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6 dirty SEO tricks you must avoid

You'll pay the price if you implement these underhand tricks

Don't use these nefarious tactics to improve your company website's search rankings, or you'll soon pay the price.

3. Duplicating content

If a website operator offers the same content on multiple pages, subdomains or domains, it can result in extra traffic and higher rankings - or at least, so the thinking goes. Unfortunately, it's another violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines, and it can get you kicked out of its index.

Other instances in which content sometimes gets duplicated include affiliate programs that offer little or no original content, auto-generated content that's packed with keywords but makes little sense to human visitors, and content 'scraped' from legitimate sites and then modified minimally.

Not only will such techniques get you punished by Google, but they'll also turn away human visitors. Note that when content is duplicated legitimately, such as for printer-friendly versions of articles, there are ways to alert Google so it doesn't misunderstand.

4. Keyword stuffing

The keywords used on any web page are a major factor in that page's ranking, but it's a bad idea to use them indiscriminately or deceptively. That includes using too many of the keywords you're hoping to optimise on - thereby exceeding any kind of naturally plausible keyword density - and it also includes packing keywords in hidden text, different-colour fonts and tiny type.

Once again, Google engineer Matt Cutts offered some additional explanation in a 2007 blog, along with an illustration: Alex Chiu, whose web page featuring 'immortality devices' was at the time stuffed with irrelevant keywords. Guess what? Chiu didn't show up in Google's index. (Since then, it appears to be back, presumably because the keyword stuffing has been corrected.)

A useful test, as Google points out in its guidelines, is to ask, 'Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?'

5. Banking on negative reviews

Although it was disputed by at least one SEO expert, the owner of the DecorMyEyes site believed that the more negative reviews and comments his site got - and there were many, thanks to his atrocious customer service - the better the site's rankings, primarily as a function of all the extra links and traffic. For a time, too, his strategy worked pretty well, for whatever reason.

In response to the case, however, Google says it has since tweaked its algorithms, though it didn't explain specifically how. My assumption is that the overall sentiment of a site's reviews are now a factor. So, lest anyone be tempted, this is not a sustainable strategy, nor a smart one.

6. Automatic queries

If you're like most website owners, you wonder how your pages rank on various keywords at any given moment in time. Lo and behold, there are even tools that will perform automatic queries for you, to find out the truth from Google itself.

The only problem is, Google doesn't like that at all. Tools such as WebPosition Gold, it asserts, "consume computing resources and violate our Terms of Service". Better avoid them, then.

There are other dirty SEO tricks out there, to be sure, but these are some of the worst ones. If you handle your company's SEO yourself, make sure you don't stray into these dangerous waters. If someone else handles SEO for you, manage them carefully so none of these slip by.

See also: 41% of firms don't use SEO

  1. Underhanded trick that'll cost you
  2. Duplicating content

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