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Honesty is the Best Policy When It Comes to SEO

June 10th, 2009 | | Basic SEO Tips

Honesty is the best policy. I thought I would start this article off with an unshakable truth that is also a tried-and-true cliche. When optimizing your website for higher rankings and visibility in the search engines, you should adhere to this golden rule. Why? Using deceptive SEO tactics may seem like a good way to game the system but cheaters never win.


These “edgy” tactics are otherwise known as “black hat” (as you can see, Dr. Schwarzerhut is rather evil looking). This means that they are implemented on a website with the sole intention to trick the search engines into higher rankings. Last I checked, trickery was not a trait of honesty (our golden rule).

On SEO Boy we explore many great things you can do to optimize your site but today I will discuss these deceptive tactics that are tempting for short term gains (much like the dark side of The Force) but ultimately will lead to your doom (like the dark side).

I would like to discern between “deceptive” and “neglectful” ways to design/optimize a site. First, we’ll discuss deliberately deceptive SEO tactics, and then we’ll discuss the neglectful strategies that don’t have a harmful intention, they’re just a bad idea.


Just the name “cloaking” sounds deceptive! Cloaking involves showing one set of content to the search engine bots/spiders/crawlers, but displaying a different set of content to actual visitors to your site. Rest assured, if you employ this tactic, you will get a penalty and possibly banned from search engines when they catch on to you (and they will).

Hiding text

As you can see, the first few dishonest SEO tactics revolve around content. After all, search engines are driven by content/text so if you want to rank higher, manipulating your content is a good way to game the system. But don’t do it. Hidden text is so mid-90s when it comes to web design.

When you hide text on your site, you make the text the same color as the background so that it’s invisible to visitors but search engine robots can find it. Don’t forget: search engine robots/crawlers/spiders aren’t perfect but they are smart and they know when something looks fishy. And text that is the same color as the background of a site sends up a red flag.

Stuffing keywords

This tactic can be deliberately deceptive or a side effect of keyword gluttony. Yes, to optimize a page within your website for certain keywords you should certainly have those terms on the page a few times to indicate their importance. However, you don’t want to go over board and stuff the page with keywords. There is no set rule for how many times a keyword should or should not appear on a page, but be mindful of this as your write copy for your site. And intentionally stuffing dozens or hundreds keywords on a page, especially at the bottom of a page, will do you no good – and will actually do harm.

Duplicating content

The search engines don’t want to index the same content numerous times. So, make sure that all of the content on your site is original and great fodder for search engines. On the flip side of this coin, you should monitor your content throughout the web to make sure someone isn’t duplicating your content because this can hurt your rankings. There a few services out there that can help with monitor your content such as Copygator and Copyscape.

Buying links/link farms

Yes, linking building is a great way to enhance trust with the search engines, improve your PageRank and your organic rankings. But don’t be shady in your efforts. Links to your site should be acquired naturally and they need to appear to the search engines this way. Often when you buy links or do some harvesting at a link farm you’ll have a sharp increase  in links and this will also send up a red flag to search engines.

Comment spam

Commenting on blogs or forums can be a great way to participate in your niche, position yourself as a thought-leader in your field, and drive additional traffic to your site. Within your comments, you can include your URL. However, don’t go overboard. And most certainly do not use any type of automated software to submit comments. Let’s just say: automated software to do anything for SEO should automatically give you pause. If the search engines detect an automated process (for content, links, etc.) you will feel the negative effects.

Buying expired domains

The tactic of buying expired domains that may have a some good link equity, and then linking to your site is questionable. Buying up old, expired domains and then linking to your site is a bad idea. However, there has been some recent discussion about website acquisition and how this effects the link equity of that site.

This is your laundry list of deceptive SEO tactics that you  shouldn’t employ. Just like the dark side of The Force, they are appealing because they may be able to gain rankings quickly, but they will hurt your website in the long run. Let’s say it again: honesty is the best policy. Next time, I’ll discuss the elements of web design that may not be explicity evil/deceptive but they are  neglectful and can also hurt your search engine rankings.

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