Signs That Your SEO Agency Is Hurting Your Website With Black Hat Techniques
DashClicks Team
Oct 27th, 2022 at 11:03 AM

Signs That Your SEO Agency Is Hurting Your Website With Black Hat Techniques

Google’s ultimate business objective is to improve its search results, and it achieves it through its complex algorithms. So, Google constantly rolls out algorithm updates to prevent poor search results from appearing on top of SERPs.

What Is Black Hat SEO?

Google Webmaster guidelines are compiled to help website owners and businesses to stick to the best practices and avoid the shady ones.

Despite the clear guidelines from Google, many businesses try to manipulate and game the algorithms. The objective is to achieve a higher rank in a short span of time. To achieve this end, they won’t even shy away from engaging in unfair practices. And that is known as Black Hat SEO. Hollywood movie-makers showed the bad guys wearing black hats in the old cowboy movies. That is the reason why these dubious practices are termed Black Hat SEO.

Black Hat SEO TechniquesImage Source

The standard way to win the SERPs is to create high-value, high-quality content that solves people’s problems. You should also engage in deep keyword research to make yourself visible in front of the people searching for the products you sell.

Google is constantly improving itself while identifying and penalizing Black Hat SEO strategies. So, when a practice becomes prevalent, Google rolls out an algorithm update and penalizes the websites engaged in such malpractices. But this does not stop people from inventing newer Black Hat techniques.

Signs That Your SEO Agency Is Implementing Black Hat Tactics

Here are the nine signs that indicate that your SEO agency might be hurting your website with black hat tactics.

1. They Are Engaged in Link Exchange and Buying Links

High-quality backlinks are extremely important because Google takes them as a signal of your site’s authenticity, trustworthiness, and reliability. Backlinks from high-traffic websites also drive huge traffic to your website.

Link-Exchange - Black Hat SEOImage Source

It prompts some webmasters to buy the backlinks; however, that is completely against Google’s guidelines. Google goes one step further and says that it doesn’t work. It means that Google is aware of it, and its algorithms can penalize the site if they ever find out it’s engaged in buying links.

In some instances, Google can impose an automatic or manual penalty that can impact specific pages or the entire website.

Google specializes in identifying deliberate actions and abnormal patterns to easily identify black hat SEO.

2. They Participate in Link Schemes

Google also despises link schemes such as exchanging links, free products, or discounts. To prevent such links from appearing as a link scheme, make them a no-follow link. You can do it by using the rel= “nofollow” tag. When you use this tag, your backlink will not impact the SERP rankings.

HTML Nofollow Tag

3. They Hide the Links

There are many ways to hide a link, and the prominent ones among these are:

  • Placing the link on the footer
  • Using it as anchor text
  • Hiding it in the background color
  • Keeping text off-screen
  • Using font size ‘zero’

The easiest way to insert a link is to place it on the footer because there is enough space out there, and people have been doing it since the dawn of the world wide web.

Placing Links on the FooterImage Source

The worst thing is to use the commercial anchor text, which Google takes as a way of suggesting to rank the web page for the text used in anchor text. Google doesn’t like anyone to tell which site to rank higher. It’s manipulative, and Google hates it.

The worst part is to try to hide the links in the background color or the website text. Google will identify it both ways and penalize your website. The message is loud and clear, “Don’t try to game the system.”

Hidden LinksImage Source

Another way to hide the backlinks is to post the link in the same color as the background, but you can’t fool Google as they immediately detect it.

You should also not try to keep text off-screen using CSS or font size 0.

4. They Have No Activity to Show

If your agency has no genuine activity to show in the first few months, chances are they are involved in black hat activities. What you can expect at this point is:

  • A comprehensive website audit.
  • Detailed website analysis & optimization report.
  • Identification of the target keywords.
  • A list of targeted keywords per month.
  • The articles or content created and published on the website and elsewhere for organic SEO.

If they have no clue who has done that, it means they are not seriously working on your project and might be doing Black Hat SEO for rankings.

5. Utter Lack of Communications

A professional SEO agency will regularly communicate and update you regarding the necessary accesses, reports, website errors, potentially harmful things on the website, a list of targeted keywords, and previous work on the website.

