Engine Marketing Fundamentals – Part 5
get right into it. Search engines want to provide the most accurate
and complete search results they can to their target market. After all,
this is what drives all aspects of their business model. If people have
no faith in a search engine the traffic will dry up and the search placement
fees as well as advertising fees will cease to exist.
this week’s newsletter we are going to look at the deliberately
deviant techniques to avoid when optimizing your Web site – search
Tips & Techniques
Internet marketers try various techniques to trick the search engines
into positioning their sites higher in search results. These tricks
do not work with every search engine and if it is discovered that you
are trying to dupe the search engines, some may not list you at all.
Search engines have been designed to detect many of these techniques
and you will be penalized in some way if you are discovered.
are 12 common tricks some people try to get higher rankings:
Repeating the same keywords over and over again hidden in your visible
HTML, invisible layers such as the <noframes> tag, and in your
meta-tags. Repeating keywords over and over again by displaying them
at the bottom of your document after a number of line breaks counts
as well! For example:
games, games, games, video games, games, games, board games,
online games, games, games, games, games…
This ill-fated technique is called Keyword Stacking
and it is quite obvious when a site is doing this. Its not so obvious
cousin is called Keyword Stuffing and this
is when you exercise the same stacking techniques to aspects of the
Web site that should not be optimized such as spacer images.
A spacer image
is used to by Web developers to properly align aspects of a Web
page. The spacer image is a single pixel wide by a single pixel
high. I mentioned in the last newsletter that applying descriptive
Alt tags is an important part of the optimization. That’s
true, but not for spacer images. Alt tags must accurately describe
the image they represent in order to be relevant. A spacer image
is used for just that – properly spacing items on a page.
It is not good practice to include descriptive text in an Alt tag
for a spacer image.
keywords on your Web site by displaying them in your document using
a very small font. Why would you even do this unless you were specifically
trying to manipulate search results? Don’t do it. This SPAM technique
is called Tiny Text.
Hidden Text and Links in your Web site for
the purpose of getting in more keywords should be avoided. For example,
hidden text includes repeating keywords in your HTML document by making
the text color the same as the background color. Another example is
inserting keywords in areas not visible to the end user such as the
use of the hidden layers in style sheets.
frequent and regular title changes so that the bots think your site
is a new site and they list you again and again; this is
Misleading. In the case of directories one might change
the name of their site to have a space, exclamation mark (!), or A as
the first character so that you come up first in alphabetical lists.
Page Swapping, which involves showing one
page to a search engine, but a different one to the end user. Quite
often you will find people jack content from a top ranking site, insert
it on their page to achieve a top ranking, then replace that page with
a completely different page when a desired ranking is achieved.
Content Duplication. Say you have one Web
page and it is ranking pretty good. You decide it would be nice to improve
your ranking, but hey, it would be good to keep your current position
too. You decide to duplicate your page, fine tune a few things, and
call it something different. You then submit that page to the search
engine. Not bad! Your ranking improved and now you have 2 listings.
Why not do it again? And so on and so forth.
If you are caught
duplicating Web pages you will be penalized. Search engines want to
provide unique content; not the same page over and over again.
Domain Spam sometimes called Mirrored
Sites, which is closely related to content duplication.
This is when an entire Web site is replicated (or slightly modified)
and placed at a different URL. This is usually done to dominate search
positions and to boost link popularity, but in the end all it does
it hurt you when you get caught. You will get banned for practicing
Abuse of the Meta-Refresh Tag. Have you
ever visited a site and then been automatically transported to another
page within the site? This is the result of a Meta-Refresh Tag. This
tag is an HTML document that is designed to automatically replace
itself with another HTML document after a certain specified period
of time, as defined by the document author – it’s like
automatic page-swapping. Now that I’ve mentioned this, don’t
use a redirect unless it is absolutely necessary.
the permanent redirect (HTTP 301) is truly permissible by search engines
because you’re telling the search engines that the page they
are looking for has a new home; go there to index it.
you do use a meta-refresh tag to redirect users, then it is suggested
that you set a delay of at least fifteen seconds and provide a link
on the new page back to the page they were taken from. Some businesses
use meta-refresh tags to redirect users from a page that is obsolete
or no longer there. Meta-refresh tags also may be used to give an
automated slideshow or force a sequence of events as part of a design
a technique similar to Page Swapping and the Meta-refresh in that
the intent is to serve search engines one page while the end user
is served another. Credible search marketers do not employ cloaking
and it is recommended that you follow suit.
