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black hat SEO

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Black hat SEO is a type of unscrupulous search engine optimization tactic used to raise a website's search engine results page (SERP) ranking illegitimately or lower the ranking of a competitor's site. 

The position of a website on a search results page can be crucial to reaching your audience. Depending on the search term and the size of the user's display, there may be only one or two organic results visible above the fold. Furthermore, according to research from Chitka, an ad network, the top result receives 33 percent of the traffic; the second result gets 18 percent, and the portion declines significantly at each lower position. 

Various black hat SEO methods exist, including spamdexing, creating phantom pages and hacking competitors' sites. White hat SEO, on the other hand, uses legitimate tactics to help a website feature prominently in organic search results

Search engine providers, such as Google, consider optimization tactics that are deceptive or don't conform to their guidelines to be black hat methods. Such tactics may be detected by an algorithm and result in an automatically lowered ranking. A manual site review that detects deceptive practices can result in the website's removal from the search engine's index. 

This was last updated in September 2013

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