How to Be Banned by Google

Banned by Google!

Being removed from Google’s index is one of the worst things that can happen to a business.  Especially if you’re dependent on search traffic as a major source of business, when Google suddenly stops showing your site in search results–anywhere–that part of your business just disappears.  Google has published Webmaster Guidelines that are good to read and follow so that you can avoid this disaster.  Here I summarize some of the major mistakes that Web site owners make.

Link Hanky-Panky

Be sure that incoming links come from legitimate sites that have some relevance in topic to your site.  A good test for relevance is the question “Is this site useful to my visitors?”  There’s a famous story about an article in the New York Times that JC Penney had links to its site from sites on all sorts of topics–with JC Penney’s site ranking high in Google.  There was a subsequent action by Google to remove them from the Google index.  In about three months JC Penney regained their rankings.

Buy Incoming Links

Google is pretty clear that they regard the purchase of incoming links to be deceptive, that they will seek to detect it, and they will penalize those who do it.  So the purchase of incoming links, and paying people to buy links, is a very bad idea.  Remember that this issue is important to Google, and they have the best brains in the industry.  So don’t count on not getting caught!


Cloaking is the presentation of one selection of content to search engines and another to human visitors.  The idea is to present the search engine content that will cause it to rank the page high on certain terms, but not show that artificial content to human visitors.  There is a continuing stream of cloaking products that are promoted, each claiming to work and not get penalized.  Evaluate the odds of continuing success with such a technique, even if it works today.  How many programmers does the company selling the cloaking tool have?  And how many does Google have, how talented are they, and how important is this to Google?

Sell Links

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines state that selling links that pass pagerank is regarded as hurting the quality of Google’s search result.  There is a way to buy or sell links if you want to get traffic through the link, but not fool the search engine:  use rel=”nofollow” so that pagerank is not passed.  Of course, this means that no benefit in search engine results is passed by this link.

The Bottom Line

This is not an issue of morality–there’s nothing inherently evil or immoral about these techniques.  The problem is simply that our very important business partner, Google, has told us that they view these techniques as not helpful to their business interest.  So be smart, don’t put yourself in Google’s way!

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