SEO tactics that may penalise your site

The world of search engine optimisation (SEO) seems daunting and complicated. This often causes website owners, marketers and content producers to take shortcuts. The easiest ways to get higher rankings and more traffic can sometimes also get your site penalised and blacklisted by Google.

Sometimes websites use SEO techniques that achieve quick results but break search engines’ guidelines. These ‘black hat’ tactics are high risk but can also reap big traffic rewards. Some of them are also quite easy to implement without actually being aware of any wrongdoing.

Certain search engine optimisers are fully aware of these black hat techniques and try to outsmart the search engines. While many of them may have years of experience, Google’s algorithms evolve fast which makes it extremely difficult to outwit the company.

Sometimes the risks far outweigh the rewards and the effort. Whether you are aware of Google’s SEO policy or inadvertently use bad SEO tactics, your traffic and website could bear the brunt quite heavily.

If you notice that your traffic has suddenly dropped unexpectedly, you may be using SEO tactics that Google doesn’t like. Here are some of the SEO strategies that can get your website penalised.

Keyword stuffing and scraped content

Content is one of the main pillars of a good website. However, it can be time-consuming and sometimes expensive. Content creators can take shortcuts by scraping content off other websites and simply pasting it onto their own.

Besides the obvious plagiarism problems associated with copying content, websites can also be blacklisted by Google for copyright infringement. The other tactic, keyword stuffing, involves injecting an article with too many keywords in the hopes of getting a higher ranking.

Google will pick up on the keyword density and if it is unnaturally high, they may penalise the webpage and the website for using far too many keywords. Content creators who stuff their articles with too many keywords also run the risk of making it unreadable as the repeated words become tedious and boring.

To avoid these problems, just ensure that your content is readable and informative. There’s no harm in using other websites and content for reference purposes, but make sure that your content offers something unique and genuinely helpful to your readers.

Buying links

Backlinks from other sites are an important driver of traffic. Organic links from other sites (those that link to your website without solicitation because your content is great) can provide a steady stream of traffic and boost your rankings.

Link-building can be a time-consuming exercise, so some web owners may resort to purchasing links from other sites. Buying links goes against search engines’ policies and can have your rankings dropped.

This is a shortcut that can be expensive, so the money used to buy a link is better off being spent on a legitimate content marketing strategy. By using a proper link-building strategy instead of buying links, your website will actually get higher-quality links and more invested traffic.

Private blog networks

Private blog networks (PBNs) are a simple way to build authority. Google ranks websites with more authority and credibility much higher. The basic idea behind PBNs is to buy old domains with good authority and link them all to your website.

In theory, this generates instant backlinks from credible websites that have an established traffic flow. Google has become wise to this tactic, taking note of how many owners a domain has had before and whether it has ever been penalised in the past.

Sites that have undergone new ownership many times are a red flag to Google. Once a sight incurs a penalty, it is also earmarked by Google for future reference and surveillance. If they discover that the bad website is owned by your main site, the penalties can be passed on, so sometimes the linking strategy can backfire.

There’s no harm in linking from one site to another, as long as the content is genuinely related and the link is included to help the user, then your websites will be fine. Avoid buying old domains in the hope of driving traffic to your main website.

Negative SEO

This tactic involves sabotaging your competitors’ websites. Negative SEO can take many forms, such as pointing spammy links to your rival website, driving automated bot traffic to your competitor’s site in the hopes of crashing it, or even hacking their websites and modifying their content.

These tactics are more deliberate so the chances of accidentally engaging in one of these SEO strategies is almost impossible. Negative SEO also carries severe consequences if Google finds out that you’re damaging your rivals’ reputations in any way.

Cloaking tactics

Cloaking is when a website presents one type of content to a search engine but another type to the user, on the same URL. For example, a site can show Google a keyword-rich article with relevant text, but then show the users an image-heavy article full of sales pitches and spammy copy.

This tactic is also deliberate so there’s no chance of accidentally cloaking your website, but it’s good to be aware of the strategy. It’s an attempt to gain high search engine rankings but force sales onto the users.

If Google finds a website cloaking its pages, the site will be blacklisted immediately. It’s also easy for Google to mask its IP address and catch the website red-handed. If you’re tempted to hide your intentions from Google through cloaking strategies, your website will be blacklisted in a matter of time.

While some of these black hat SEO tactics are deliberately sneaky, others can be easy to commit without realising it. Stuffing your content with keywords is probably the easiest to do, so try not to go overboard. Buying links can also be an easy trap in which to fall but can result in your rankings and traffic being cut.

At the end of the day, the best SEO strategy is to do it properly. Spend time on your content, don’t take shortcuts and make sure that you have the right intentions to help your readers. These strategies always lead to better returns in the long run.


Sorted Design Agency is a creative company that constantly looks for solutions to other people’s problems. These problems come mostly in the visual format, such as graphic design, logo and illustration, but we’re experts in brand development, website design, and digital SEO campaigns as well.


Based in Pretoria and Cape Town, Sorted has been in the content marketing industry since 2006. We assist your company with its corporate identity by communicating core values through content and articles written for your website, blog and news area. This content is supported by AdWords and social advertising, which facilitates wider reach and audience growth. Turn your website into a business tool.


Sorted also owns two other businesses; InkFish Print Studio – a printing company that handles a range of promotional materials for businesses and other services for individual customers, and Pampiri + Kie – a gifts and stationery store selling online and in-store. Both of these companies operate from Cape Town and Pretoria.


Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn for the best tips on design, marketing and web development. We also share the latest industry news and fresh content to inspire fellow designers, creatives and marketers.


More Posts

Create your own brand identity

There’s no substitute for professional marketing and branding services offered by agencies, but what if your budget is really tight? For small businesses, startups and


This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.