You’ve seen the emails- a company is guaranteeing that you can rank on the first page of Google for a small monthly fee. Sounds too good to be true!

It’s because it is.

Sadly, a majority of SEO companies practice what are called “black hat SEO” techniques.

Black hat SEO is a strategy that is used to manipulate search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing) to rank a business through spamming the Internet.

Although these techniques used to work, they don’t anymore. In fact, they’re likely to lower your rankings or completely remove your site from Google altogether! 

And it’s not easy to get back.

Grizzly Bear Claw

Most sites will never recover from a Google penalty, and these penalties come fast and hard.

Once hit with a penalty you will immediately face:

  • a sharp drop in traffic,
  • a fast decline in sales and
  • having to start from scratch with your SEO strategy– possibly even needing to create a new website!

I know of one particular company that was hit with a Panda/Penguin Penalty due to a lot of low quality inbound links.

This e-commerce business went from making $1 million in revenue per month to making about $10,000 per month from repeat customers – on a good month.

Downward chart

The owner was faced with having to let go many long-time members of his staff while simultaneously trying to get the penalty removed AND working on a new (non-black hat) SEO strategy.

How to Identify a Black Hat SEO Company

Play at your own risk sign

Black hat SEO companies frequently state the following:

  • Promising you a specific # of guaranteed links.
  • Mentioning the use of social bookmarking, directory submissions, article spinning and guest posting on content farms.
  • Offering you a delivery time for specific results (example: you’ll rank #1 within 30 days).
  • Guaranteeing rankings and/or traffic (rarely legitimate).
  • Mentioning social curations (creating fake social media accounts).
  • Pricing less than $1k per month for a non-local strategy. This isn’t always true, but it’s almost impossible to run a business charging this little for quality work.
  • Mentioning a maximum number of keywords you can target.
  • Saying “your links will be removed if you decide to cancel your service.”.

If your SEO agency mentions any of these things, it should raise an immediate red flag.

Note: There are some companies out there that claim one or more of these items, but are legitimate (roughly 1%).

You should let the agency know, in no uncertain terms, that these practices must be discontinued and ask what their plan is for rectifying the situation so that you do not face a Google penalty.

Reversing Black Hat SEO Damage

Here’s how you can start correcting the issue:

  1. Put together a list of all inbound links (use a tool like Open Site Explorer or

  2. Remove links from low PR sites (many times you will have to simply ask the webmaster to remove the link and hope for a positive response)

  3. If you can’t get the bad links removed, use the Google Disavow tool (this is a last resort option – Google doesn’t like you to overuse it)

  4. Start building up good high quality content on your website via a blog and your main website pages – remove any keyword stuffing or other spam tactics

  5. Put together a proper content marketing and/or public relations campaign that will help you EARN high quality inbound links).

Already Been Penalized?

If Google’s already penalized your website, follow the above steps AND submit a Reconsideration Request to Google.

Only submit the request do this once you have taken corrective steps.

Lewis Sellers, the founder of Pinpoint Designs, received a positive result from his reconsideration request and provides this advice:

“Spend time on your reconsideration request. Google must receive hundreds, if not thousands, of reconsideration requests each and every week.

Rather than sending in a paragraph, spend some time telling them what you’ve done wrong and most importantly, be honest.

Tell them why you you think you’ve been targeted, what you’ve done to rectify it and how it won’t happen again.”

When submitting your reconsideration request be sure to provide supporting evidence for how you have changed/updated your site (including which low quality links you have had removed).

Provide this information via Google Docs and not through a random link as the Google team may not click a link that looks suspicious.

The final step- fire your black hat SEO agency that got you into this mess in the first place!

Here’s My (Shameless) Plug…

There are many good SEO agencies out there that can work within the budget considerations of a small business – including us here at Stryde.

We strictly adhere to “white hat SEO” tactics and pride ourselves on delivering outstanding, long term results for clients. We’re more than just an agency; we’re your partner in the world of online marketing.]]>