Wednesday, March 4, 2009

SEO Tricks to Avoid

Search engine optimization (SEO) offers many SEO techniques that appeal to inexperienced webmasters and can temporarily bump a web page up in the search results, but which will eventually cause the page to be penalized or blacklisted. These "black hat" SEO techniques, named after old Western movies in which the bad guys wore black hats, are considered unethical because they mislead search engines about a page's true content, and often create a bad user experience.

Using unreadable text is a classic black hat SEO technique. Hiding text by making it too small to read, coloring it to match the background, or covering it with an image or a div block are all frowned upon, and excessive use will cause a page to be penalized. (Legitimate uses of hidden text, such as CSS navigation that hides descriptive text until the reader mouses over a link, are not penalized.) To avoid penalties for hidden text, set all the text on your site to be large enough to read and colored to provide a strong contrast with the background, and make sure page elements do not accidentally cover text.

Keyword stuffing is another common black hat SEO technique, one users find even more irritating because the "stuffed" keywords clutter the page. The webmaster packs the page title and page body with keywords, sometimes relevant to the page and sometimes completely off the wall. Sometimes the keyword meta tag is also stuffed with keywords, though this is such an ancient SEO technique that most search engines completely ignore they keyword meta tag. To avoid being penalized for this common SEO mistake, give your pages natural sounding titles and do not put any text on the page that does not pertain to the page's topic.

A more sophisticated variant of keyword stuffing is spreading keywords through the page's body text instead of lumping them together in a single block. Search engines filter out pages that use this SEO trick by giving preference to pages with a certain keyword density, and penalizing pages whose keyword density is higher. The target range has been falling lower and lower for the past several years. To avoid penalties for having a poor keyword density, keep track of the currently desirable density via webmaster forums, and rewrite pages if their keyword density is too high.

Webmasters with a little more technical skill use "doorway pages" to show specially optimized pages to search engines, instead of showing them the less optimized pages that human viewers see. Doorway pages are strongly penalized. Avoiding a penalty for having a doorway page is simple: Do not redirect search engine spiders to special pages designed just for them.

If you have been using any of these common SEO techniques, overhaul your pages using good SEO, and keep an eye out for any misapplication of SEO techniques in the future. In the long run, less flashy white hat SEO techniques will drive your page farther than any black hat SEO trick.

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