They might need access to CMS, Google Analytics, previous SEO and audit reports, Google Search Console Tools, and social media handles as part of their regular digital marketing activities.

If they are not doing that, it strongly indicates that they are relying on spammy backlinks creation, which can be potentially harmful to your website.

Most of the digital marketing work requires collaboration between the client and the SEO agency. At times, an SEO agency may suggest you take certain actions or complete certain tasks. It can also be a big red flag if they do not give you any suggestions or recommendations.

6. They Maintain a Layer of Confidentiality

If they don’t disclose their tactics and maintain a high level of confidentiality around their activities, it can signal that something fishy is going on.

And when you ask something about the project’s progress, their response is, “We are doing a lot of activities, so we can’t share them with you at this point. However, you will soon learn about them and their impact on the website.”

True SEO involves legitimate activities such as local SEO, guest posting, on-page optimization, and Google My Business listings. There should be nothing to hide if you are implementing it. Only scammers keep things secret. If such a thing happens, this is high time you should fire your SEO agency.

7. Your Website Is Penalized

If you signed the contract barely a month or two ago, and you see your website getting penalized, it may or may not be the fault of your SEO agency. However, there’s a strong signal that they might be going in the wrong direction, i.e., practicing Black Hat SEO.

In this case, you should perform your research and try to know the reason for the penalty.

Some of the types of penalties that you might receive are as follows.

  • A manual penalty
  • A sudden drop in rankings
  • A noticeable drop in the traffic

If you receive a GWT notification or an e-mail regarding a manual penalty, it’s certainly not good news. If it has been just two or three months since you commenced work with your SEO agency, you can’t be sure, but it’s a potential red flag.

Manual Penalty by GoogleImage Source

Google’s algorithms are constantly updating, so a drop in rankings doesn’t always indicate that it’s your agency’s fault. However, if you notice a consistent fall in the rankings, use your analytics tools to know why.

A sudden drop in traffic is a strong signal of an algorithmic penalty. Investigate the reason for such a fall. It doesn’t indicate that it’s your SEO’s fault, but you need to be cautious. Get a list of all your SEO agency’s activities on your website and check if these activities might be the reason behind these penalties.

8. Your Website Starts Receiving Traffic From the Wrong Keywords

Suppose Google Analytics tells you that you have started ranking for the wrong keywords or are receiving traffic from the wrong keywords. In that case, it’s a strong signal that your SEO agency is practicing spammy activities. In that case, ask your agency to furnish details of its actions on the website in the last few months.

Also, share with them the list of the wrong keywords your site is ranking for. If it is an error, they will rectify it, and if it is because of some spammy practice, you should immediately fire your agency.

9. Rise of Suspicious Backlinks

A spike in the number of suspicious backlinks to your website indicates something fallacious is happening. Check your link profile. Your link profile shows how Google should rank your website. In general, if you are an education technology business, you should not receive backlinks from gambling, textile, or spa websites. And if you are a US-based company, and you start receiving links from Chinese-language websites, your link profile is messed up.

It means that your digital marketing agency is using some tools that create spammy backlinks. These backlinks will not help increase your site’s authority but will devalue it. In this case, you should immediately discuss it with your SEO agency and share the spammy links that your website has received. So, even if you don’t get an honest answer, at least they will do something to fix the issue.

What are Bad Links?Image Source

You can use Google disavow tool to disavow those links or get your agency to do it.

Final Words

When you work with an agency, you need to keep patience, especially when it has been just a few months since they began working on your website. White-hat SEO takes a considerable amount of time to deliver results. Even if you outsource services from an agency, you should constantly research and keep yourself updated with the current market trends.

Signing a contract with an agency does not always mean you are not supposed to do anything. Instead, a professional agency will work with you as a partner and recommend several things you should quickly implement.

These tasks are generally not mentioned in your agency’s scope of work but are crucial to getting the desired results.

To summarize, SEO is crucial for your website, and you cannot afford Black Hat SEO. Sometimes the success of your business depends on the SEO. You should give some time for your agency to deliver results, but you should constantly monitor them. If you notice something fishy, discuss it with them, try to conduct your research, and then make a decision.

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