Ever come across those “Boost Your Traffic by 50x with These Simple Tricks” guides?
They often promise quick results with little effort. But if you look closely, you’ll notice they’re filled with ‘unique’ strategies, cleverly hidden in the fine print.
These tactics might not catch the average user’s eye. They certainly catch the attention of search engines. This leads to the traffic surge you’ve been dreaming of. I’m referring to practices like keyword stuffing, cloaking text to match the background, or using minuscule 0 pts. text.
These techniques can land you in hot water with Google, resulting in your website being blacklisted. Or, worse. Removed from the search engine itself.
Think it’s an exaggeration? Major players like BMW and eBay have faced such penalties in the past.
In this article, we will shed light on how you too can get blacklisted by Google like these big brands. And explore how you can avoid making these common, yet costly, mistakes.
BMW.de's Cloaking Conundrum
Our journey begins in 2006, with the luxury car giant BMW cruising along the digital highway with its German website, BMW.de. But, they did something remarkably off course.
BMW.de showed a version of their pages filled with keywords to Google’s crawler, aiming to rank high in search results. And at the same time, showed an entirely different, user-friendly and appealing version to its customers.
This practice is commonly referred to as Cloaking. Cloaking is a deceptive practice where a website presents different content or URLs to search engines and users.
Google detected this deception. And their response was swift and decisive. They completely removed BMW.de from their search results until the issue was rectified. This penalty meant that anyone using Google could not find BMW.de in their search results, even if they searched for it specifically. A significant blow to the website’s visibility and traffic.
If such a penalty were to happen today, it could lead to a potential loss of traffic of around 71,600. This would not only impact sales and revenue. It would damage the brand’s reputation leading to a loss of trust among existing customers and followers.
eBay's Brush with Keyword Stuffing
Fast forward to 2012. eBay created landing pages for every conceivable combination of product and brand. The purpose: to stuff the pages with as many relevant keywords as possible. The result was an ocean of low-quality, keyword-stuffed pages.
This tactic is keyword-stuffing. An aggressive SEO tactic that involves overloading a web page with keywords in an unnatural way to manipulate its ranking in search engine results.
Google’s algorithms detected this manipulation. The aftermath was a stern penalty from Google. eBay’s organic search traffic, which was once a roaring river, dwindled to a mere trickle.
In today’s terms, it would lead to a potential loss of traffic of around 6.11 million per day.
Furthermore, the visibility of the brand was severely affected, leading to a loss of followers on various platforms. The trust that customers place in the brand was destroyed. As a result customers began to view the brand poorly.
Other Ways to get Blacklisted by Google
Some marketers, in their quest for quick results, resort to dubious tactics known as Black Hat SEO techniques. They might seem tempting at first, but they come with serious consequences.
1. Private Link Networks
This involves creating a network of websites for the sole purpose of building links to a target website to manipulate its search engine rankings. These networks can range from a few manipulated domains to extensive networks of well over a thousand sites.
Search engines like Google can detect these networks and penalizes all the sites involved, not just the target site.
A classic example of this is the case of MyBlogGuest. MyBlogGuest was a large private blog network used by website owners to gain backlinks. In 2014, Google penalized not only the network but also all the sites that had used it to build links.
2. Hidden Text or Links
Some marketers use the same color for text as the background, or use 0 pt. text, making it invisible to users but still visible to search engines. This “hidden text” often contains a high number of keywords to trick search engines. And in some cases, hidden links.
A famous example of this making the news was when Google penalized the website of RickRolling Rick Astley for using hidden text in 2006. The site had hidden song lyrics in the background of the website. The text color matched the background color to make it invisible to users but readable by search engines.
3. Doorway Pages
Doorway pages are low-quality pages that contain very little content and are loaded with keywords. They are designed to rank high for specific search queries and then redirect users to a different page.
In 2015, Google announced a ranking adjustment to better deal with doorway pages. Following this, many websites that used doorway pages experienced a drop in their search rankings. The widespread drop in rankings served as a clear message to marketers about the risks of using such tactics.
