Recently, a former colleague contacted me about their website and what they could do to improve its visibility in search engines. That sounds innocent enough, however, one statement in the email made me do a double-take: the former colleague asked me if they should create a different version of their homepage engineered just for search engines. Naturally, this raised a huge red flag for me, and brought to my attention that many people out there are still unaware of black hat SEO techniques

Several years ago, BMW tried to increase the rank of its German site by building doorway pages. Once Google found out about this, they removed the site from its index in a matter of days. So what is wrong with doorway pages? These pages were created to rank high in search engine results, which seems innocent enough. However, BMW went one step further and designed these pages so they would only be seen by search engine robots, and if an actual person tried to open that page in a browser, it would automatically redirect to the home page. In other words, they created these pages to rank high so they could increase traffic to their home page from organic search. Sometimes, this technique is also referred to as cloaking.
Some other black hat SEO techniques are:
  • invisible text: inserting keywords as text using the same color as the background so that a website visitor does not see it, but would picked up by search engines
  • keyword stuffing: placing a list of keywords in your website to rank for those keywords.
Employing any of these black hat search engine optimization techniques can result in PageRank being dropped to zero, or worse, being completely banned from search engine indexes, as BMW learned with its German website. Therefore, while these techniques may seem tempting when your website is not ranking well, it’s certainly not worth the risks involved. As the saying goes, better to be safe than sorry.