The scary thing is that some spam works—until you’re caught.
Spammers who play on the dark side of search with “black hat” SEO techniques often buy up domains for a “churn-and-burn” strategy. They use spamming tactics to shoot to the top of organic results. They hope their rankings last long enough to make money as an affiliate, ad publisher, or SEO marketer.
When a spam domain is caught and banned by the search engines, it’s been burned. Spammers focus on their other domains. The churn-and-burn approach is not a healthy move for business owners. You never want to mess with your primary domain like that. I’m going to assume that you’re interested in playing by “white hat” rules. I’m going to share the worst spam violations so you can make sure you, or your SEO team, don’t accidentally do something dangerous.
In addition to the link spamming tactics discussed in the previous section, here are a few totally “old school” tactics; if you’re caught using them, not only will you be penalized by the search engine spam police, but you also might be laughed at. Nobody wants that.
Don’t use the following tactics:
Also called gateway pages, entry pages, hallway bridges, bridge pages, or prob-ably half a dozen other names, doorway pages are created for spiders, not visitors. In fact, they’re often hidden from visitors and contain links into your Web site that search engines follow.
Meta refresh tags and redirects
A meta refresh tag, which is placed inside the HTML code of a Web page, can be used to redirect people automatically from one page to another with-out requiring them to click a link. Sometimes, a redirect is necessary.
For example, if you completely redesign your Web site and all of the URLs change, you’ll want people who find your old URLs to be automatically redirected to your new URLs. But unfortunately, because spammers often optimize a page for high-traffic keywords and then use the meta refresh tag to send people to a completely irrelevant Web page, your site could be unfairly penalized if you use a meta refresh tag this way. So instead, use a server-side redirect, called “301” to tell the search engines the old URLs have been permanently changed to the new ones. Speak to your geeks, and they should set this up without causing you any pain whatsoever. Internet geeks are gods.
Putting the same, or even similar, content on different domain names is considered to be duplicate content. The search engines don’t want sites with the same content polluting their organic results. A previous client of mine tried this, even though I told him not to. Remarkably, his primary domain was not penalized, but none of his duplicate pages were indexed, even though the spiders did come check them out.
Because surfers and spiders value content, a domain name used as a single information page doesn’t provide value. Don’t take the dozens of domains you bought, post one page of content on each of them, optimize each for a keyword, and then link them all back to your Web site. Spiders will smell spam.
The search engines can easily spot keywords camouflaged into the Web page’s background color, in hidden links, and anywhere else that would not be easily seen by visitors. (Meta tags are fine because visitors can view the source code.) And just because you catch your competitors using hidden text doesn’t mean you should. If your competitors jumped off a cliff…well, you know the rest.
Making text super tiny so that visitors can’t really see it, but technically it’s not hidden, doesn’t cut it either. Tiny text is spam, so don’t go there.
Keyword stuffing, also called keyword loading or keyword spamming, is the overuse of keywords. Here’s a quick way to tell if you are keyword stuffing: If what you’re writing doesn’t read well to humans, you’re stuffing. Think humans before spiders.
Whether you’re managing your SEO campaign in-house or outsourcing it, you now know the three most critical strategies you need to create a successful campaign: keyword theme, relevant content, and link popularity.
Now you also have a list of spamming tactics to avoid. This list should help you connect with the “white hat” optimizers, if you decide to enlist some help.