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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Back to the Basics of SEO #2 - Black Hat SEO

Black-Hat Techniques

When you look at how the search engines go about finding relevant websites when a certain word, or phrase is typed in, it can be fairly simple to trick that system into finding your website before anyone else's.

These techniques are generally called “Black-Hat Techniques”. They can range anywhere from doorway pages to hidden text, and more.

Some Black-Hat Techniques are:

Artificial Traffic – Artificial traffic systems are setup to hit your website with different IP addresses several times a day. The theory is that the more traffic that comes to your site, the more popular it is. So, by hitting your website website several times a day with different IP's, the search engine's see this as many people visiting your website every day. - In the end driving up your rankings with the search engines.

Why is this bad?

In the constant battle to weed out the good from the bad, search engines have been developed to recognize the programs used to generate artificial traffic. So, while it may work in the meantime in generating better rankings, in the long run you may end up getting penalized, or even banned by one or more of the search engines.

Cloaking Scripts – essentially outwits the search engines to increase your listings, and increase your traffic. Search engines spiders go to each site, follow every link, and index what they find in the engine's results. Cloaking Scripts automatically generate thousands of pages just for the spiders. These pages are usually dynamically built from keyword lists not available to the user.

Why is this bad?

Cloaking scripts are generally unreadable, or even have hidden text (text that is the same color of the webpage background, or hidden by some other feature such as an image, table or div), or redirecting scripts (scripts that send the visitor to the actual website from the cloaking page when the visitor runs their mouse over something, or with the click of a button and/or link within the cloaking page). The whole point of the search engines is to find legitimate content and quality websites for visitors to see. If they can't see the content on the page, or are redirected to a different page, that webpage is essentially thrown out as a quality website.

Doorway Pages - Doorway pages are usually developed as a page that is spider friendly for the user to see that generates rankings, and then redirects the visitor to the actual website. Doorway pages are created to do well for particular phrases. They are also known as portal pages, jump pages, gateway pages, entry pages and by other names. Doorway pages can be used for sites that aren't getting indexed (usually a site developed with frames, or dynamically driven), or they can be completely different domains that direct traffic to the actual website. For example, a lawyer might create a specific website with a doorway page for divorce law, and another one for criminal law, and another one for personal injury law. All three websites are optimized for each specific term, and then redirect to the original website that holds more information about that law firm.

Why is this bad?

Doorway pages do not have any significant content, and only have one or possibly two pages to the site. While they may have links to the site, the content may be the exact same as the original site, and all will link to one another. Search engines view this as spamming them (or tricking), and will eventually either penalize all of the websites, or completely ban them altogether.

Duplicate or Similar Content – In an effort to generate more content quickly, webmasters will sometimes create multiple pages, or even multiple websites, and then simply place the exact same content on each page with different keywords worked in.

Why is this bad?

Search engines can see this as spam. When a website has duplicate content it is either viewed as sheer laziness, or in breech of another's copyrights. In the end, the website that was created originally may not get penalized (generally looking at the older website, or how long a website has been live) though the newer websites will start to drop in rankings as a result.

While the search robots may simply be computers, and computers are only as smart as the ones that created them, search engines such as Google, MSN, and Yahoo spend all of their time, and energy from a staff made of those holding PhD's in computer science, mathematics, and more working on optimizing the search tools, and outsmarting those who create websites, and those who work on optimizing websites to find “ the most comprehensive search” on the web . In the end, the PhDs are most likely to win.

While the search engines may not be able to pick up on these black hat techniques, they may have a little help from users, or even your competitors. Each one of the major search engines (Yahoo, Google, and MSN) all have a form to fill out when it comes to websites that spam. Each and every website is the researched thoroughly, and all that are involved may potentially be penalized as well. So, be wary of those that you link to, and techniques that search marketing companies may use.

Link Farms – The more links you have pointing to your website, the better chance you have of getting a ranking. Although they aren't as around as much as they have been in the past link farms promise to place your link on other websites for a fee.

Why is this bad?

Link Farms often link your page with Web sites that have nothing to do with your content. The repercussions of this action are that the major search engines penalize sites that participate in link farming, thereby reversing their intended effect. A Link Farm usually places your link on a Web page that is nothing more than a page of links to other sites.

Where to report spammers:

Google - http://www.google.com/contact/spamreport.html

Yahoo - http://add.yahoo.com/fast/help/us/ysearch/cgi_reportsearchspam

Alta Vista - http://www.altavista.com/help/contact/search

Yahoo Copyright reporting –