Thursday, February 15, 2007

Search Engine Optimisation: The Pitfalls

Search engine positioning is a competitive task, and there are certain essential techniques that are required to achieve a good listing. But some of these techniques cross the line between the search engines' good practice guidelines and unfair tricks. The search engines are under no obligation to reveal their listing criteria, and in the main they maintain a significant level of secrecy.
Why All the Secrecy?
The search engine companies play their cards very close to their chests. They can't be blamed for this - they're trying to level the playing field and give their customers the most relevant search results they can. To that end they need to protect themselves against "spammers" - site operators who are looking for any hit, relevant or not. It has to be said that the worst offenders here are still so-called adult sites. Most sites containing potentially offensive material now act fairly responsibly, but there are still a few who make everyone's life difficult.
If all you're trying to do is gain hits to which you're entitled this can be immensely frustrating; it appears that you and the search engine are on opposite sides of a chasm. The search engine operators know about the techniques that are used to improve listings, and by and large they're pretty understanding about the situation.
But there are certain tricks that won't be tolerated. Cross the line on these and you'll find your site actively de-listed. The search engine spiders are constantly updated to recognise the ways that people try to fool them. Get caught and you'll disappear from the charts faster than a one-hit wonder.
Excessive Repetition
Don't expect to get a high listing by simply repeating your keywords. Most of the search engines operate a word counter that calculates the weighting of certain words and phrases. The optimum is a narrow band that differs from one engine to another. Once you exceed the ideal weighting, repetition begins to work against you. As a rule of thumb, if your text looks as if you're repeating yourself, that's probably the way that the search engine spider will view it.
Phoney Pages
Because the requirements of search engine friendliness and attractive presentation often pull in opposite directions, there's a common trick that involves creating search-engine-friendly pages that re-direct to the main site after a few seconds.
These gateway pages are strongly discouraged by the search engines, whose spiders usually ignore any page that re-directs in anything less than thirty seconds or so.
A well laid-out, coherent content page that stays on screen long enough to be read won't cause you a problem, other than the fact that you have to create a new content page for every key phrase. But quick redirection equals ignored pages, so don't risk it.
Fake Keywords
Don't try to grab cheap hits by putting in irrelevant keywords calculated to pull in hits for unrelated topics. This is the essence of search engine spamming, and it won't be tolerated by any of them. Be aware also that using a competitor's name to grab their traffic may be illegal. There have been several successful lawsuits recently in which this practice was exposed and prosecuted.


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