Most of the time on my weblog Free Web Money I talk about proactive things you can do to improve your search engine findability, your site’s relevance for a specific key word or key phrase. For example, keyword density and page titles have both been explored in depth in previous entries.
Instead, this time I thought it would be useful to talk about a couple of things that you really shouldn’t be doing, things that will actually lower your Google pagerank and, quite likely, your relevance score for the other top search engines too.
The first thing to realize is that too much of a good thing isn’t good. Who said “all things in moderation, including moderation itself”? Anyway, they could have been a search engine optimization (SEO) expert, quite frankly!
Don’t Use More Than One Title Tag
Here’s a trick that would be mildly amusing if it wasn’t so darn idiotic: lazy SEO people figure “if titles are important for keywords, then having a bunch of titles will let me load a ton of keywords without anyone being the wiser!”. Sadly, though, they’re wrong.
How would this look? The HTML source of a page might look like this:
<title>affilate marketing,affiliate marketing programs, affiliate programs, affiliate payout, affiliate links</title>
<title>advertising,advertising banners,google,google adsense,seo,search engine optimization</title>
<title>pay per click, PPC, pay for performance, PPC advertising, ctr, click-thru rate</title>
<title>Joe's House of Search Engine Optimization</title>
The idea here is that your Web browser only shows the last title tag so you as a visitor are oblivious to this trick, but the Web site developer thinks they’ve figured out a loophole in “the system” and have stuffed an additional 25 keywords. But Google knows this trick and will penalize you.
Don’t Hide Keyword Lists
Another common trick that people use to trick the system is to have keywords where the text is the same color as the background. On a page with a white background this would look like:
<font color="white">pay per click,affiliate program,google adsense</font>
Or, if they’re a bit more savvy, they might have this as a CSS style specification with an H1 header:
<h1 style='color:#fff'>pay per click,affiliate program,google adsense</h1>
Again, the idea is that as someone viewing this site, you wouldn’t be aware of the keywords in this H1 tag because you wouldn’t see the H1 at all: it’d be the same color as the background and would vanish. But Google would see it and rank these keywords even more highly on the page.
Right? Wrong. Google’s algorithms are pretty savvy and particularly overt tricks like this are easily picked up and penalized.
Don’t Create Link Farms
A third way that you can end up penalized is a bit more sutble: if you have pages that have lots and lots and lots of links pointing to other sites, you could have that page categorized as a so-called “link farm”, thereby deprecating any value that a link from your site / page could offer someone else (or another of your sites, for that matter).
In the SEO world, the common belief is that you should never have more than 100 outbound links on a page, and 60-75 is a really good number.
The workaround for this is easy: simply take your links page and break it into more pages. If you have 10 pages with 50 links each, the people to whom you’re linking are more likely to get a benefit from your link than if you have 2 pages of 250 links. By the same token, having someone link to you from a link farm page is useless and uninteresting. It certainly won’t improve your pagerank (see How does Google Figure out What Pages are More Relevant? Pagerank. for more about pagerank).
There are lots of other ways people try to circumvent the Google pagerank system, among other search engines, and there are lots of SEO specialists (really, I should say “specialists”) who just use some shareware app to figure out sneaky and short-term fixes to help your relevance and page rank. And you should avoid all of them, because if your site is blacklisted then you’ll likely have to change your domain name and/or IP address to even get back into the Google engine at all. It’s not a pretty sight (or pretty site!) and the risk is far too high for any short-term reward on Google.