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Black Hat Web Design – The 5 Main Culprits

It seems that as fast as search engines are updating their algorithms to defeat Black Hat web design and promotion tactics, unethical operators are finding new ways to fool these new routines.

Inevitably, it is the customer who pays the price (quite literally) when search engines catch up with shady tactics since unethical operators will merely alter their approach and cash in with a fresh set of clients, leaving their existing clientele high and dry.

Whilst most articles of this type will usually concentrate on outdated techniques such as keyword stuffing and hidden text, I have tried to concentrate on some of the tactics currently being employed by unethical operators.

The most commonly employed Black Hat Web Design Techniques:

1. Cloaking
From a search engine optimisation point of view, cloaking is the act of getting search engines to index one set of content for any particular web page and then presenting visitors with a different set.
There is a multitude of ways in which this can be done but most search engines now impose penalties or outright bans against sites employing cloaking techniques.
These days, cloaking is only used by certain search engines for ‘paid inclusion’ purposes.

2. Interlinked Sites
As the importance of inbound links has filtered into the collective consciousness of the web promotion industry, some operators have advocated the setting up of multiple web sites, all interlinked to boost overall link popularity.
On the whole this is fine, provided that each site features totally different content.
The problem arises when every site features similar content and as such does not provide value to visitors in its own right.
If you are planning on launching a number of web sites, it would be wise to ensure that each provides its visitors with unique content and takes a different spin on its topic.

3. Doorway Pages
This technique became popular around the middle of 2005, when a large number of Black Hat web design companies suddenly sprang up and offered clients ‘guaranteed top 10 positions’ through the use of ‘sitemaps’.
These sitemaps however were little more than doorway page directories containing a large number of pages, each featuring nigh on identical content, optimised for interchangeable keywords.
Like all Black Hat strategies, search engines soon caught up with this approach.
These days it is gradually falling out of favour since the results it produces are diminishing.

4. URL Redirects
This approach is most commonly used in conjunction with doorway pages, since these rarely provide any worthwhile information for visitors.
In these cases, a redirect is put in place to automatically shunt visitors to another part of the site (most often the homepage) in order to try and attract their attention before they have a chance to hit the back button.
As fast as search engines root out the new and interesting ways used by Black Hat web design companies to redirect visitors, these operators are finding new ways to circumvent the existing algorithms and so the cat and mouse game continues.
Once again, the major loser is always the customer.

5. Duplicate Web Sites
This is conceivably one of the most petty tactics employed by Black Hat web design companies.
The concept is simple; copy your competitor’s high ranking web site, make a few minor adjustments and launch it on a different domain.
Fortunately the major search engine’s duplicate content filters have now become sophisticated enough to detect such incidents, thus making this particular strategy impractical unless sufficient changes are made to the site to escape detection.

As a webmaster or online business owner, you always have the option of
reporting spam web sites found by you during your regular surfing activities.
This may on the face of it seem like an underhanded tactic in itself, but is there really any reason for competitors to use Black Hat web design strategies when you are playing by the rules?

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