As a freelance copywriter based in Orlando, Florida, I’ve worked with many web designers, search engine optimizers (seos) and fellow copywriters across the country. While we each have our own way of developing a web site, one thing on which we all agree is that good, informative content is imperative to success on the Internet.
Yet we’ve all also encountered those people who think they’ve found a way around the hard work involved in creating good content. These people think a better strategy is to use “tricks” to obtain good rankings on search engines.
Referred to in the industry as “black hat SEO,” these gimmicks may work for a while. Eventually though, the search engines catch on and either penalize or completely banish those web sites from their indexes. Ouch! And once banished, the path to redemption is long and arduous.
Here then, are some common black-hat techniques that you should avoid to ensure your site isn’t penalized by search engines:
1. Keyword stuffing – Stuffing keywords into places where keywords don’t belong, such as in comment tags or image ALT tags where the keywords have nothing to do with the specific image is a no-no.
Keywords should be placed throughout the content of your site, strategically sprinkled so that they catch the attention of search engines AND, more importantly, give the reader good quality information.
2. Invisible text – Text color that is the same as the page’s background color is a clear signal to search engines that you’re not playing by the (unwritten) rules. You’re trying to gain ranking with words you think the search engines want to see, even if that information is of no help to your visitors.
Your website’s content should be visible to viewers as well as search engines. Hiding text is an attempt to fool the search engines. And they don’t like to be fooled.
3. Automated submissions – Using automated tools to submit your pages to the search engines is unnecessary. Submission is unnecessary and can even cause your pages to be dropped if they are already listed in the search engine’s database.
For new sites, a better strategy is to create or obtain a link from an existing site that’s already indexed with Google. Google will follow the link from the old site to the new on its own.
4. Submissions to “thousands” of search engines – This is a waste of time, since the major search engines and directories drive the majority of the traffic to web sites. Focus your efforts on Google and Bing, and you’ll be fine. In fact, many smaller search engines get their results from the big ones.
5. FFA (free for all) links – Link popularity can help your ranking on major search engines, in particular Google. However, the links must be relevant to your site’s content. A link from a page of random links is useless. And a link from a “link farm” can even count against you.
Don’t buy or trade links. Instead, create good content that causes other websites in your industry to want to link to yours for the value you can provide to their visitors.
6. Cloaking – Also known as stealth, this is a technique used by some web sites to deliver one page to a search engine for indexing while serving a different page to actual visitors to the site. This is a method commonly used by pornography sites.
7. Doorway pages – This is a page written specifically to rank well in search engines for particular keywords, serving as an entry point through which visitors pass to the main content which may or may not be relevant to those keywords.
8. Low-quality content – Perhaps no error is as egregious as posting poor content on your website. Google’s objective is to direct traffic to those sites that best answer the search query.
If your content is unintelligible, written primarily for search engines instead of your visitors, then it’s not going to be effective in converting prospects into leads and sales. Instead, visitors will hit their back button within seconds, and Google will soon take notice and lower your ranking.
The best advice for writing your website is to focus on creating content that your website visitors will find interesting and useful. Give good information and deliver it in a well-organized way.
The search engines will reward you with good ranking and, more importantly, you’ll find that your visitors are more likely to become customers. And isn’t that the whole reason you have a website?