Search engines constantly strive to advance their technology and algorithms in order to provide the most relevant search results for their users. Achieving effective results require the identification, and ultimately the complete eradication of, manipulative search engine optimisation tactics. As Internet marketers, it is up to us to achieve high listings for our customers and this requires that our search engine marketing tactics change and grow with the new technology.
Unfortunately there are many search engine optimisation strategies still being used by ill informed or unscrupulous Internet marketers and webmasters that became obsolete a long time ago. In many cases, these strategies are not only ineffective but are now considered spam and can have dire consequences for your rankings and even result in your web site being banned permanently from some engines.
The following is a list of what are now considered within the professional Internet marketing world to be the Top 10 worst search engine optimisation tactics:
1: Doorway Pages (or Gateway Pages, Information Pages, Ghost pages, etc. )
These are generally multiple web pages that are devoid of useful content but heavily optimised for search engine rankings with each page being created for a particular key phrase. The idea of this concept was to fool the search engines into thinking that these pages were highly relevant and provide top rankings for them under their targeted phrase. When a surfer came across on the page they were often shown a “Click Here to Visit Our Web Site" link that the surfer had to click on to actually arrive at the legitimate website. Isn’t that what they were trying to do when the ended up at this page?
Once among the most popular methods of attaining multiple search engine placements, doorway pages were widely used until 2000 by many Internet marketers and web masters. Since then, Doorway pages have become the most obvious form of Spam that a search engine can find and the repercussions are dire if such a tactic is employed. Unfortunately, many web masters and marketers still employ this tactic and then wonder why they suddenly drop from the search engines results after being banned for using this technique.
2: Invisible Text
Invisible text is used in a variety of ways in an effort to increase the frequency of keywords in the body text of a web page. Some methods are: making text the same colour as the background of the web page, hiding text behind layers, placing text at the very bottom of over-sized pages, etc.
This tactic is particularly perilously as it is obvious to search engine spiders. In 1999, search engines began implementing automated methods of detection and penalization.
For legitimate ways to use text to greater effect within your web site download a copy of our book “Start at the Beginning” here: http://www.enable-uk.co.uk/html/book_2.html
3: Content Misrepresentation
Misleading search engines into believing your web page is about topic ‘A’ when it is in fact about ‘B’. This tactic was used primarily for the promotion of adult, gambling, and other extremely competitive search markets.
Unfortunately this tactic is still in use by unscrupulous web masters and marketers. The fact is that this tactic is the simplest for a search engine to identify and the result will be swift and complete; banishment from the search engine index indefinitely. The worst offence against the search engines is to try to fool them.
Redirects have some innocent uses (practical, legal, etc. ) but they are also used to mislead search engines by making them believe that the page they have indexed is highly relevant to a particular search phrase. When a surfer visits the page, however, they don’t see the original page and are redirected to an entirely different one.
In most cases search engines have advanced enough to see this technique being used and act accordingly. In fact they usually ignore any page with a redirect (assuming correctly that the content is useless) while spidering the redirect destination instead, i. e. ; the page that the surfer sees. Redirects, unless blatantly Spam-related do not directly result in intentional ranking penalties; however, they have no positive effect either.
5: Heading Tag Duplication
Heading Tags were created to highlight page headings in order of importance. Thus the Heading Tags that are available: H1, H2, H3, etc. This duplication technique involves implementing more than one H1 tag into a web page in order to enhance a particular keyword or phrase.
This tactic is still very prevalent and likely still works on some search engines; however, none of the major search engines will respond well to this technique as it has been identified as a common manipulation.
6: Alt Tag Stuffing
Alt Tag stuffing is the act of adding unnecessary or repetitive keywords into the Alt Tag (words that appear when you hover over an image with you mouse pointer).
The Alt Tag is meant to be a textual description of the image it is attached to. There is nothing wrong with tailoring the Alt tag to meet your keyword goals IF the tag is still understandable and if it appropriately describes the image. The offence occurs when an Alt tag has obvious keyword repetition/filler that a search engine can key in on as spam.
