Tricking the search engines to rank your pages higher than they ought to is called “spamdexing”, or simply spam. I have warned people many times over about a host of different spamming techniques, and how they should avoid them. If you don’t mind a nasty wrench being thrown into your search marketing plans, please feel free to go ahead and ignore the rest of this article…
Please welcome Andy MacDonald of Swift Media to the fold! He’ll be an contributing editor for the Blah, Blah! Technology ‘blog, bringing you his take on all things SEO & SEM.
There are many different ways of tricking search engines, people being the clever creatures they are, but I’ll cover only the content spamming techniques today. My goal is not to teach you how to perform these techniques. Rather, to ensure you have enough information to spot them, and prevent your site from running afoul of the rules and suffering the consequences. Or even better, ensure you know enough to discover them on a competitor’s website, so that you can justifiably turn them in.
- Doorway pages. Doorway pages are simple HTML pages that are customized to a few particular keywords or phrases, and they are programmed to be visible only by specific search engines and their spiders. The purpose of these doorway pages is to trick the search engines into giving these sites higher rankings; Doorway pages are specifically aimed towards search engine spiders – once a searcher lands on a doorway page, they are instantly redirected to the “real” website.
- Keyword stuffing. Also known as keyword loading, this technique is really just an overuse of sound content-optimization practices. It’s good to use your target keywords on your search landing pages, and use them often, but when you start throwing them in just to attract the search engines, your pages can be flagged. Dumping out-of-context keywords into the alternate text for images, or into <noscript> or <noframes> tags, is a variation of this same unethical technique. Checkout my article on how to avoid keyword stuffing.
- Hidden text. HTML offers many opportunities to place text in front of the search engine spiders that the visitor will never see. Displaying text in incredibly small sizes, or with the same font color as the background color are hoary spam techniques. Newer approaches include using style sheets to write keywords onto web pages that are then overlaid by graphics or other page elements. In short, any time you can see text in the HTML source of a page that does not show up when you view the page in your web browser, it is probably spam and you are indeed looking at one of their shady tactics. So avoid hidden text, too!
- Duplicate tags. Using duplicate title tags or other meta tags have been rumored to boost rankings in times past. The same style sheet approach that can hide text can also overlay text on top of itself, so it is shown once on the screen but listed multiple times in the HTML file.
- Duplicate websites. Why stop at duplicate tags when you can clone an entire website? You duplicate the content in slightly different form under several different domain names and then have each of your websites link to each other (to increase their page ranking factors). Maybe your websites can grab six slots in the top ten results. Unfortunately for the spamdexers, the search engines can now detect duplicate content, you will in fact down-grade all of the websites which contain the same content, and could even have your websites banned! After all, learning how to reduce duplicate content can aid you search rankings.
And the really bad news about all of these techniques is that sometimes they do work. Search engines do get fooled usually by people who are harder working than us. Maybe they have the time to actively seek out and find new ways to fool the search engines. Most of the time, however, spam techniques are like stock tips. When you hear the tip, it is probably too late. The stock price has already gone up and the search engines are already implementing countermeasures…
Andy MacDonald, CEO of Swift Media UK, a website design & search marketing company. For daily tips on Blogging, Marketing, SEO & Making Money Online, Also, checkout his SEO & Marketing Tips for Webmasters blog or subscribe by RSS to his ‘blog.