The Unexpected Benefits of Bad SEO: Learning from the Mistakes of Others

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“Why are black hat SEOs horrible at hockey?

Because they spend a lot of time in the penalty box.”

Black hat or simply bad SEO is a set of optimization hacks used to get around search engine guidelines and boost site ranking without paying much attention to user experience, content quality, and other crucial things that matter for search engines. The tactics involved in bad SEO are often spammy and absolutely unethical. They include cloaking, using private link networks, keyword stuffing, etc. And they usually end up not solving users’ needs and leaving your website with penalties from search engines.

But are these tactics really so terrible?

This might surprise you, but common SEO mistakes can do some good, too. Apart from their potential negative consequences, they can help you grow, refine your strategy, and achieve more significant results in the long run. Read on, and we’ll tell you about the most unexpected yet real benefits of optimization techniques that are normally considered harmful for your website.

Common Bad SEO Techniques and Their Backfires

  • Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is the most common bad SEO tactic. It implies using an excessive number of the same keywords and phrases in the website’s content in an attempt to gain an unfair advantage in search engines and rank higher.

What’s the problem? While using several relevant and effective keywords helps users find your content more easily, stuffing your content with dozens of the same keywords typically looks unnatural. Keyword stuffing is relatively easy to notice (unless it’s an invisible stuffing technique when webmasters hide keywords from the readers with the same text color as the background and other tricks). 

In any case, overusing keywords looks spammy and results in poor-quality content. This harms users’ experience and your overall brand image and can result in penalties from search engines.

What should you do instead? Find a handy tool to simplify and empower your keyword research. For example, platforms like Ahrefs offer a variety of SEO tools, including keyword research solutions. You can use it or explore the best Ahrefs alternatives for you. 

After finding a suitable tool, find the most effective target keywords for every page and naturally integrate them into your content. Most importantly, watch your keyword density and focus on writing for humans instead of search engines.

  • Link Buying

This tactic implies paying webmasters and site owners to post your links on their pages. The goals of this approach are to gain as many backlinks as possible and boost rankings without wasting much time on creating share-worthy content and building lasting relationships with other sites.

What’s the problem? Buying plenty of links can save SEOs quite a lot of time and increase their positions in SERPs. However, all the gains are incredibly short-term. The issue is that the quality of on-sale backlinks isn’t always good. That is, the chances of buying links from untrusted resources are pretty high. Needless to say, having irrelevant or spammy websites in your backlink profile can be harmful for your website and overall credibility. Besides, the risk of penalty is also high. If search engines detect bought links, it can result in a significant drop in your positions and even complete removal from the results page, killing your online presence.

What should you do instead? Create top-quality content and assets that bring value so that other sites want to share it. Also, focus on building lasting relationships with website owners to grow your backlink profile naturally.

  • Cloaking and Hidden Content

Cloaking is a bad SEO trick that enables you to show different versions of a website to your visitors and search engines. The technique is used to deceive search engine crawlers and show them what they want to see to rank higher; meanwhile, users see something completely different. Several methods allow you to achieve this, including:

  • User-agent cloaking;
  • IP cloaking;
  • HTTP accept-language cloaking, etc.

Hidden text is the most basic form of cloaking; it implies integrating text that’s only visible to search engines into your pages. Coloring keywords with the same color as the background of your page is one of the hidden text techniques. However, it can also be done through JavaScript or CSS.

What’s the problem? While cloaking can bring temporary benefits, it remains a deceptive practice that results in penalties. It can cause a massive detriment to your visibility and traffic in the long run. Additionally, it can forever damage your trust and transparency.

What should you do instead? Avoid cloaking at all costs.

  • Ignoring Mobile Optimization

Though it’s not an intentional black hat trick, ignoring mobile friendliness is one of the biggest SEO mistakes of today.

What’s the problem? There are two primary reasons for that:

  • As of 2024, 59.01% of all global traffic comes from mobile devices. That is, if you don’t make your website accessible for mobile, you create negative experiences for nearly 60% of users and lose them forever.
  • Google made a revolution in 2019 with its mobile-first indexing. This update means that your positions in SERPs are determined primarily based on your site’s mobile version. So, if you don’t make it mobile-friendly, you won’t show up high in search results, not only for smartphones and tablets but also for desktops.

Since search engines prioritize mobile-friendly sites, neglecting mobile optimization will only result in low rankings and traffic and lots of missed opportunities.

