Google’s recent disciplinary action against J.C. Penney has made many people in the SEO world sit up and pay attention to black hat SEO techniques, which are the less-than-reputable ways that some companies try to gain better search engine rankings.

In February, Google penalized for trying to gain rank by offering discounts to students in exchange for students placing links to on websites with the .edu extension. This came on the heals of Google penalizing J.C. Penney for using inappropriate links to gain rank.┬áThe manual adjustments to Google’s search rankings resulted in both companies appearing several pages back. Here are four other “mistakes” that Google may be watching for and penalizing:

1. Using Link Farms

Link farms have one goal: to get you as many links as possible on as many websites as possible as quickly as possible. They don’t care whether the links make sense, but Google does.

  • Tip: Make sure that any SEO company you are working with gets you links on websites that have some type of logical relationship to your company. For example, links on sports blogs make perfect sense if the links lead to sports equipment or fitness products.

2. Filling Copy with Keywords Rather than Content

Google readily admits that meta tags and keywords can boost your website ranking; however, you have to use keywords correctly. To prevent abuse, Google calculates the ratio of keywords to other content. If you are keyword stuffing, you may be hurting your search engine rank.

  • Tip: Vary your keywords and try to use one every 100 words.
  • Tip: Put keywords in prominent places, such as page titles and subtitles.

3. Creating “Fake” Pages

Google refers to this type of black hat SEO as doorway pages, which are fake pages created solely to manipulate search engine crawlers. If a consumer does click on a doorway page, the website will automatically redirect the person to the real page.

  • Tip: Create a landing page that promotes your company’s goal and make sure all your web pages are part of your main website.

4. Trusting Everything an SEO Company Says

North America will spend over $17 billion this year on SEO, according to the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization. Unfortunately, a large portion of the money will go to companies that use black hat SEO techniques instead of honest methods. Additionally, many of these companies will not understand the correct ways to use SEO, and they may not be able to provide your company the boost that a reputable content company can.

  • Tip: Google and other search engines provide information on appropriate and inappropriate SEO techniques.
  • Tip: Research any SEO company and its reputation before paying money for a campaign.

An SEO company can be a great way to boost your search rank, but failing to do due diligence in selecting a company won’t prevent Google from penalizing your search engine rank if the SEO company uses black hat techniques. Avoid these mistakes by working with a reputable marketing firm that specializes in white hat SEO.