How to Avoid Black Hat SEO Agencies: Spooky Warning Signs

Search Engine Optimization

Boosting your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can help people find your website on the web and grow your brand. There are great resources and companies that can help with doing so, using effective and safe SEO techniques! However, there are also unethical, black hat SEO agencies that may try to take advantage of you.

If you’re considering reaching out to a digital marketing company to help get your website found online, there can be a lot of misinformation to sort through.

When trying to avoid internet creatures that go bump in the night, there are some key things to keep in mind.

Related: Is Your Marketing Strategy Complete? Find Out Here [Digital Marketing Checklist]

Does it sound too good to be true?

Some SEO agencies talk a big game, but behind the scenes, they might be practicing some less that legit tactics to achieve their results, referred to as black hat SEO techniques. In the long run, those techniques might actually do more harm than good.

Spooky- Intuitive Digital

What exactly is black hat SEO?

Black hat SEO refers to practices aimed at gaming the system, in order to get a website to rank higher in Google’s search results.

It typically refers to unethical, spammy techniques used to represent a website on the internet and to trick Google into displaying it. These tactics may even violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

And as you can imagine, Google doesn’t like being tricked.

Why should avoiding black hat SEO agencies matter to me?

Promises made by some SEO Agencies can sound pretty great. Guaranteed #1 spot in Google? Sign me up. All in a two-week turnaround? Let’s do this.

Behind those extravagant promises are what they don’t mention: the high risk of being penalized.

There are great SEO agencies that can indeed help you increase your site’s search engine ranking. Chances are you won’t hear them claiming these types of elaborate promises, though.

That’s because reliable SEO takes time.

Good, white hat SEO is built upon a primary goal: make Google happy. If Google’s happy, and they can see that your site is legit and that others think so too, results will tip in your favor.

Using black hat SEO techniques, while you may see fast results in the beginning, can actually do some pretty serious harm down the line.

If you cheat the system or even try to, Google can penalize your site and tank your rankings.

You don’t want to be on Google’s bad side.

Google’s only getting better at catching onto black hat tactics, and in turn, your site’s appearance in their search results can be significantly affected.

When Google penalties happen, they can be either manual or algorithmic. With manual penalties, Google will usually let the webmaster know, and there may be a chance to correct the issue. However, some penalties are algorithmic. Meaning you may just see your results suddenly drop off, with seemingly little to no explanation.

About that time, any SEO agency boasting fast results and using black hat practices could disappear just as quickly as your rankings.

Additionally, getting yourself out from under a penalty can be a long, uphill battle.

Trick or Treat Intuitive Digital

How can I spot black hat services when searching for a digital marketing company?


While there are some black hat SEO agencies out there to be wary of, there are helpful, responsible SEO agencies too! It can be tricky knowing how exactly to spot shady agencies without knowing what to look for.

Here are some warning signs that might help raise a red flag if you hear them from an agency:

Excessive Secrecy

Ideally, white hat SEO agencies will be honest and transparent.

Trustworthy digital marketers should let you know what to expect with their services, and they should give you a realistic idea when it comes to results.

Additionally, the SEO community constantly shares knowledge. If an SEO Agency is hesitant to reveal their techniques, it could be that they have something to hide.

Promises for a guaranteed Google ranking within a specific turnaround time

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) doesn’t happen overnight.

It’s Google’s world and we’re all just living in it. While good SEO companies can do many things to make your site google-friendly and gradually get more eyes on your content, rankings are ultimately up to Google’s algorithms. Any indication otherwise might be something of a red flag.

Reliable, ethical SEO techniques are an investment that can build a strong footing for your brand to grow online into a strong presence. And unlike black hat tactics, it can be done without jeopardizing that position in the long run!

Guaranteed traffic

A good SEO agency can get your website seen and entice users to visit those links, but nothing can guarantee that the link will still be clicked after all that. It’s the beauty of free will, and if traffic can be guaranteed then perhaps it isn’t coming from real human beings interested in your website content and brand.


When in doubt, ask! Ultimately, the sign of a good SEO Agency is that they are transparent and willing to work openly with you to achieve the best results for your company.

Check out some company reviews!

Do you think you found a great SEO Company but you’re still not sure about proceeding?

There are many consumer review platforms that can give valuable information when it comes to a company’s reputation.

Chances are if a business has wronged someone in the past, you’ll find an indication of that from previous reviews.

Alternatively, review based platforms can be used to confirm that the company you’ve chosen really is awesome, and that other people experienced working with them first-hand to verify that!

When researching digital marketing companies, keep an eye out for these types of reviews.

For example, see what people are saying about Intuitive Digital, like 5-star ratings across multiple platforms!

Yelp Reviews - Intuitive Digital - 5 Star Rating
Google Business Reviews - Intuitive Digital

Avoid Black Hat SEO Signs, Look for White Hat SEO

Black hat SEO tactics may deliver short-term success, but they come with an extremely high risk that cannot be sustained – ultimately causing long-term damage.

White hat SEO takes time, but the investment is worth the wait.

Reach out to Intuitive Digital today to see how we can help build and grow a healthy, reliable online presence for your brand using white hat SEO techniques!

About the Author

Nick Footer

Nick Footer is an entrepreneur and founder of Intuitive Digital, a national award-winning digital marketing agency in Portland, Oregon. With over 15 years of experience, he has helped hundreds of businesses improve their online presence through search engine optimization, paid advertising, and website design.

7 thoughts on “How to Avoid Black Hat SEO Agencies: Spooky Warning Signs

  1. Lynn – I see this all the time. It really pays to research before you buy any SEO services.

    If you just Google the prospective SEO with the words \”problem\” or \”scam\” you\’d be surprised at what you find out.

    I did this just the other day with a prospective client and the first thing that came up on the SEO he had hired was Ripoff Report. Very depressing!

    Thanks for the info – should be required reading for newbies hiring an SEO!

  2. Thank You for sharing this useful information with us. Do these black hat technique really block our website for google crawler? There are lot of black hat techniques which cause to block our website in google. But really you have posted here many lots of important techniques which are very useful and should be taken care off during blogging.

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