4 Google SEO Cheats That Could Damage Your Rankings
October 21st 2021 | By Emma Grant
If you’ve ever wondered how to cheat Google SEO, the short answer is, it’s just not possible. Whilst many have tried, including some big names, it has only ever ended in tears, as well as lost rankings and revenue as a result. Here we look at some of the most common ways in which people try to cheat Google, highlight some disaster stories, and sum up the key methods that you should be using if you want to get on the right side of Google and enjoy all the benefits top ranking spots bring.
Google SEO cheats have been around since the search engine launched in the late 1990s. The thing is, when it comes to search engine optimisation, there are rules to follow, and Google itself publishes its own best practice for a range of optimisation techniques.
On a fairly regular basis, a new algorithm will be released with a view to improving user experience and, if a site doesn’t comply, it could find itself dropping its positions in the search engine results pages. But if a site is blatantly cheating Google, it could be blacklisted altogether until it rectifies the offending strategy. Experienced SEO consultants know that the gains achieved by employing underhand tactics will only ever be short term, and that they are by no means worth the loss that is associated with the inevitable penalties.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular SEO cheats that are certain to land you in hot water with Google.
1. Keyword stuffing
Keyword stuffing is the deliberate overuse within web content of a specific keyword or phrase that you are attempting to rank for. Any excessive use of a keyword that negatively affects the readability of the content can be considered keyword stuffing.
The strategy behind keyword stuffing is that if you are attempting to rank for a particular word, littering your content with that word will make it more likely for Google to pick it up. However, overuse of key phrases is easily detected by Google, and pretty much everyone who uses this tactic will be hit with significant ranking penalties.
Basically, if your copy doesn’t sound natural, it’s not going to wash with Google. By all means optimise your content for your primary keyword, but just don’t overdo it. If you use an SEO tool such as Yoast SEO, it will tell you how you’ve done on keyword density. Too low and it will suggest you up the concentration; too high and it will flat it up as keyword stuffing.
2. Copy cloaking
Copy cloaking is an outright attempt to disguise keywords within the background of a web page. This is usually done courtesy of CSS or HMTL which blends the colour of the keywords into the background of the page. This means that users won’t see the keywords, although they could notice random blank spaces on pages where the keywords are hidden in the background.
Even though they can’t be seen, the keywords are very much present and will be picked up by website crawlers.
This is a manipulative tactic and a blatant act of cheating Google SEO, because it shows users something other than what the search engines get to see. Anyone who uses copy cloaking as an SEO strategy will usually be punished very quickly with considerable drops in their rankings.
This is precisely what happened to motor manufacturer BMW in 2006 when it attempted to manipulate search results so that it would achieve the top spot in the rankings for the keyword, ‘used cars’, redirecting users to a regular BMW company page. Their site was removed from search results for three days which seriously damaged their visitor numbers.
3. Fake reviews
If you are a local business looking to rank for searches for your services specifically in the area you operate, you’ll know that Google My Business is a vital tool in your local SEO armoury.
When optimising Google My Business, one of the most important ranking factors that will help you net a top spot in the Map Pack is positive reviews. Whilst Google has never disclosed the minimum volume of reviews required, inexperienced or DIY SEOs may well believe that flooding the listing with reviews is the right thing to do, even if those reviews come from fake user accounts.
Creating fake Google user accounts is easy to do, and is considered by some easier than going to the trouble of asking genuine customers for reviews. But beware if this tactic is on your radar, because Google is able to detect the IP addresses of reviewers and, if a whole batch of them has come from the same address, then all or at least a large proportion of your reviews will be removed.
Even if you went to the trouble of arranging for fake reviews to come from different geographical locations, Google’s second line of detection, which involves clocking the number of reviews coming from newly created user accounts, may unravel your strategy. If Google finds that you’ve been attempting to gain advantage through fake reviews, your Google My Business listing could be penalised and potentially removed.
4. Spammy links
Google’s recent link spam update was introduced with the aim of fighting link spam, backing the search engine’s goal to reward high quality content.
Google uses the amount of links coming into a website to understand what content could be useful to searchers. But if those links have been earned dishonestly and are not rightly deserved, Google is likely to penalise a site.
Any website that has acquired links through means that are in breach of Google’s best practice guidelines is likely to lose its rankings.
Common underhand link building tactics include guest posts, forum or blog comments, and link farms. Link farms are websites or networks of sites that, in exchange for payment, create hundreds or even thousands of links into a website with a view to trying to hoodwink Google into thinking it’s highly popular. The trouble is, these sites are often irrelevant to the website they link to, and some of them include risky sites within their networks, which can completely wipe out your Google rankings.
The BBC made this error in 2013, having unnatural links on one of their pages. Google degraded that page’s ranking, leading to huge visitor losses. Overstock.com tried to manipulate Google’s algorithm in 2011, offering discounts to schools in return for links back to their website. This resulted in a hit to their page rank score, and it was two months before they ranked again in searches for their own name.
The tactics you SHOULD be employing to rank in Google
So, how to achieve top rankings in Google without cheating? The answer is a simple one, and it’s based around Google’s overall objective to deliver the best possible search experience for users.
If you are to avoid penalties for SEO cheating tactics, you need to play by the rules. Optimising your website for the best possible user experience; publishing quality, helpful content that answers user queries and optimising your site code and page speed will all help to enhance the site with the user in mind. Prioritise these strategies, and put cheating the search engines to the back of your mind.
Here at Figment, we have been optimising websites in line with Google best practice for many years, and with excellent results. We are consistently improving our strategies and keeping on top of all the latest Google algorithm updates to ensure our clients’ websites have the best possible chance of achieving top rankings.
If you’d like to find out how Figment could help you improve your online visibility courtesy of best practice SEO, you are welcome to get in touch.