Search Engine Optimisation Practices to Avoid

Introduction

Making sure your website is optimised to rank highly in search engine listings is a difficult and time consuming task. Some people have found ways to speed up this process, however many of the techniques used are considered unethical and may have a negative impact on a site’s ranking. This article looks at a number of practices you should try to avoid when optimising your website.

Practices to Avoid

Keyword Stuffing

The practice of keyword stuffing can lead to undesirable results for your website in terms of its placement in search engines. Keyword stuffing involves repeating every possible keyword or phrase that relates to the page in as many different forms as many times on the page without a visitor to your site noticing. Keyword stuffing can be done by adding keywords into the meta tags, or by positioning text in the content off screen using CSS (cascading style sheets) so it is not visible to regular visitors but will be picked up by search engine crawlers.

The idea behind the keyword stuffing technique is to obtain the maximum search engine ranking possible for your page. Keyword stuffing is considered unethical because it is effectively trying to manipulate the search engines into giving a site a higher ranking than it deserves.

However it can also result in a poor user experience for your site’s visitors, especially those using assistive technologies. These users are not only likely to find the inclusion of additional keywords within the content frustrating but also confusing as they detract from the important content on the page.

Using the keyword stuffing technique can in some cases result in your website being removed from the search engine listings altogether. Google in particular has found ways of determining the relevancy of keywords on pages and will no longer give good rankings to pages found using this technique.

For an example of keyword stuffing in practice please see the article ‘SEO tip: Avoid keyword stuffing’ by Google’s Matt Cutts.

Link Farms

Inbound links to your pages are a very important aspect of search engine optimisation and contribute to the pages ranking in search engine listings. Inbound links from another site count as a vote towards your page. Pages with more inbound links are ranked higher up in the search engines listing.

The concept of link farms was developed in order to manipulate search results listings by taking advantage of how search engines rank a page based on how popular that page is. The more websites that link to a website, the higher in the search listings your page will be listed.  Link farms are collections of websites which all link to each other via a common set of pages.  For example every website within the link farm may have a page with links to all the member websites listed on them. Many link farms have a large number of members in order to generate enough links to make a site appear ‘popular’ and increase the website’s ranking.

The problem with link farms is the quality of links is often very poor and not relevant to the content of the sites being linked to. Google and other search engines have developed methods of identifying the relevancy of inbound links to a website and will rank the page accordingly.

Try to avoid linking to link farms from your website as it is likely your own PageRank and place in the search listings will be affected. Building up quality inbound links to your website takes time and can not be achieved by trying to manipulate the search engine listings. Links from trustworthy sites with relevant content will produce far better results than getting your site listed on hundreds of irrelevant websites.

Doorway Page

Doorway pages are pages designed to rank highly in search engine listings in order to entice visitors to a website. They are only for use by search engines and not designed to be visited by people. If a user clicks on a doorway page from a search engine, the page will redirect them to the actual site in question.  While this doesn’t sound like a problem, it can be a frustrating experience for users as the page they are redirected to on the website may not contain any information relevant to their original search term.

Cloaking

Cloaking is when websites present different content or URLs to a search engine while presenting a different page in a user’s browser. The main purpose of cloaking is to increase search engine ranking by displaying a web page when it would not otherwise be displayed. In a similar way to keyword stuffing, the practice of cloaking is an attempt to deceive a search engine into giving a page or site a higher ranking than it deserves. Some search engines may completely remove pages from their listings because of this.

Article Spinning

Many search engines penalise websites for containing duplicate content as they don’t want pages with the same content appearing more than once in the search results listings. Article spinning attempts to avoid the search engine rules on creating duplicate content by rewriting or replacing parts of the original content. Rewriting content is often an automated process with words from the original content simply replaced using a thesaurus. This often creates content which does not make sense to human users and can result in a poor user experience for site visitors.

Search engines such as Google take a dim view on duplicate content as it is an attempt to manipulate the search results listings as well as users. Sites containing duplicate content may find their PageRank suffers or they may be removed from search results listings entirely.

This article is the third in a series looking at Search Engine Optimisation techniques.
Other articles in this series include:
1. Common Search Engine Optimisation Terms;
2. Search Engine Optimisation Tips.