3.5. Avoiding Overly Aggressive SEO Practices
Google, and other major search engines, urges you to avoid overly aggressive SEO practices when you build your site.
I've primarily covered Google in this chapter, but what applies to Google also applies for the most part to the other major search engines.
Here's why you avoid being overly aggressive with SEO (besides wanting to avoid Google's disapproval). Building sites that get highly ranked is simply a matter of common sense; just build a site that will be useful to people, and it will naturally get indexed correctly. Taking this viewpoint, you shouldn't concern yourself with search order ranking or search engine optimization when you construct your site. Just create worthwhile content that is genuinely useful, interesting, or entertaining.
3.5.1. Google's Prohibitions
Below is a list of the techniques that Google considers bad behavior. Google prohibits these things because it considers them overaggressive and deceptive, but note that Google does not consider this list exhaustive and will frown on anything new that you come up with if it is considered deceptive to either humans or the Googlebot, even if it is not on this list.
According to Google, good search-engine-citizen web sites do not:
Employ hidden text or links
For example, users cannot read white text on a white background (and will never even know it is there). But this text will be parsed by the search engine. This rule comes down to making sure that the search engine sees the same thing that users view.
Also called stealth, this is a technique that involves serving different pages to the search engine than to the user.
Use redirects in a deceptive way
It's easy to redirect the user's browser to another page. If this is done for deceptive purposesfor example, to make users think they are on a page associated with a well-known brand when in fact they are on a web spammer's pageit's frowned upon.
Attempt to improve your PageRank with dubious schemes
Linking to web spammers or bad neighborhoods on the Web may actually hurt your own PageRank (or search ranking), even if doing so provides inbound links to your site. (For information about how to legitimately encourage inbound site linking, and therefore improve your PageRank, see Chapter 2.)
Bad neighborhoods are primarily link farms or link exchangessites that exist solely for the purpose of boosting a site's inbound links without other content. Web spammers are sites that disguise themselves with pseudo descriptions and fake keywords; the descriptions and keywords do not truly represent what the site contains.
Bombard Google with automated queries
This wastes Google's bandwidth, so it doesn't like it.
Practice keyword loading
This is the practice, beloved by SEO "experts," of adding irrelevant words to pages (the page can then be served as the search result based on a query for the irrelevant words that actually don't have anything to do with the page content).
Create multiple similar pages
Google frowns on the creation of pages, domains, and subdomains that duplicate content.
Present "doorway" pages
Pages created just for search engines are sometimes called doorway pages . (The term covers a variety of techniques that are used to substitute one page for anothereither by redirection or actual substitution of pages on the web serverwhen the first page is optimized for specific keyword searches and the page to which the user is actually sent has little or nothing to do with that search.)
Pages that lack content
Google frowns on pages that lack original content, such as a page that exists simply to present affiliate links.
Create domains with the intention of confusing users
Likely you've landed on a site with a domain name that's confusing because it's sharing the same name with a different domain suffix (for example, http://www.php.org, which combines a redirection with the deception, rather than the legitimate PHP language site, http://www.php.net) or because of a slight spelling variation (http://www.yahho.com rather than http://www.yahoo.com).
A Nefarious Domain Spamming Example
A really egregious example of the nefarious practice of domain spamming is Org.com, http://www.org.com. Org.com is a link farm that takes advantage of the fact that if you enter the body of an address in the address bar of Internet Explorer and hit Ctrl + Enter, you are taken to the .com domain related to what you entered. For example, if you enter "google" in the IE address bar, and press Ctrl + Enter, http://www.google.com opens. So suppose, by mistake, you enter anything followed by .org in the address barfor example, "www.w3.org"expecting to open the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) site, and press Ctrl + Enter. Instead of W3C, http://www.w3c.org.comin other words, Org.com (and its link menu)will open.
Google frowns on deceptive domain naming if the domain name was selected for the purpose of taking advantage of the confusion.
Any other deceptive technique
As Google puts it, spending your energy creating a good user experience will let you "enjoy better ranking than those who spend their time looking for loopholes they can exploit."
You should think of this list as applying to all major search engines, not just Google, even though Google is the search engine that is enlightened enough to clearly spell these prohibitions out. For more information, see Google's Information for Webmasters: http://www.google.com/webmasters.
At the very least, web sites constructed using the dirty tricks on Google's no-no list will be penalized by legitimate search engines.
If you are a webmaster, you've likely been approached to pay for search engine optimization services. A great many of these SEO pitchesalthough they seem very plausibleare scams. Caveat emptor. Legitimate SEO companies cannot do more for you than the steps outlined in this chapter, and any representations that they can are probably fraudulent.
3.5.2. Why Not to Be Overly Aggressive
If you draw Google's attention for practicing dirty tricks, you can get expelled from Google's index altogether. Worse, there's effectively no way to appeal a Google decision to expel a site from its index. Nor is there a set of procedural safeguards for webmasters who feel they have been wrongfully accused of deceitful SEO practices. It's therefore safest to avoid the wrath of Google by avoiding anything that even smacks of deceit.
Most dirty SEO tricks are also simply bad web design. If you put together sites using bad practices that are intended solely to optimize your sites, most often you'll just irritate visitorsand get less traffic.