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Look Out for These 5 Signs of Black Hat SEO

black hat seo
Black hat SEO techniques will hurt your rankings and your business. Here’s how to spot them.
Black hat SEO refers to unethical practices to help a website rank higher in Google. Often times, a website doesn’t even know it’s suffering from black hat search engine optimization — and being penalized for it.

Though black hat can temporarily help a website rank higher in Google, search engines will ultimately demote it for bad practice. You need to know how to identify black hat SEO techniques. Here are five signs to look for in your website and others.


by Scott McGovern
CONTRIBUTOR
Founder of crypto site Blocklr & Growth Nuts, an organic growth co.
7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


What Is Black Hat SEO?

SEO, which stands for search engine optimization, is the process of designing a website to rank higher in search engines like Google, Amazon or the App store. It’s an innovative way to “optimize” content, whether you’re a media company or an online retailer, to drive traffic organically instead of paying steep advertising fees.

There are two main kinds of search engine optimization: white hat and black hat SEO. White hat websites use legitimate techniques to rank for keywords that are relevant to its content. Black hat content is geared towards search engines, not humans. This means misleading both the reader and the algorithms.

You can’t afford the stigma of black hat SEO.

There are two big reasons why you should avoid deceptively optimizing your website. First, it creates a terrible user experience. Ever clicked on a website and found that the content mismatches the headline you read in Google? This does not foster long-term business growth, never mind the fact that it’s unethical.

Second, search engines will demote your website, which will tank your traffic. A decade ago, most search engine optimization was of this unethical kind because it’s easier than staying up to date on the top SEO marketing trends of 2019. Google and other search engines now have sophisticated algorithms for uncovering black hat SEO, so the danger of deceptively optimizing your website far outweigh the benefits.

Here are the most common black hat SEO techniques you should look for.

Paid links

Link popularity is one of the ways that Google ranks websites. The more websites link to yours, and the better the domain authority of those websites, the more authoritative Google will consider you to be.

According to Google’s own definition, a paid link is a link you bought with money or goods. Today, Google devotes significant resources to shutting down link farms and paid links but you don’t need SEO tools to determine if a website is buying links.

First, look at the “anchor text,” which is the wording that is hyperlinked. If the text seems random with no connection to the link (or apparent use for it), it could be bought. Next, consider the number of links on a page. If a page is full of randomly linked text, they’re most likely paid links.

For a more granular search, there are SEO tools for spotting paid links. The best SEO tools to help you rank higher in Google will create a full link profile for your website or others. Among other things, this can tell you how many back links a website has and where those back links are coming from.

Typically, people buy links in bulk. If you see that a website has a laundry list of back links coming from blogs or other sites with very little authority, chances are that at least some of them are bought.

Related: 5 Red Flags That Can Destroy Your Google Ranking

Keyword Stuffing

“Keyword stuffing” is when a keyword appears on a website an inordinate number of times in order to have it rank higher in Google search. It’s one of the most common black hat SEO techniques. Ever read a keyword or phrase out of context or unnaturally phrased? This could be keyword stuffing.

Keyword stuffing can be tough to identify because Google regularly changes its definition of what percentage of text should incorporate your keyword. The best way to identify keyword stuffing is to look for it in key places like the title, meta description and introduction. Does a keyword appear somewhere where it’s seemingly irrelevant? Is it used an unnatural number of times?

The best way to avoid keyword stuffing is to be intuitive about it: If you think you’re using your keyword too many times, you’re probably right. Deciding the optimum keyword strategy is also something to discuss with your SEO analyst before choosing your next SEO firm.

Related: 5 Tips for Choosing Your Next SEO Firm

Hidden Links

Hidden links are less common than they once were but you’ll still run into this type of black hat SEO from time to time. Hidden links are exactly what they sound like: They’re links that the user typically does not see. However, search engine spiders still take them into account when determining a website’s ranking.

