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6 Dirty SEO tricks you must avoid

Katherine Noyes | Feb. 24, 2011
The past several months have afforded several high-profile examples of how search engine optimization, or SEO, should not be done. Last fall it was DecorMyEyes and the case of the abusive business proprietor, and just recently it was JCPenney and the case of the short-lived black hat success.

FRAMINGHAM, 24 FEBRUARY 2011 - The past several months have afforded several high-profile examples of how search engine optimization, or SEO, should not be done. Last fall it was DecorMyEyes and the case of the abusive business proprietor, and just recently it was JCPenney and the case of the short-lived black hat success.

Such stories are by no means the only ones out there, of course--they've just drawn more publicity than most. Either way, examples like these are a rich source of instruction for the rest of us and a good reminder that in SEO--as in so many aspects of life--there's a right way to do things, and there are wrong ones.

Want to improve your company's search rankings? Then make sure you don't try to play any of these dirty SEO tricks.

1. Cloaking Your Content

The No. 1 top offending SEO technique, according to both SEO software firm SEOmoz and Google's own guidelines, is to design your Website so that search engines see one thing while human visitors see another. This is commonly called "cloaking," and it's generally considered the dirtiest trick there is.

Car maker BMW kindly provided a vivid illustration of this technique a few years back, as well as what happens to those who try it. Specifically, it was discovered that BMW's German Website was using what are called "doorway pages," or text-heavy pages sprinkled with select keywords, to attract the attention of Google's (GOOG) indexing system. The particular search term it focused on was "used cars."

So, when users searching for "used cars" found the BMW site at the top of Google's rankings, they were naturally tempted to click on it. What happened then, however, was that a JavaScript redirect would send them directly to BMW's main page, on which used vehicles featured minimally if at all.

BMW's reward for its cloaking efforts? Google unceremoniously kicked the BMW site out of its index, as Google engineer Matt Cutts explained in a blog post from 2006.

2. Acquiring Links from Brokers, Sellers or Exchanges

The second worst dirty trick, according to SEOmoz, as well as one apparently employed by both DecorMyEyes and JCPenney, is to pay a link broker or participate in other link schemes so as to get numerous links to your site from all across the Web.

The reason this trick is tempting is that Google's page ranking system factors in the number of links pointing to a page when it tries to evaluate that page's importance. It's also tempting because it can work well--at least in the short term, as JCPenney recently demonstrated.

 

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