Use of misleading Doorway Pages. Doorway pages, also
known as gateway pages and bridge pages, are pages that lead to your
site but are not considered part of your site. Doorway pages are focused
pages that lead to your Web site but are tuned to the specific requirements
of the search engines. By having different doorway pages with different
names (e.g., indexa.html for AltaVista or indexg.html for Google)
for each search engine, you can optimize pages for individual engines.
due to the need to be ranked high in search engine results and the
enormous competition between sites that are trying to get such high
listings, doorway pages have increasingly become more popular. Each
search engine is different and has different elements in its ranking
criteria. You can see the appeal of doorway pages because developing
doorway pages allows you to tailor a page specifically for each search
engine before submitting to achieve optimal results. Search
engines frown upon the use of doorway pages because the intent is
obvious – to manipulate rankings in one site’s favour
with no regard for quality content. Do not use them.
to steal traffic from legitimate Web sites. If someone
were to operate a Web site called Gooogle.com with the extra ‘o’
or Yahhoo with an extra ‘h’ that would be considered Cyerbsquatting.
Another type of domain squatting is when a company acquires the familiar
domain of another company because it has expired or the original company
no longer exists. The company then uses the familiar domain to promote
completely unrelated content. Google, in particular, frowns on cybersquatting.
Participating in Links Farms or otherwise
irrelevant linking schemes to boost rankings based on achieving better
link popularity. Having thousands of irrelevant links pointing to
your Web site does more damage than good if you get caught! For best
results, only pursue links that relate to your Web site and are of
interest to your target market.
To summarize, SPAM to
search engines is any Web development or copywriting technique done to intentionally
manipulate search rankings in one Web site’s favor at the sacrifice
of quality results for the masses. If a Web site is found guilty of SPAM
it will either be penalized or banned from the search engine altogether.
How do you know if
you are spamming a search engine? If the technique you are employing on
your Web site does not offer value to your end user and is done solely
for the intention of boosting your search engine rankings then you are
probably guilty of spam.
Search engines post
guidelines for what they consider acceptable practices. It is advised
you read each search engine’s policy to ensure you conform to their
guidelines. Here is Google’s policy (http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html
Guidelines - Basic principles:
Make pages for users,
not for search engines. Don't deceive your users, or present different
content to search engines than you display to users.
Avoid tricks intended
to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you'd
feel comfortable explaining what you've done to a website that competes
with you. Another useful test is to ask, "Does this help my users?
Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?
in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank.
In particular, avoid links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods"
on the web as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.
Don't use unauthorized
computer programs to submit pages, check rankings, etc. Such programs
consume computing resources and violate our terms of service. Google does
not recommend the use of products such as WebPosition Gold™ that
send automatic or programmatic queries to Google.
Quality Guidelines - Specific recommendations:
Avoid hidden text
or hidden links.
Don't employ cloaking
or sneaky redirects.
Don't send automated
queries to Google.
Don't load pages
with irrelevant words.
Don't create multiple
pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.
pages created just for search engines, or other "cookie cutter"
approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.
your Web site is mistakenly penalized for SPAM your best course of action
is to contact the search engine and discuss remedies. If you are applying
a technique that is considered SPAM, get rid of it. Know what is considered
search engine SPAM and avoid it before it ever becomes a problem for you.
A Web site is to be
designed for the target market, not just the search engines. Sometimes
a Web site is going to exercise design techniques that can potentially
cause problems with search engines. In the next issue we will cover common
Web site design problems and outline methods for addressing potential
Tools & Resources
For a refresher or if you missed the first two newsletters in the Search Engine Optimization series you can view them in the archive on by Web site at:
Engine Marketing Fundamentals – Part 1
Engine Marketing Fundamentals – Part 2
Engine Marketing Fundamentals – Part 3
Engine Marketing Fundamentals – Part 4
Link popularity is a closely related topic and I advise you to review the article on my Web site at:
Visit my Web site at http://www.susansweeney.com