Google’s Webmaster guidelines specifically outlaws:

  1. Placing text behind an image
  2. Off-screen links
  3. Text with the font size of zero
  4. Using a white background with white text
  5. Linking a small part of a text

Aside from going through the backend of a website page by page, you can also use an SEO tool to analyze its entire link profile. This will give you a complete list of a website’s links, including the ones that are hidden to the naked eye.

Cloaking and Redirects

These two processes refer to similar types of black hat SEO. In simple terms, URL redirects and cloaking are when websites show search engine crawlers and users two different types of content.

Ever clicked on a website and been directed to an entirely different website? This is what Google calls a “sneaky redirect.” The objective of a sneaky redirect is to bring traffic to a specific page while having a search engine rank a website based on the content from an entirely different page. This is especially common on mobile version for a website. While a desktop version might remain the same, the mobile site could display an entirely different spam URL.

Related: 6 Tricks to Optimize Your Site for Search Engines and Real People

Private Blog Networks (PBNs)

Private blog networks are a way to build back links, typically through a series of blogs. They can either be used to build domain authority for each other through a web or increase the ranking of one central website. Google has been working hard to penalize private blog networks. Specifically, they can connect a network of blogs through the following information:

  1. Same IP addresses
  2. Similar or identical content
  3. Same owners
  4. Shared servers

Uncovering this type of black hat SEO is relatively simple for search engines because it’s easy to identify these types of patterns. It may seem like a simple way to build a back link profile, but PBNs are also an easy way to have your website penalized for bad practice.

Related: 10 Strategies to Drive More Back Links

Black Hat SEO Will Affect Your Google Rankings

Today, Google algorithms are some of the most sophisticated in the world. This is a good thing for entrepreneurs and qualified optimization companies working to rank for relevant keywords. With the help of a qualified optimization firm, you can build a booming online business, but for people using unethical optimization techniques, the chances of receiving a Google penalty for black hat SEO increase with every update.

Overall, the best ways to increase your search engine rankings are to create informative content and follow Google’s rules.

2019 Color Trends

How to Create a Neon Rainbow Photoshop Portrait Effect

2019 Color Trends

When Pantone announced its 2019 color of the year as the bright and vivacious “living coral,” designers and artists all over took notice. And since color and culture go hand in hand, we’ve also seen a few new colors with even more vibrancy now emerging on the scene.

The Impact of Color

Color has always played a huge role in our lives. We all know our favorites, and it’s not uncommon for us to share a few. Each hue transmits a particular feeling, energy and mood, and by learning more about these trends we’ll be able to explore exciting inspirations we might otherwise ignore.

So let’s take a look at a few more emerging color trends for 2019.

Gold

Minimal Black and Gold Flyer Template
Minimal Black and Gold Flyer Template

In the creative, makeup and beauty worlds, the color gold is the champion of luxury brands. Models adjust their selfies with that perfect golden-hour glow, artists attach gold leaf to their canvases, and jewelry designers go in on fantastic gold designs.

And with an ever-growing global economy, it’s not a total shock that our tastes are becoming more expensive. The color gold is, in fact, driving this trend as we find ways to exude a sense of confidence in all areas of our lives. Psychology tells us that gold can make you feel glamorous while also inviting courageous feelings of passion and wisdom. Pretty cool!

Gold Inspiration

Are you feeling a little fancy today? Try out one of these gold design tutorials. I myself have already used this color a few times this year! Not only is it applicable across a variety of projects, but it also ranks as the top searched color on both Envato Market and Envato ElementsHow’s that for gold standard?

How to Create a 3D Gold Text Effect With Photoshop Layer Styles
How to Create a 3D Gold Text Effect With Photoshop Layer Styles

Recreate the metallic sheen and luster of stunning gold letters with this text effect tutorial! Join Enrique Elicabe as he explains how to use Photoshop layer styles to achieve realistic gold textures and colors.

More Gold Tutorials

Want more gold tutorials? Jump to a few of our favorites.

