Sunday, June 28, 2009

Three things you should NEVER DO

Three things you should NEVER do even if some slick-talking "expert" tells you it will cost you only $499 and will guarantee you gaggles of customers)

A webmistress asked me recently how much I would charge to optimize her site for the search engines. I took a glance at her site, and the first thing I found was a hidden link to an association she was part of.

I asked her why the link was there. She told me it was "for the search engines." It never ceases to amaze me how much really bad - I mean absolutely horrible - advice is floating around the Internet.

She never did hire me, but she did walk away with one free piece of advice that I now share with you: "Remove that link ASAP." Hidden links and hidden text are big trouble and something you should never do.

A hidden link is simply a link the search engine robots would follow, but is not visible to the naked eye. It could be a one pixel by one pixel graphic the same color as the background. Hidden text could be keyword written in the same color as the background.

If a search engine detects text in the same color as the background, it might penalize or even ban your site. In fact, one search engine expert has even suggested that if your background is, say, white, and you have a black table with white text on your page, that search engines would read that as hidden text (white background, white text) even though the text is clearly visible in the black table. Hmm. I will have to revisit my own site's colors.

Why are hidden links and hidden text bad? Because they try to cheat the rules. Cheating is bad, and search engines do not like playing with cheaters.

Duplicate pages are also a no-no. Search engines like original content made for human visitors. Five pages with the same article are seen as spamming, even if you did change "bicycle repair" to "fix your bike" in the second version and to "bike repair" in the third.

I was asked to exchange links with four websites this one person owned. The sites are very wholesome and I believe the webmaster is too. But the link pages on each website are identical: same introductory text and same links in the same order with identical wording each. All it would take is one complain to get all four sites banned, or at very least, severely demoted at Google and other search engines.

Needless to say, I turned down the offer, so that my site would not be associated with a "bad neighborhood".

Why are duplicate pages bad? Because they try to cheat the rules. Cheating is bad, and search engines do not like playing with cheaters.

Doorway pages are also bad. A doorway page is a page carefully designed to do well on search engine results, but is never meant to be used by humans. Often there is then a link to a website or there is some form of redirect.

Why not just optimize your site for the keywords you want, rather than try to trick the search engines? It probably will cost you less to hire a good search engine optimizer, and your website will not get banned.

I was approached by someone offering a combination of doorway pages and link farming (another no-no!). He did not call them by those names, even insisting they were not doorway pages. He wanted a few hundred dollars a month. There's nothing like your friendly neighborhood mortician coming to call when business is slow and bearing his own special brew for you to sample.

Why are doorway pages bad? Because they try to cheat the rules. Cheating is bad, and search engines do not like playing with cheaters.

By the way, "doorway pages" should not be confused with "entry pages". I get lots of my traffic entering through one or another of my articles. But these are real articles with real content, designed for human eyes and optimized for the search engines. This is a good tactic, because it adds content (which is what search engines are looking for).

Hidden links and text, duplicate pages and doorway pages are just a few of the "clever" tactics that can land you in the "Search Engine Slammer". If you spend much time on the Internet, you'll be approached about many others sooner or later.

Here is a simple question to ask yourself: "Would this be helping the search engines deliver the best results, or would it be trying to cheat their rules?" If it feels a little funny, don't try it. Or ask someone who knows.

Search engines are your friends. Be nice to them, and they'll be nice to you. You might just land yourself a berth atop Mount Google.

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