7: Comment Tag Stuffing
Comment Tags are used to include useful design comments in the background source code (html) when creating a web page. These tags should be used only for adding technical instructions or reminders; however, these tags were often used to artificially increase the keyword count for particular search phrases.
At one time there was some argument that this technique worked, but it has always been a “Black Hat" search engine optimisation technique that even then could result in placement penalties. Nowadays this technique will not help an optimisation campaign, if anything it will be ignored or produce a negative result.
8: Over Reliance on Meta Tags
Meta Tags is a broad term for descriptive tags that appear in most web pages and are used to provide search engines with a concept of the page topic. The most common tags are the description and keyword tags.
At one time, extinct search engines such as Infoseek relied a great deal on Meta Tags and many took advantage of this factor to manipulate rankings with relative ease. In today's far more advanced climate the search engines place cautious weight on Meta Tags and when considering rankings Metas play only a fractional role. Some webmasters still consider Meta Tags the ‘end-all and be-all’ of ranking producers and forget to optimise the rest of their web page for the search engines. With this line of thinking they miss that the search engines place far more importance on the body text (or visible text) of the web page. This is a critical error that will ultimately lead to low or insignificant rankings.
Note: An extremely common example of Meta Tag over-reliance are web sites that have been designed totally graphically and are devoid (or nearly so) of html text that a search engine can read. A web page such as this will have no body text to index and may only provide a small amount of relevance to the web page which ultimately leads to poor rankings.
Over reliance on Meta Tags does not produce intentional search engine penalties, however, the simple act of ignoring other ranking principles often means a lower ranking.
For more detailed information on how to use all Tags more effectively, download our book “Start at the Beginning” here: http://www.enable-uk.co.uk/html/book_2.html
9: Duplicate Content
This tactic is blatant Spam and is very common today. Essentially the Webmaster will create a web site and then create duplicates of each page and optimise them differently in order to obtain varying placements. By doing this you are saturating the search engine databases with content that is essentially eating valuable bandwidth and hard drive space.
Duplicate content is a dangerous game often played by full-time marketers accustomed to trying to attain placements in aggressive markets. Avoid this tactic like the plague unless you are willing to sustain serious ranking damages if you get caught - which you likely will.
10: Automatic Submission
Automatic Submission is the use of automated software to submit a website to the search engines automatically and often repeatedly.
At Enable UK the word ‘automated’ is a disturbing when used in reference to search engine optimisation and submission. The fact is that automated campaigns are not as effective as manual (by hand) ones.
Automatic Submission Tools can only submit to search engines that allow such submissions. These search engines make the majority of their profit from surfers like you viewing their advertising, be this at their web site or by the emails you will receive as a result of submitting to them. Automated tools have also been known to repeatedly submit sites and sometimes each individual page within a site and if a search engine is submitted to too often it will consider the submission as Spam and the website being submitted will not fair well.
The more established and popular search engines do not allow automated submissions, in fact the submission companies continually try to upgrade their software to try and subvert the search engines’ latest effort to stop their programs.
All in all, this leaves the submitter in an unstable position where they may or may not have their submission ignored. The cardinal rule of search engines… submit ONCE and it may take a while (usually no more than 2 or 3 months) but the site will get spidered at some point. If within a few months a site is not listed, then resubmit. As for the major engines like Google… be patient and definitely don't submit more than once if you can help it.
I hope that this article has told you a lot of things you already know and that you have not already fallen into any of these traps. If you are intending to outsource your Internet marketing campaigns, be extremely wary of any search engine optimisation company that suggests any of these tactics. Some of these tactics may work in the short term; however, that outcome is not only rare it is also a great way to get banned from the major search engines completely.
Our full guide on the legitimate way to optimise your web site for both “organic” search engine listings and your users can be found within our book “Start at the Beginning” which can be downloaded here: http://www.enable-uk.co.uk/html/book_2.html
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Article from Internet Marketing Tips Newsletter, a monthly publication of Enable-UK
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