Natural Greens

Natural Magazine
Natural Magazine

Artists have always been connected to nature—and therefore, the color green. Green is the color of life. It’s associated with feelings of growth, harmony, renewal, and balance. It’s the circle of life all in one color, really. We notice it throughout the seasons, and now that we’re becoming more conscious of our environmental impact, natural green colors are dominating our work spaces, creative activities, and lifestyle designs.

Natural Green Inspiration

Hunter green is one of the most common greens designers are excited by, although you’ll also find many variations. Naturally, it inspires many creative projects with nature-infused themes, but it’s also associated with wealth and finance. So you’ll find it most prevalent in design topics like stationery, websites, and more.

Create Earthy 3D Typography in Photoshop

Create Earthy 3D Typography in Photoshop
Create Earthy 3D Typography in Photoshop

You can also use these colors for a brilliant text effect! Recreate this look with stellar stock images in Adobe Photoshop. Ed Lopez shows us how in this awesome tutorial above.

More Green Tutorials

Unwind and relax with a nature-inspired tutorial. Jump to a few of our favorites.

Neon Green

Green House Logo
Green House Logo

Remember the 90s TV show, Double Dare? Now you can relive all your favorite slime fantasies with one of the boldest fashion statements to hit the catwalk: UFO green. Daring and slightly unusual, this bold color choice has already been favored by fashion giants like Gucci and Versace.

So how do you stand out when everything is already so saturated? Many looking to this bright neon trend might be trying to do just that: stand out.

Neon Green Inspiration

From the catwalks of the spring 2019 runways to the fictional paradises seen in digital art, neon green is definitely a stunner. At the forefront of what you’ll see from this trend are vibrant vacation clothes, graphics, and colorful photography. But you can also check out our tutorials to find out how to use this cool color.

How to Create a Punk-Rock Portrait in Procreate

How to Create a Punk-Rock Portrait in Procreate
How to Create a Punk-Rock Portrait in Procreate

Procreate is the go-to digital painting app for many new artists. And now you can create epic, neon-colored hair with this tutorial from Maria Dimova. Learn how to use different brush settings and layer styles for a vibrant hairstyle.

More Neon Green Tutorials

Try out this wild color out yourself! Check out these helpful tutorials.

More Neon Colors: Pink, Orange, & Purple

Neon Sign Photoshop Effect
Neon Sign Photoshop Effect

Neon green isn’t the only psychedelic color to emerge for 2019.

And last year we called it! Many fan favorites come in the form of electric neon pinks, oranges, and even some unique purple flavors. Neon colors, after all, are an ode to the eclectic retro ambience of the 1980s. Everything certainly pops with them, and if used effectively, they can bring creative, spunky energy to any piece.

Neon Color Inspiration

Fashion designers like Jeremy Scott are also going full-on construction worker with bright, neon yellow accents for jumpsuits and other quirky designs.

Need some neon inspiration? Try your hand at a bold photo effect like the one below.

How to Create a Neon Rainbow Photoshop Portrait Effect

How to Create a Neon Rainbow Photoshop Portrait Effect
How to Create a Neon Rainbow Photoshop Portrait Effect

In this tutorial, Abbey Esparza shows you how to add a punk-rock pop art vibe to your portraits in Adobe Photoshop. Learn how to create the perfect neon glow and how to bring more vibrancy and brightness to any portrait.

More Neon Color Tutorials

Excited to try your hand at these colors? Check out these amazing tutorials.

Cobalt Blue

Blue Polygon Backgrounds
Blue Polygon Backgrounds

Will we ever grow tired of blue? Blue is a color you can feel and also design with. And the cobalt version refers to the extraordinary pure blue pigment discovered by chemists at the turn of the 19th century.

Cobalt Blue Inspiration

Cobalt blue was a favorite among legends like Vincent van Gogh. It also inspires a magical energy you might find in many neon-themed designs. Try out the one below for a cool text effect.

