How to spot a black hat SEO company


SEO is all about rules. Any SEO consultant worth their salt will keep abreast of all the latest trends and work within a set of guidelines and policies to ensure that their clients receive the best service possible.

All of this is true, unless a business makes a poor decision and hires a black hat SEO company.

What is black hat SEO?

We’re taught from a young age the difference between good and evil. These two parallels are often represented – especially in children’s films – as ‘black’ vs ‘white’.

Think about the Little Mermaid. Ursula the Sea Witch is cloaked head to toe in black, whereas Ariel is a glowing shade of peachy cream. Similarly in the Lion King, Scar’s mane is pitch black and Simba… well he doesn’t have a mane yet but you get the idea.

The good vs evil analogy translates when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). White hat equals good, black hat equals bad.

Companies that use black hat SEO techniques are the bad guys. They sail close to the wind and implement frowned upon tactics to boost rankings in search engine results pages (SERPS) – which may sound cool and rebellious, but is actually downright sneaky. Thankfully Google administers a penalty when it catches black hat SEO tactics being used.

How I imagine a Black Hat SEO consultant to feel when they’ve taken all your money but given you zero results.

What are black hat SEO techniques?

Alarmingly, many business owners aren’t aware they’ve hired a black hat SEO company until they receive a Google penalty, or even worse, get scammed out of a ton of money.

They promise you the world

Any SEO company that guarantees you something – whether that’s the number one ranking position in SERPS or a thousand new visitors a day – isn’t worth listening to. Search engine optimization isn’t guaranteed because nobody is able to predict Google’s search algorithms.

Of course, there are people who are incredible at their jobs but promising you the world is a sure-fire sign that black hat SEO techniques are present.

They promise you instant results

A company that offers you instantaneous results is probably using black hat SEO techniques in order to get them. Honest and transparent SEO optimization takes time and patience. A business that offers quick-fixes isn’t to be trusted.

Gimme that cash money upfront

Any contractor, freelancer, or small business owner will understand about fair payment terms. For example, billing for 50% of the project upfront and the remainder due upon completion. Those of us who understand a client and their needs, a SEO proposal will be drawn up and open conversations will take place around rates and billing.

If a business you’re thinking of working with asks for the whole payment upfront, be on your guard – they may be a black hat SEO company who is looking to make a quick buck off an unsuspecting victim.

They offer you paid links

Any good digital marketer will understand the value of backlinks. Acting as an authority signal to Google, backlinks to your website are a fantastic SEO technique – as long as they are naturally acquired. Backlinkio even go as far to state that backlinks are the creme de la creme of obtaining higher SERP rankings.

If a SEO business makes a statement about how they can obtain links from well-known brands or established businesses, it pays to question their acquisition methods.

Mum’s the word

At every step of your SEO journey, you need to be engaging in open and honest conversation with your digital marketing consultant or SEO practitioner. Black hat SEO companies have a tendency to keep schtum about what specifically they’re working on, refuse to share information on techniques, baulk when you ask questions, and are unable to produce any detailed reports aside from ranking positions.

Before you invest money in SEO for your website, ask yourself: does their SEO proposal or offer sound too good to be true? If yes, then it probably is.

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