Search Engine Optimization : SEO BOOK.
Dirty Deeds - Facing The Consequences
Everyone wants to fool the search engines. And the search engines know
it. That's why search engine optimization is such a strange business,
a hybrid of technology and I dunno… industrial espionage, perhaps?
The search engines don't want you to know exactly how they rank pages
because if you did, you would exactly how to trick them into giving
you top positions. The search engines try to hide their methods as much
as they can, but it sometimes becomes apparent what the search engines
want, and at the that point, people start trying to give it to them,
in a manner that the search engines regards as manipulative. This chapter
discuss all these things you should avoid doing because you risk upsetting
the search engines and getting penalized - potentially even getting
booted from a search engine for life! You should also be careful about
working with search engines marketers that tout these methods, because
they can lead you into trouble.
Understanding The Basic Principles of Tricking The Search Engines
Before getting down to the nitty-gritty details about tricking the
search engines, I focus on two topics: why you need to understand the
danger of using dirty tricks and what the overriding principles behind
tricking the search engines are based on.
Should you or Shouldn't You?
Should you use the tricks in this chapter, and if not, why not? You
will hear several reasons for not using tricks. The first I'm going
to belabor, because I, m not sure the argument behind this reason is
very strong: ethics . You'll hear from many people that the tricks in
this chapter are unethical, that those who use them are cheating and
one step on the evolutionary ladder above pond scum. Many people have
tried search engine tricks because they have invested a lot of money
in Web sites that turn out to be invisible to the search engines . These
folks cant afford to ababdon their sites and start again. One could
argue that doing pretty much anything beyond the basics is cheating.
After all, smart Webmasters armed with a little knowledge make the sorts
of adjustments, pushing their web sites up in the ranks above sites
that are more appropriate for a particular keyword phrase yet are owned
by folks with less knowledge. Ethics aside, the really good reason for
avoiding egregious trickery is that it may have the opposite effect
and harm your search engine position. And a corollary to that reason
is that other, legitimate ways exist to get a good search engine ranking
How are Tricks Done?
The idea behind most search engine tricks is simple:
To confuse the search engines into thinking your site is more appropriate
for certain keyword phrases than they would otherwise believe, generally
by showing the search engines something that the site visitor doesn't
see. The search engines want to see what the site visitors see, ye t
the same time they know they cant. It will be a long, long time before
search engines will be able to see and understand the images in a web
page. Right now, they cant even read text in the images, although that's
something that could be possible soon.
The search engine designers have started with this basic principle:
What we see - with the exception of certain things we are not interested
are not important to the visitor - should be what the user sees. For
various reasons, the searchbots are not terribly sophisticated. They
because of the complexity of doing so. In theory, they could read these
things, but it would greatly increase the time and hardware required.
So by necessity, they ignore certain components. Here's one other important
The text on the page should be there for the benefit of the site visitor,
not the search engines.
Ideally, the search engine designers want Web designers to act as if
the search engines don't exist. The search engine designers want their
programs to determine which pages are the most relevant for a particular
search query. They want you - the Web designer - to focus on creating
a site that serves your visitors' needs and let the search engines determine
which site is most appropriate for which searcher. What the search engines
don't want is for you to show one version of a page to visitors and
another version to the search engines because you feel that version
is what the search engine will like most.
DO These Tricks Work?
For the moment, all the tricks in this chapter do work, at least in
some circumstances for some search engines. This may be a little surprising,
that some of these tricks are very crude and have been known to the
search engines for a long time. You'll still find crudely keyword-stuffed
pages and pages with hidden text sometimes ranking well in the search
engines. Some of this search engine spam does filter through. But most
major search engines are much better at recognizing the tricks and eliminating
those pages. If your competitors are ranking higher than you, it's not
because of the tricks they played, its because of the good, solid search
engine optimization work you didn't do." These tricks can be dangerous.
You may get caught in one of several ways:
· A search engine algorithm may discover your trickery, and
your page or your entire site could be dropped from the search engine.
· A competitor might discover what you are doing and report you
to the search engines. Google has started that it prefers to let its
algorithms track down cheaters and users reports of search engine spamming
to tune these algorithms, but Google will take direct action in some
· Your trick may work well for a while, until a major search
engine changes its algorithm to discover the trickery… at which
point your site's ranking will drop like a rock.
Concrete Shoes, Cyanide, TNT - An Arsenal for Dirty Deeds
Here comes some of the search engine tricks that are employed on the
Keyword stacking and Stuffing
You may run across pages that contain the same word or term, or may
be several words or terms, repeated over Andover again, or may be several
words or terms, repeated over and over again, often in hidden areas
of the page, though sometimes visible to visitors, This is one of the
earliest and crudest forms of a dirty deed, one that the search engines
have been aware of for years. You'd think keyword stacking wouldn't
work, but the search engines aren't perfect, and sometimes keywords-
stacked pages slip through. The terms keyword and keyword stuffing are
often used interchangeably, though some people regard keyword stuffing
as something a little different - placing inappropriate keywords inside
image ALT attributes and in hidden layers.