How to Create a Neon Glow in the Dark Text Effect in Adobe Photoshop

How to Create a Neon Glow in the Dark Text Effect in Adobe Photoshop
How to Create a Neon Glow in the Dark Text Effect in Adobe Photoshop

This insightful Photoshop lesson comes from designer Laura Keung. Follow along as she shows you how to use layer blend modes and multiple brushes for a unique neon look.

More Cobalt Blue Tutorials

Looking for something to make with cobalt blue? Check out these tutorials.

Try These Trends

How will color guide you in 2019? Explore these trends and test out new color palettes to improve your skills.  For more help, find exciting new tutorials to try over on Tuts+.


About the Author Melody Nieves

I’m a digital artist with a love of all things Photoshop. Check out my tutorials for great tips on digital painting, photo manipulation, and photo effects on Envato Tuts+!

Your website is a sitting duck.

Web Accessibility Online Internet Website Computer For People With Disabilities

Woman sues 175 business owners over websites (We can help you avoid this.)

Critics call it “legal extortion,” now targeting small business owners who feel they are “sitting ducks” for ADA lawsuits regarding their websites that are not accessible to some with disabilities. 

Last year, there were 2,285 ADA website lawsuits filed in federal courts across the nation, an increase of a 181 percent from 2017, according to website accessibility company UsableNet. The majority of lawsuits originate in Florida and New York.

“The attorneys are telling us, ‘You can’t fight this. There’s nothing you can do, just write them a check,'” said Ben Tundis, owner of Island Comfort Footwear in the Westfield Countryside Mall in Clearwater.

Tundis is one of 175 business owners sued by Emily Fuller, of Broward County, a visually-impaired woman holding businesses accountable if they have websites that are not ADA compliant. Fuller, in her lawsuit filed Jan. 4, claims that she was not able to use the recently launched website of Tundis’ shoe store.

Fuller uses a screen reader to use the Internet and claims the shoe store’s website lacked coding that would communicate with her software. This excluded her from shopping on the website, which is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the lawsuit.

Lawsuits like this one are being filed by the stackful, typically by one plaintiff working with a handful of lawyers who are gaining notoriety for these types of cases.

South Florida attorneys Pelayo Duran and Roderick Hannah represent Fuller. Duran tells 8 On Your Side’s Better Call Behnken that clients like Fuller are providing a needed service for society to ensure that websites are ADA compliant and accessible to all.

“It’s a very good thing for society that plaintiffs like Ms. Fuller are providing,” Duran said. “I want to make sure you understand that it’s not about attacking small businesses.”

Fuller has gone after big names, such as Sephora, Helzberg Diamonds, The Home Depot and Chick-fil-A, claiming their websites are not ADA compliant. Some of her recent cases are against the Clearwater shoe store, an activewear boutique in Orlando called Sassy Pants and Tampa Sportservice Inc, the company that runs a store that sells Tampa Bay Lightning apparel inside Amalie Arena.

In most cases, private businesses can’t be sued for damages, under the ADA, says Anastasia Protopapadakis, an ADA defense attorney with the Miami firm Gray-Robinson. Businesses are sued for attorney fees and compliance. Businesses who agree to settlements or lose their cases must pay attorney fees and agree to become ADA compliant within a set amount of time, she said.Some legal experts, and even some advocates for the disabled say plaintiff lawyers are taking advantage of businesses that don’t realize they are doing anything wrong. Instead of reaching out to the businesses and asking for compliance, they sue.

Protopapadakis calls these lawsuits, “corporate extortion” and urges business owners to take a serious look at their websites and make sure that a person with visual or hearing disabilities can use their site.

She said most businesses faced with this type of lawsuit settle the case for attorney fees and compliance. That’s because that is cheaper than litigation.

Experts say these lawsuits are typically settled for between a couple of thousand dollars and $20,000 but could cost much more if defendants chose to fight in court.  Spearhead Multimedia can help you avoid this for usually under $1000.

“Any case appealed to the 11th Circuit has not gone the defendants’ way,” Protopapadakis said.

