Don’t Do This Either

Don’t do this Either

There are some shortcuts to achieving high search engine ranking. These are all methods to make your site appear to have content that’s different from what’s actually on the site. If you follow the approach of the previous newsletter, you won’t even consider any of these tactics. And if someone suggests you try them, don’t let that person anywhere near your site! The search engines either have discovered these methods are they are learning about them.

The Basics

A previous issue explained what search engines are trying to do–to show relevant results in response to a query. If you missed that issue, click here to read it.

There was a time when the search engines were not very sophisticated about identifying techniques for fooling them about content. There were a number of simple and not so simple methods that, when employed, would get you top ranking in the search engines.

Today many of these techniques are well known. However, I still have clients who are taken by people who promise quick results with the search engines–and they deliver! But when the “spamming” is detected, then the site may even be deleted from the search engine index, and receive no traffic for some time! If your business is dependent on the Internet for much of its volume, such a problem can have tragic consequences.

In this issue I list a number of techniques to watch for. But as you evaluate people who offer to help with search engine position, keep in mind that it takes time for the search engines to decide that your site is important and give it high rank. Anyone who promises quick results, or promises a quick specific position, is probably not honest and should be avoided.

Here are some of the more popular techniques:

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing takes many forms. An early form of it was text in the same color as the background of the page, so that a human reader wouldn’t see it but the search engine would. The page would be “stuffed” with repetions of the most important search terms. Needless to say this wasn’t very hard for the search engines to discover and check for. One of my clients lost most of their traffic for about six months because a “friend” told them about this technique and implemented it–for free–as a favor!

More subtle keyword stuffing would be the overuse of a popular term in the text of a page of the site. Today, search engines do more than count how many times one term appears; they also want other, related terms to appear, and they don’t want the important term to appear more than about a half dozen or so times per page–depending, of course, on the length of the page. The guideline to use is how many times you would use the word in writng for another person, if you wanted to emphasize that word. Don’t do more than that.

Images on your site can have what are called “alt tags” that are displayed when the visitor’s mouse hovers over the image. Don’t stuff the alt tags with keywords. If the image portrays a subject that contains the important term, then use it; but don’t make all of the alt tags the same, and don’t stuff them with keywords.

Most of the quick dirty tricks that are used are one or another form of keyword stuffing. It’s called “stuffing” because extra occurrences of keywords are used, in excess of what you would use to write for another human being. Make sure that you never never never allow anyone to use keyword stuffing of any kind on your site.

Separate Content for Spiders and People

Doorway pages and cloaking are used to provide one set of content to spiders and another to human readers. Technically they use different methods, but the effect is the same: great risk for your site.

Yes, there may be some sneaky way to use these techniques that might give you a good ranking for a short time. You might even try it and find that you get results–for while.

Again, what this does is put you in a position opposing what the search engines have as their basic objective–delivering pages that are genuinely related to search terms the visitor has entered. So remember how many smart people are working for Google, remember that many of them are trying to defeat these “content swapping” measures, and don’t try to compete with them on this issue that’s very important to them. You won’t win.

Duplicate Sites, Duplicate Content

Recall, again, what the search engines are trying to deliver to their customers–and it’ll be obvious to you why you don’t want to have duplicate sites! They don’t want to have the content listed twice in their results, so that someone clicking on a series of listinges sees the same thing again and again.

It’s perfectly OK to have a second site. Think of the many businesses that will have more than one store, stores with different brands and different merchandise for differeng clientele. But make sure that the second site is really different and is not just a mirror of the first site. Make it really different.

And be sure that the material you put on your own site is original. Don’t fall into that same trap by copying material from another site. It’s not going to help you.

The Bottom Line

Keep in mind what the search engines are trying to do–show their visitors relevant content–and help them do that with your site. Stay far away from anyone who recommends a short-cut. There are short-cuts, but they are very dangerous. Don’t even think about using them!