the success is very often short-lived. Once the benefits wear off, you’re likely to find long-term consequences that affect your future marketing efforts.
If you stumble upon a digital marketing idea that seems too good to be true, it might just fall into the category of black hat marketing.
Black Hat SEO Strategies
Search Engine Optimization is a very tactical marketing strategy. It relies on marketers to have a deep knowledge of the search engine algorithm and an understanding of user search behaviors.
Unlike PPC, SEO is also a long-term content marketing strategy. It can take months (or even years) of dedication to build a strong search presence. Understandably, this is frustrating to many marketers and business owners.
Here are some of the most common black hat SEO strategies:
One of the first things anyone learns about SEO is the importance of keywords. While they are important, some content writers like to over-optimize by stuffing too many keywords into one post. This includes too many of the same keyword or even too many different (and irrelevant) keywords.
Google and other search engines favor content that provides a great user experience. Their algorithms are reviewing your content as a whole to understand if it brings true value to the end-user. By focusing on the user experience, you’re more likely to see long-term results.
Backlinks (AKA inbound links) are links from one website to another. These links to your website are one of the ways Google and other search engines determine the authority of your website and the quality of your content. However, search engines don’t just consider quantity. They also look at the quality of your backlinks.
It’s common for marketers to engage in tactics to generate as many backlinks as possible. You might even see some short-term results! However, once Google flags these links as toxic, you’ll start to see your results decrease in ranking. In some situations, they might disappear from the SERP altogether.
Some popular link-building strategies that can hurt your SEO include:
- Buying backlinks – search engines can identify when they think you’ve purchased (or even traded) backlinks. They don’t view these links favorably.
- Link farming – creating a bunch of websites to generate links to one another.
- Irrelevant backlinks – this includes links that come from sites that feel completely unnatural. (i.e., A backlink to your makeup store from a home improvement blog.)
- Link spam – commenting or adding links to your site across different blogs or websites.
If you’re not sure if you have a healthy mix of backlinks, consider doing a backlink audit. This way you can remove any toxic links and identify new opportunities for better link building.
Other SEO/SEM Tactics to Avoid:
There are many other black hat SEO strategies you should avoid. These often result in low-ranking content or content that loses its position very quickly.
- Content scraping – stealing content from other websites or brands and using that content to try to rank your site. Duplicate content or plagiarizing can
- Content spinning – using content you’ve already published and re-wording it to rank for different keywords (or topics)
- False marketing – this can include anything from using irrelevant “clickbait-y” headlines to switching out high-ranking valuable content with sales pitches.
If you continuously engage in black hat SEO strategies, your site is likely to be punished long-term. Making it difficult (or impossible) to rank, even with quality content.
Black Hat Social Media Strategies
Social media has become one of the trendiest (and most effective) marketing channels. However, it’s always changing, and staying on top of marketing trends requires a lot of thought and effort.
Many marketers have found ways to try and ‘beat’ the social media algorithm. Here are some of the most popular tactics.
Follower count is an important metric for businesses active on social media. It can be a huge indicator of brand awareness and success. It can be tempting to buy more followers to improve your success.
While this can improve your follower count, it doesn’t do anything for your business. These followers won’t be engaged or care to interact any further. The low engagement will also be poorly favored by social media platforms, making it difficult to grow further. Plus, these days it’s easy for the average user to find out if you’ve purchased followers, which can be very damaging for your brand.
Instead, focus on creating genuine and valuable content. While it might take time to grow a following, you’ll see better engagement and build a quality audience.
Engaging with your audience is a great way to boost your social media performance. However, many marketers take this too far – turning it into spam.
There are many ways of social media engagement that are considered spam:
- Irrelevant posting – posting content that is not relevant to your business just to increase the amount of content being posted.
- Fake engagement – liking or commenting on a large amount of random or irrelevant content to generate awareness, manually or through automated bots
- Following & unfollowing – following random accounts then unfollowing once they follow you back.
When engaging in spam activity, you run the risk of getting banned (temporarily or even permanently) or creating poor brand perception. No one wants to do business with a brand that is creating spam.
Instead, engage with users on social media thoughtfully. Reach out to users who post relevant content, respond to comments on your posts, and continue to focus on your own social media content strategy.
Black Hat Marketing – Is It Worth It?
While many of these strategies might provide good results short-term, you’re likely to see a negative impact on your business long-term. For most legitimate businesses, it makes more sense to focus on effective strategies. You’ll find that the growth is more sustainable and see a better return on your efforts – even if it takes just a little bit longer!
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