What should you do instead? Invest time and effort into making your site more mobile-optimized. This will result in better user experience, lower bounce rates, higher traffic and conversions, and, eventually, better visibility and higher positions in SERPs.

  • Neglecting Technical SEO

Technical SEO deals with all sorts of technical aspects of a website that define user experience. Its basics include things like:

  • Crawlability;
  • Site loading speed;
  • Broken links;
  • Website structure, etc.

What’s the problem? A website that loads slowly, contains broken links, and otherwise performs wrong can’t make a good impression on users. As a result, if you don’t take due care of technical optimization, your user experience suffers. Moreover, your site becomes hard for search engines to find, crawl, and index, which could mean lower rankings.

What should you do instead? Pay attention to the value of technical SEO, and consistently put effort into improving your site’s performance.

Unexpected Benefits of Analyzing Bad SEO

The aforementioned major SEO mistakes can be incredibly harmful for your website if you use them. However, if you focus on analyzing them and learning from mistakes, this can actually bring you several unexpected benefits:

  • Identifying common pitfalls – When you learn about the common mistakes and bad practices, you also learn what should be avoided. As a result, you can ensure that you never make the same mistakes.
  • Understanding Google’s algorithms – Watching how and when Google penalizes websites can also be helpful. It will provide you with valuable insights into how Google ranks websites and how its algorithms work in general.
  • Discovering creative solutions – Analyzing and understanding bad SEO can definitely help you make more informed decisions for your strategy. Apart from avoiding common mistakes, it can help you generate ideas for innovative and ethical optimization strategies.
  • Building empathy for users — Exploring how bad optimization tactics affect users can help you build more understanding and empathy toward them. This can stimulate you to prioritize user-centric SEO practices and strive for impeccable user experience.
  • Strengthening your SEO knowledge – Lastly, analyzing bad examples of optimization can help you distinguish good and poor tactics and become better overall in SEO.

Case Studies: Learning From Real-World Examples

If you think that damaging SEO mistakes are only made by small and inexperienced businesses, you aren’t right. Let us give you a few real-world examples of companies that faced issues because of bad SEO and then raised from ashes after learning from mistakes they made:

  • BMW – In 2006, BMW, one of the world’s best-known car manufacturers, was penalized by Google and removed from search results completely. The German version of BMW’s site was caught cloaking and creating “doorway” pages to manipulate their rankings. The site was off the web for only 3 days, which, however, caused a lot of damage to its traffic and sales. Nevertheless, after this failure, the company refined its optimization approach. BMW’s websites are user-friendly and optimized for mobile and deliver high-quality content with no deceptive tricks. As a result, the once penalized brand site now ranks #2 in the Vehicles – Makes and Models category in Germany.
  • The Washington Post – In 2007, another well-known brand suffered from Google’s penalties. The Washington Post was accused of selling links on their blog and neglecting Google’s guidelines when including paid links. The website lost its PageRank value and lost lots of traffic because of the penalty. This example shows us that not only buying links but also selling them can be quite risky. Nevertheless, the paper learned its lessons. Now, The Washington Post prioritizes the quality and value of content and ranks #11 in the News & Media Publishers category.


Deceptive black hat tricks and simply negligent, bad SEO tactics can indeed be harmful for your website and lead to severe penalties. These tactics should be avoided at all costs if you are aiming for great optimization outcomes. However, though they cause a lot of harm, there are ways to benefit from them as well.

Learning from mistakes is the key to success! Now that you know about the common mistakes, don’t make them yourself. Moreover, actively analyze your competitors and their pitfalls. Together, a focus on ethical SEO practices and insights you gain from studying other people’s bad optimization tactics can help you get ahead of the competition and win!

Author’s Bio: 

Muhammad Talha, a seasoned Digital PR expert at Digitize Block, possesses a wealth of experience in elevating online visibility and brand authority. With a proven track record in strategic SEO implementations, he seamlessly integrates outreach campaigns to secure high-quality backlinks and media coverage. Talha’s proficiency in crafting compelling narratives and leveraging influencer partnerships enhances brands’ digital footprints. His dynamic approach navigates the ever-evolving SEO landscape, ensuring clients achieve optimal rankings and sustained online relevance. Armed with a passion for innovation and a keen eye for SEO trends, Muhammad Talha is dedicated to steering brands towards unparalleled success in the digital realm.