4. Article Spinning
Article spinning involves using software to rewrite existing content and make it appear as new. The purpose is to create a large amount of content and trick search engines into thinking it’s original. The result is an ocean of low quality content that provides little to no value to users.
There were numerous cases of news sites popping up in 2022 filled with such articles. Their primary purpose was drawing traffic and collecting ad revenue. But with the recent updates to the Google algorithm, these sites were penalized heavily.
How to Avoid These Mistakes
So, how do you avoid falling into the same traps as eBay, BMW, and many others? The answer is simple: focus on its ethical counterpart – White Hat SEO.
1. High Quality Content
In the realm of SEO, content is not just king, it’s the entire kingdom. High-quality, relevant, and informative content has two parts to it.
1) It draws in users, keeps them engaged, reducing bounce rates and boosting the likelihood of conversions.
2) Search engines reward sites that offer valuable content with higher rankings.
2. User Experience
User experience, often abbreviated as UX, is the overall experience a user has when navigating through a website. A positive user experience is not just about making a website easy and enjoyable for visitors to use. It is also about designing a site that meets search engine standards for usability.
Here’s how various aspects of user experience tie into White Hat SEO:
Site Speed: The speed at which your website loads is a critical factor in user experience. With attention spans rivalling that of a goldfish, users typically have short attention spans when browsing online, and a slow-loading site can lead to high bounce rates. Search engines like Google recognize this and prioritize sites that load quickly in their rankings.
Mobile-Friendliness: With the increasing use of smartphones for internet browsing, having a mobile-friendly website is no longer optional. A site that is difficult to navigate on a mobile device can frustrate users and lead to them leaving your site. Google has recognized the importance of mobile browsing and has implemented mobile-first indexing, meaning it primarily uses the mobile version of a site for indexing and ranking.
Easy Navigation: A website should be structured in a way that is easy for users to navigate. Users should be able to find the information they’re looking for quickly and easily. A well-structured site with clear navigation also makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index your site, which can improve your search rankings.
User Engagement: Engaging content and interactive elements can keep users on your site longer, reducing bounce rates and increasing the chance of conversions. High user engagement signals to search engines that your site provides valuable content, which can boost your rankings.
3. Natural Links
Building links is an important part of SEO, but it’s not about who has the most links. It’s about who has the best ones.
Instead of getting involved in link schemes, focus on earning links naturally by creating high-quality content that others will want to link to.
This approach not only ensures that your links are of high quality, but it also aligns with search engine guidelines, making your site more likely to rank higher in search results.
Buying links is not the answer.
4. Stay Updated
The world of SEO is always changing, and to stay ahead, you need to keep up. By staying updated with the latest trends and algorithm updates, you can ensure that your SEO strategies are not just effective, but also compliant with current guidelines.
This not only helps you maintain your site’s performance. But also keeps it in good standing with search engines. Speaking of, let’s talk about the recent changes in Google’s algorithm.
In 2023, Google rolled out an update that made Core Web Vitals a ranking factor. Websites that offered poor user experience, such as slow loading times, unstable content layout, and poor interactivity, were penalized. This update affected many websites that overlooked the importance of user experience in their SEO strategy. For more information on this, click here.
Google’s E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) guidelines have become a significant part of its algorithm. Websites that fail to demonstrate E-A-T in their content, especially on YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) topics, can face penalties. For instance, websites providing medical information without proper expertise or authoritativeness can be penalized.
By staying informed, monitoring metrics, focusing on quality content, and optimizing technical aspects, you can help ensure your site remains in Google’s good books.
The Bottom Line
The path to lasting success doesn’t lie in outsmarting the system. It lies in creating genuine value for your users and respecting the guidelines that help maintain a fair and useful web for all.
The world of SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time and effort to build a strong online presence, but the rewards are worth it.
In the end, it’s not about how to avoid getting blacklisted by Google. It’s about how to be listed in the good books of both Google and your users.
If you’re looking for guidance on your SEO journey, Trending Island is here to help. We’re committed to ethical SEO practices that deliver real, lasting results. Contact us today to learn how we can help you navigate the SEO landscape and achieve your digital marketing goals.