We’re at the finish line of our 5-part series on SEO Audits! Today’s post wraps it up with a look at avoiding spam and black-hat techniques. Here are parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 in case you need a refresher.

(Aside: make sure you read our previous posts on site infrastructure, design and codingweb template, and link building.)

bad keyword stuffing

Keyword stuffing: once okay, now a big no-no.

There are many ways to attract traffic from search engines. Overly aggressive methods are collectively known as “spam” or “black hat.” In some cases, a very fine line exists between acceptable practices (which could benefit your site’s rankings) and unethical spamming techniques.

Search engines are becoming progressively more stringent about spamming techniques used to gain top rankings. Legitimate webmasters must be careful not to be placed in the same category as spammers. Also, techniques that recently may not have been considered spamming are now “red flag” areas that the engines monitor closely.

Unfortunately, there is no official “rule book” to define spamming practices—each engine defines its own rules. In today’s search engine climate, however, it is best to stay clear of any appearance of impropriety or potentially unscrupulous behavior.

Without further review, a breakdown of spam/black-hat techniques to avoid:

Keyword Stuffing

This technique consists of repeating keyword(s) over and over in text—usually at the top and/or the bottom of the page in very small letters. In addition, “spamdexing” can also be found in meta and title tags.

Search engines easily discover keyword stuffing. Today’s search engine spiders understand basic linguistics and can determine proper sentence structure. Some of them even analyze pages to determine if the frequency of a word seems out of proportion to normal, “relevant” documents. This helps them combat more sophisticated forms of stuffing.

Level of Negative Impact: High

 

Hidden or Small Text

Because keyword stuffing is easy to spot, spammers adopted a technique of setting the stuffed keywords in the same color as the page background so the words disappear onscreen. Search engines specifically look for this trick and will severely penalize a site for using it.

Another method of hiding stuffing is to use very small font. Because of this, some search engines may reject pages that make heavy use of small font sizes. To be safe, webmasters should avoid creating pages that are predominately in a font size other than the default size.

Level of Negative Impact: High

 

Duplicate Content

Think of duplicate content as keyword stuffing on a much larger scale. It’s considered spam and the engines are adept at recognizing it.

Level of Negative Impact: High

 

Readability

Crafting pages filled with nonsensical, keyword-rich gibberish is a great way to get penalized or banned by search engines. Your content should be geared toward a human reader.

Level of Negative Impact: High

 

Page-Jacking and Cloaking

These two unethical practices refer to stealing pages and placing them on your site (page-jacking) and to modifying content so search engines see different content than humans do (cloaking). This requires using a simple text browser tool to uncover any worrisome code.

Level of Negative Impact: High

 

Link Farms

A link farm is a technique in which search marketers set up multiple sites that can be crawled by search engines in order to put thousands of links to sites they wish to boost search engine rankings. Search engines frown upon link farms. Besides, links from link farms are rarely of high quality.

Level of Negative Impact: High

 

Buying Expired Domains

Do not buy expired domains to use as link targets. Their PageRank scores are reset to 0, so you will not benefit from their previous equity.

Level of Negative Impact: High

 

Competitors’ Brand Names in Meta Tags

Bidding on competitors’ terms in PPC? Sure. But do not use your competitors’ brand names in your meta tags.

Level of Negative Impact: High

…and that’s a wrap! Thanks so much for reading the series. If we missed anything and you have questions on good SEO audits, please leave a comment!

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