Hiding (and shrinking) Keywords
Another oil trick is to hide text. This trick is often combined with
keyword stuffing , placing large amounts of text into a page and hiding
it from view. If you suspect that someone has hidden text on a page,
you can often make it visible by clicking inside text at the top of
the page and dragging the mouse to the bottom of the page to highlight
everything in between. You can also look in the page's source code.
How did this designer make the text disappear? Down at the bottom of
the source code, I found this:
<FONT SIZE=7COLOR="#ffffff"><H6>glucosamine glucosamine
glucosamine glucosamine glucosamine emu oil emu oil emu oil kyolic kyolic
kyolic wakunaga wakunaga wakunaga</H6></font>
Notice the COLOR="#ffffff" piece; ffffff is hexadecimal for
the color white. The page background is white, so, abracadabra, the
Here are some other tricks used for hiding text:
· Placing the text inside<NOFRAMES> tags some designers
do this even if the page isn't a frame-definition document.
· Using hidden fields. Sometimes designers hide words in a form's
hidden field. (<INPUT TYPE="HIDDEN">)
· Using Hidden Layers. Style sheets can be used to position a
text layer underneath the visible layer or outside the browser.
Because hidden text takes upspace, designers often use a very small
font size. This is another trick that search engines may look for and
Some Web designers create links specifically for the search engines
to find, but not intended for site visitors. Links can be made to look
exactly like all the other text on a page or may even be hidden on punctuation
marks - visitors are unlikely to click a link on a period, so the link
can be made invisible. Links may be placed in transparent images or
invisible layers, in small images, or in <NOFRAMES> tags, or hidden
in any of the ways discussed earlier.
Using Unrelated Keywords
This is a crude and perhaps little-used technique: using keywords that
you know are being searched upon frequently, yet which have little or
nothing to do with the subject of your site. A few years ago, many Web
designers thought it was clever toplace the word is sex in their keywords
meta tag or hide it somewhere in the page. This technique is used less
frequently these days because these words are so incredibly competitive,
and anyway, its better to focus on keywords that can actually attract
the right kind of visitor.
Duplicating Pages and Sites
If content with keywords is good, then twice as much content is better,
and three times as much is better still, right? Some site developers
have duplicated pages and even entire sites, making virtual photocopies
and adding the pages to the site or placing duplicated sites at different
domain names. Sometimes called mirror pages or mirror sites, these duplicate
pages are intended to help a site gain than one or two entries in the
top positions. If you can create three or four Web sites that rank well,
you can dominate the first page of the search results, with from four
to eight entries out of the first ten. Some people who use this trick
try to modify each page just a little to make it harder for the search
engines to recognize duplicates. The search engines in particular Google,
have designed tools to find duplication and will often drop a page from
their indexes if they find it's a duplicate of another page at the same
site. Duplicate pages found across different sites are generally okay,
which is why content syndication can work well, but entire duplicate
sites are something the search engines frown on.
Page Swapping and Page Jacking
Here are a couple of variations on the duplication theme:
· Page Swapping: This is a little-used technique of placing
one page at a site and then, after the page has attained a good position,
removing it and replacing it with a less-optimized page.
One serious problem with this technique is that some search engines
now reindex pages very quickly, and its impossible to know
when the search engine will return.
· Page Jacking: Some truly unethical search engine marketers
have employed the technique of using other peoples' high-ranking Web
pages, in effect stealing pages that perform well for a while. This
is known as page jacking.
Doorway and Informatin Pages
A doorway page is created solely as an entrance from a search engine
to your Web site. Doorway pages are sometimes known as gateway pages
and ghost pages. The idea is o create overly optimized pages that are
picked up and indexed by the search engines and, will rank well and
thus channel traffic to the site. Search engines hate doorway pages
because they break one of the cardinal rules: They are intended for
search engines, not visitors. The sole purpose of a doorway page is
to channel people from the search engines to the real Web site.
One man's doorway page is another man's information page - or what
some people call affiliate pages, advertising pages. The difference
between a doorway page and an information page is that the information
page is that the information page is designed for use by the visitor
in such a manner that the search engines will rank it well, whereas
the doorway page is designed in such a manner that its utterly useless
to the visitor because its intended purely for the search engine; in
fact originally doorway pages were stuffed full of keywords, duplicated
hundreds of times.
Doorway pages typically don't look like the rest of the site, having
been created very quickly or even by some kind of program. Doorway pages
are part of other strategies. The pages used in redirects and cloaking
are in effect, doorway pages.
