SEO Boy is a blog dedicated to helping webmasters optimize their content in order to achieve higher organic search ranking. Generally we write posts full of tips and suggestions but I thought today might be a good day to talk about what NOT to do. If you noticed your page is losing traffic and is no longer showing up in the position it was previously in, you may wonder if you got banned. It’s fairly unlikely that a site is taken by surprise when Google lays down the law because most forbidden tactics are fairly excessive, but it could happen. In any case, familiarize yourself with these ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’, and stay on Google’s good side.
Don’t: Duplicate Content
If your site has a lot of duplicate content, you risk being banned by Google. Spam sites sometimes duplicate content on multiple pages, so Google got smart and doesn’t allow it. Certainly don’t risk duplicating content from another site, either. Duplicate content could severely damage your ranking, but violating copyright will most definitely get your site banned.
Do: Check Google Web Master Tools
If Google notices that your meta descriptions are too similar, it will let you know. Chances are, you could have duplicate meta data on accident, but if you had duplicate pages you would know. Check your warnings in Google’s WMT to best optimize your pages. Meta descriptions won’t get you banned, but having unique meta data will help your rankings.
Don’t: Use Scrapers or Spinners
Article spinners will create ‘new’ articles from already published articles on your site or other sites. Scrapers will pull content from other places on the web such as SERPs and feeds. In the end, none of your content will be original and you will risk getting banned for duplicate content.
Don’t: Use Link Farms
Link farms help create links between participating sites to generate inbound links for everyone involved. Links are important, but if you are using a link farm, you are cheating the system. Google does not take kindly to being cheated and you will be banned.
Linkbuilding is a difficult, time consuming process but it’s worth it. Scope out sites with similar topics. Most likely your competitors won’t link to you, but other sites might. Inbound links are an important part of the search engine ranking equation. Make sure to specify which page you’d like the site to link to and what anchor text you’d like them to use. It may seem uppity, but be careful who you link back to. Firstly, you’ll be giving away a little bit of your built up ‘linkjuice’ as we call it – and secondly Google sees exchanging links a little bit like linkfarming, if you do it too often, you will be punished.
Don’t: Link to Bad Neighborhoods
You’re guilty by association. Don’t link to spammy sites or sites that don’t offer anything to your site’s viewers. If you can help it, I wouldn’t really suggest linking to anyone, save a few private organizations, or content that you think would really benefit your audience. Most certainly don’t link to sites that Google has already banned, or you could be next.
Do: Check Page Ranking Before Creating an Outbound Link
If you are bound and determined to link to another site, at least check the page rank. There are lot of tools for this- I particularly like the SEOMoz’s page rank tool. The highest a site can score is a 10 and that’s rare. Check the page rank to see how Google feels about this site before you link to it. You could also use a no-follow tag so that Google doesn’t see the link as an endorsement.
Don’t: Use Hidden Text
This is a no-brainer because hiding text is dishonest anyway. It might seem like a genius idea, stuffing your background full of keywords, using white text on a white background where your readers won’t see it but Google will. The bottom line is: Google is getting smart. You will get banned from hiding text and links just as you will get banned for using tiny text to stuff keywords where people won’t notice.
Don’t: Keyword Stuff
Just as you shouldn’t hide keywords, don’t stuff keywords to an obnoxious level. The whole point of high rankings is to get people to your site. If your site is not well written, readers won’t stay, they won’t come back, and they most certainly won’t buy anything. Remember, optimizing with keywords is important for search engines, but your consumers are the big picture here.
Do: Optimize your site with keywords
Pick keywords that are possible to rank for. Depending on the amount of content on your page, pick 2-4 terms that you can work into the content, meta data, titles, and anchor text. Do not overuse these terms. You can use them safely if the sentences make sense and the page as a whole is legible. If the keyword shows up in every sentence, you are using it too much.
Don’t: Title Stack
Don’t use multiple H1 title tags in order to emphasize your keywords. Google can tell what is important by looking at title tags, but if you use too many of them, Google will get suspicious.
Do: Optimize Titles
You can use six titles, with tags ranging from H1 to H6. Generally, webmasters use only one
h1 tag, which is the biggest, at the top of the page. Do put keywords in your titles, just make sure you don’t overuse titles. Google doesn’t like it and neither do readers.
Don’t: Distribute Viruses or Spam
This is a pretty obvious way to get on Google’s naughty list. If things such as malware are distributed from your domain, Google will find out. This is grounds for immediate ban, so don’t risk it. Be sure that your site is secure so that no one can do it without your knowledge.
Do: Check Your Web Master Tools. If Google notices that your site has been infected with malware, it will show up in your WMT and you can fix it.
Don’t: Use Fancy Redirects, Doorway Pages, or Cloaking
Cloaking is when Google sees one page and your site’s visitors see a different page. Doorway pages are when webmasters optimize pages with one term in order to pull viewers in and lead them to another page. Again this is dishonest, so it should be a no-brainer. On the same token, don’t use fancy redirects so that Google crawls one page and your visitors are shipped to another. When your readers search for shoes and are taken to a site selling anti-virus software, they aren’t going to be happy and it’s highly unlikely that someone will randomly purchase your software if they weren’t looking for it in the first place. Even if you are a legitimate salesperson, (hard to believe if you trick people into visiting) people will most likely think your site is spam. Google will as well, and you will be banned.
Haven’t done any of these things but still can’t find your site in its usual position?
There are a couple of things that could have happened:
• You may have recently lost some links and dropped in rank. Try to do some linkbuilding to get back to your previous position.
• You may have a mistake in your robots.txt file, which tells the search engine what NOT to rank. This file is great for pages that shouldn’t be listed in search engine results but could mess up your ranks if there’s an error.
• Your server may have been down when the Google spiders came to crawl it. If the spiders received no response or an extremely slow one, they probably assumed the page no longer exists.
• There may have been an issue with the spiders. It’s not highly likely, but they crawl a lot of pages so it does happen.
If your page was banned, you can still ask for forgiveness. Undo whatever it was that got you banned in the first place, and ask Google for forgiveness. If you still aren’t sure why your site was banned email firstname.lastname@example.org. They should be able to answer any questions that you have.
Amy is an Account Executive at Hanapin Marketing, a search engine marketing firm focused on generating results through PPC and SEO.