Protopapadakis said while plaintiffs don’t receive money for damages, some do receive money in exchange for keeping settlement details confidential.

Further frustrating businesses, there are no federal regulations to give businesses a checklist of what they must do to make their websites ADA accessible. The ADA was established in 1990, before websites like we have today. One thing is clear, though, courts have ruled that most websites must be accessible under the ADA.

While there are no clear regulations pertaining to websites in the ADA, courts have recognized web accessibility standards called Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG), created by an international consortium of volunteers.

Some of the requirements:

  • Content must be coded for audio translation by screen-reader software.
  • There must be on-screen captions in videos for screen-reader software to read to the blind and descriptions for the deaf.
  • Sites must include accessible drop-down menus for those who use a keyboard as an alternative to a mouse.

These are requirements that every website should have under the ADA, said Chris Danielsen, of the National Federation of the Blind.

Danielsen, who is blind, said he uses screen-reader software every day to access the Internet and runs into problems on a regular basis because websites lack the appropriate coding.

However, he said mass lawsuits, especially those filed by one plaintiff with an attorney, concern him. He said negotiation and education should come first. He also feels that settlements should not be confidential, so the public knows the terms and knows the plan for accessibility for each site.

“Rather than spraying businesses with a firehose of litigation, a much more thoughtful and transparent approach would be a better form of advocacy,” Danielsen said.

Danielsen recommends business owners make sure their website developers know how to make your website compatible. There are several companies that specialize in website compatibility. The National Federation of the Blind has resources on its website to help businesses. Locally, the Lighthouse for the Blind can review websites and offer guidance.

So, who must be accessible? That depends on where the business is located. In the 11th Judicial Circuit, which includes Florida, websites that are connected to a physical store must be accessible to those who are visually and hearing impaired.

Accessibility can get costly, depending on what type of website you have, and whether you do it when you first develop the website or later, said Teresa Huber, president of Get ADA Accessible, which focuses on website accessibility. We can make your site accessible to those with disabilities for less than you think. Visit our Website Accessibility Facebook page for more details.

She said a simple, 10-page website would cost about $1,600 for a firm like hers to audit and identify accessibility issues. The cost of fixing the website would depend on deficiencies, she said. Spearhead Multimedia uses a different approach for less than $100, usually around $500. Get your estimate today.

One small business recently sued by Emily Fuller is Sassy Pants Active Wear Boutique in Orlando. Owner Donna Anthony says she hasn’t been served the lawsuit yet, but she is concerned.

“I never in my wildest dreams thought a website would have to have accommodations,” Anthony said. “My builder knew about ADA compliance for my physical location. My web developer did not.” At Spearhead Multimedia, we’re on the forefront of WCAG 2.1 AA and will help you make your website accessible to those with disabilities. Contact us today, it’s less expensive than you think.

Google Introduces WordPress Plugin With Integrated Analytics, Search Console, More

Matt Southern

Matt Southern

 

Google has introduced a new WordPress plugin which brings insights from Google tools to users’ dashboards.

Site Kit by Google allows users to access information in Search Console, Analytics, AdSense, and PageSpeed Insights from the WordPress admin panel.

“With Site Kit installed, WordPress users can access unified insights and Google product capabilities directly from the WordPress admin panel. Where it is helpful, Site Kit will also provide deep links into Google products for advanced reports and product configuration capabilities.”

Google will release Site Kit to beta testers in early 2019. Those who are interested in the plugin can sign up for the beta version here.

Site Kit doesn’t add any new insights that are not already available in Google’s tools, but it does make them easier to access.

For example, users can navigate to a page on their website and click on the Site Kit button in the admin panel to see stats for that specific page.

Google Introduces WordPress Plugin With Integrated Analytics, Search Console, More

The plugin will also notify users when they’ve hit publishing milestones and show combined stats for the most recently published posts.

Google Introduces WordPress Plugin With Integrated Analytics, Search Console, More

Google plans to expand Site Kit’s capabilities and integrations in the future based on feedback from beta testers.