Where do you draw the line between a doorway page and an information
page? Suppose, however a lots of pages designed for use by the site
visitors pages that, until my client started thinking about search engine
optimization, would have been deemed unnecessary. Surely these pages
are , by intent doorway pages, aren't they, even if one could argue
that they are useful in some way? Varying degrees of utility exist,
and I know people in the business of creating "information"
pages that are useful to the visitor in the author's opinion only! Also
a number of search engine optimization companies create doorway pages
that they simply call information pages.
Using Redirects and Cloaking
Redirects and Cloaking are pretty much the same thing. The intention
is to show one page to the search engines but a completely different
page to the site visitor. Why do people want to do this? Here are a
· If a site has been built in a manner that makes it invisible
to search engines, cloaking allows the site owner to deliver indexable
pages to the search engines while retaining the original
· The site may not have much textual content, making it a poor
fit for the search engine algorithms. Although search engine designers
might argue that this fact means the site isn't a good fit for a search,
this argument clearly doesn't stand upto analysis and
· Each search engines prefers something slightly different. As
long as the search engines cant agree on what makes a good search match,
why should they expect site owners and developers to accept good results
in some search engines and bad results in others ?
A redirect is the automatic loading of a page without user intervention.
You click a link to load a Web page into your browser, and within seconds,
the page you loaded disappears, and a few one appears. Designers often
create pages that are designed for the search engines - optimized, keyword-rich
pages - that redirect visitors to the real Web site which is not so
well optimized. The search engines read the page, but the visitors never
really see it. Redirect can be carried in many way:
· By using the REFRESH meta tag. But this is an old trick the
search engines discovered long ago; most search engines wont index a
page that has a REFRESH tag that bounces the visitor to
another page in less than ten seconds or soon.
a split second.
almost certain to occur.
You are unlikely to get penalized for using a redirect. But a search
engine may ignore the redirect page. That is if the search engine discovers
that a page is redirecting to another page - and to be honest, the search
engines often don't find these redirect pages unless they use a REFRESH
meta tag - it simply ignores the redirect page and indexes the destination
page. Search engines reasonably assume that redirect pages are a merely
a way station on the route to the real content.
Cloaking is a more sophisticated trick than a redirect, harder for search
engines to uncover than a basic REFRESH meta tag redirect. When browsers
or searchbots request a Web page, they send information about themselves
to the site hosting the page - e.g. , "I am Version6.1 of Internet
explorer," or the device requesting the page. If the device isn't
listed, the cloaking program tells the Web server to send the regular
Web page, the one intended for site visitors. But if the device name
is listed in the searchbot list - as it would be for Googlebot, e.g.
the cloaking program sends a different page, one that the designer feels
is better optimized for that particular search engine. Here's how the
two page versions differ:
· Pages provided to the search engine: Often much simpler; created
in a way to make them easy for the search engines to read; have lots
of heavily keyword-laden text that would sound clumsy to a real person.
· Pages presented to visitors: Often much more attractive, graphic-heavy
pages, with less text and more complicated structures and navigation
The search engines don't like cloaking, Conservative search engines
marketers steer well clear of this technique. Here's how google defines
"The term 'cloaking is used to describe a Web site that returns
altered Web pages to search engines crawling the site."
Well, its clear that cloaking is cloaking but wait for a minute:…
In other words, the Web server is programmed to return different content
to Google than it returns to regular users, usually in an attempt to
distort search engine rankings."
Hang on, that's not the same thing:
This can mislead users about what they will find when they click on
a search results. To preserve the accuracy and quality of our search
results, Google may permanently ban from our index any sites or site
authors that engage in cloaking todistort their search rankings."
Notice a few important qualification: altered pages…usually in
an attempt to distort searchengine ranking…cloaking to distort
their search engine results.
The Ultimate Penalty
Just how much trouble can you get into by breaking the rules? The most
likely penalty isn't really a penalty. Its just that your pages wont
work well with a search engines algorithm, so they wont rank well. It
is possible to get the ultimate penalty, to have your entire site booted
from the index. One of the dangers, then of using tricks, is that someone
might report you, and if the trick is bad enough, you will get the boot.
What do you do if you have been penalized? Suppose your site is dropped
from Google. It may not be a penalty - perhaps your site was not available
at the point at which Google tried to reach it. But if the site doesn't
return to the index after a few weeks, then you may have been penalized.
Sometimes sites get penalized due to unintentional mistakes. Perhaps
you hired a Web-development team that implemented various tricks without
your knowing, or perhaps your company gave you a site to look after
long after the tricks were used. Or maybe you purchased a domain name
that was penalized due to dirty tricks in the past. Stuff happens: Be
truthful and explain the situation to the folks at Google.
If you think your site has been banned, clean away any dirty tricks
from your site and then email email@example.com to explain that you fixed
your site. Don't expect a rapid reply. Wait a couple of weeks and then
try again. Still no reply? Try again after another couple of seeks,
and if you still cant get a response, try calling 650-330-0100 and then
pressing 0 to ask the operator who you can talk to about the problem.
You may be given another email address to try, along with a password
to put in the Subject line.