Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

Search Engine Spam

Some SEO firms use techniques that may give their clients a fast bump to the top of the rankings but which violate the search engines’ terms of use. An example is stuffing keywords into a page but making them the same color as the background (for instance, white text on a white page) so that humans looking at the web page don’t see them but the search engines do. This kind of thing is unfair to web sites that play by the rules, and often results in web sites gaining high rankings for keywords that aren’t truly relevant for the web site.

The search engines don’t like this, for obvious reasons. And if they become aware of it, they’ll penalize the offending web site. If you’ve done everything possible to make your web page relevant for a critical keyword phrase, you have great content, and your link popularity is competitive, yet you can’t seem to get those high rankings, take a look at the sites that do get the top rankings.

Are they spamming the search engines?

Search engine spam is “pages created deliberately to trick the search engine into offering inappropriate, redundant, or poor quality search results” according to Tim Mayer, VP of Web Search at Yahoo. Here are a few types of search engine spam:

  • Unrelated keywords
  • Hidden text
  • Hidden links
  • Duplicate pages
  • Doorway or gateway pages
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Gibberish
  • Teeny, tiny text
  • Link farms
  • Redirects
  • Cloaking
  • Page swapping (showing one page to visitors but another to the search engines)

In her presentation at the Search Engine Strategies Conference in NYC Shari Thurow of Grantastic Designs claims this to be her favorite quote from Google: “Webmasters who spend their energies upholding the spirit of the basic principles listed above will provide a much better user experience and subsequently enjoy better ranking than those who spend their time looking for loopholes they can exploit.”Google Webmaster Guidelines]

If your competitors are cheating with search engine spam, that doesn’t force you to do the same thing to compete. Bad idea! Instead, consider turning them in. Drop a little note to the search engine pointing out what the web site has done that seems to be at odds with the search engine’s guidelines. If you’re right and your competition has flagrantly defied the guidelines, their rankings will probably be adjusted by the search engines, giving you a chance to compete honestly for those high rankings. Here’s where you can do that:

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