Every online business understands that SEO plays a major role in their profitability by bringing in organic (un-paid) traffic to their websites. The focus has always been on what “to do” to ensure high search engine rankings and hence enhanced traffic. However, in order to do great SEO, it is equally important to know what “not to do” with SEO.
Unethical SEO techniques, known in SEO parlance as “Black Hat SEO” techniques are being used by certain businesses to dupe Search Engines into giving them a higher rank. This results in relevant websites becoming harder to find which neither augurs well for website owners nor for the search engines which strive to give their visitors the best search results. Most search engines therefore have systems and algorithms in place which can detect the vast majority of these spam techniques and demote it automatically or in worst cases, de-list them completely. This penalization is a serious issue and while it can seriously hurt even large businesses, it can potentially wipe out small ones. So, to make sure you do not head into dangerous territory, we’ve compiled a list of techniques which are rated as spam by search engines
1. Keyword stuffing:
While it is true that including keywords in your content will help in a better ranking, forced inclusion of keywords in your content or in Alt tags of your images can do more harm than good. Keywords should appear smoothly in your content as you write it and stuffing your content with keyword is definitely crossing the line. As a thumb rule, if your content doesn’t read well as your reading it, you’ve probably overused your keywords.
2. Cloaking and Hidden text:
Trying to force keywords on your site in a color which merges with the background or in any other way to ensure it is seen by search engines but not by site visitors is an old trick that search engines have become very good at getting hold of.
3. Sneaky redirects:
Attempting to redirect users to a different page than the search engine saw is a strict no-no.
4. Duplicate/Thin content with little or no added value:
Freshness of content and its recency plays a pivotal role in search engine ranking algorithms. Making regular updates to your website could therefore help in improving your rankings. However, trying to duplicate your content in an attempt to fool search engines will sooner rather than later get you on that dreaded blacklist.
Low-quality or shallow pages which do not provide users with much added value (such as thin affiliate pages, doorway pages, cookie-cutter sites, automatically generated content, or copied content) will also get classified as spam.
5. Unnatural links from/to a site:
Links play a good role in SEO results and are supposed to be earned by websites by virtue of excellent content. But trying to deceive search engines with artificial or manipulated links; purchasing or selling links, exchanging them or participating in any of those grey link schemes doing the rounds can attract strict penalty. Remember, quality links matter more than quantity.
6. Spammed Meta tag descriptions:
Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team in a recent Webmaster Help Channel video said it would be better for SEOs to leave Meta tag descriptions blank than have duplicate descriptions. This may seem inappropriate to a lot of SEOs but that’s just what reality is. As Cutts added, unique descriptions for some pages definitely do matter but it’s not worth investing time and effort in coming up with unique descriptions for every single page on your site.
7. Guest comments on blogs:
Google's Webmaster Guidelines discourage forum signature links and consider it spammy. However, Cutts says that relevant comments on topically relevant sites is absolutely fine as long as it does not form the main part of one’s link building strategy. Having a large portion of back-links coming from blog comments can raise red flags with Google.
8. Doorway Pages:
Doorway pages (simple HTML pages that are customized to a few particular keywords and programmed to be visible only to search engines) trick search engines into giving these sites higher rankings. Once clicked on, they lead to a site totally unrelated from the search query. Search engines not only ignore these pages and domains but penalize those using them.
9. Low-Quality/Unresponsive DNS providers:
Site speed is one among many factors that Google takes into account when it is deciding how to rank sites. Using a low quality DNS provider may not only adversely affect your SEO but also increases the chances of spammy content on your website, which could result in you being blacklisted by search engines.
10. Search Engine Submissions:
Search Engine Submissions are a thing of the past. It is not required by search engines and serves no practical purpose. Don’t waste your time on it.
SEO is dynamic and ever-changing:
These are the techniques one must definitely avoid in order to stay in the good books of search engines. However, one must also be aware that search engines constantly change their algorithms and what may seem to be a correct or “White hat SEO” technique today may be classified a black hat technique tomorrow. To give you an idea of how unpredictable it can get, Google runs about 40,000 search evaluations a year and it made 665 changes to its Search Algorithm in 2012 alone. That is almost two changes every day! This makes it increasingly difficult, even for the most competent and expert SEOs to keep track of and to incorporate these changes into their work. So, invest your SEO budget rightly in a value-added long-term SEO strategy and focus on getting a good return on your investment instead of trying to find ways to bypass the system guidelines and get yourself in trouble.
Google and other search engines spend millions of dollars and hire the best brains with the best knowledge in the space to ensure that they provide their visitors with the best search engine results. So remember, just in case you think you’re smart, search engine Bots are a million times smarter. Don’t do SEO just for the sake of doing SEO. Don’t head into Black Hat territory. It’s just not worth the risk.
For information on the right SEO techniques, read our posts on the key aspects of executing an SEO plan and the key takeaways from the Google GDayX-Chennai conclave.
For a discussion on enhancing your website traffic using ethical SEO techniques, you can contact us here