What it is and how to avoid it.
Mention the word "spam" and most people will associate it with email. People hate when they receive hundreds or thousands of unsolicited email inquiries.
What many do not know is search engine spam has been a problem for years. Have you ever typed in a travel-related query at Google or MSN Search and found the top results all go to the same company?
Spam is just as irritating in the search industry as it is in the email industry.
What Is Search Engine Spam?
Tim Mayer, VP of Web Search for Overture, stated, "FAST (which Overture acquired last year) considers spam to be pages created deliberately to trick the search engine into offering inappropriate, redundant, or poor-quality search results."
Inappropriate content is content not related to the actual search query. An extreme example is an adult-content site that places the keywords "Disney" and "Barney the Dinosaur" on its pages to trick visitors into coming to the site.
Redundant content is the process of delivering the same, or very similar, content repeatedly to the search engines. Affiliate programs, cloaking, and doorway pages are common marketing strategies that deliver redundant content to the search engines.
Poor-quality content is content not meant for human viewing. For example, some computer-generated Web pages contain so much gibberish, if an end user were to view that page, she would never purchase the product or service being promoted. Search engines don't want gibberish in their search results.
Tricks to Avoid
If a search engine representative discovers you're deliberately trying to trick the search engines into giving a page higher relevance than it deserves, the individual page, even the entire site, can be penalized.
Most of the time, a search engine engineer will modify the algorithm so the spam pages will no longer appear at the top of search results. In more extreme cases, the page itself, or the whole site, will be removed from the search engine index. Therefore, avoid the following types of spam:
Are Sites Really Banned From Search Engines?
If your site has disappeared from search engines results, 9 times out of 10 the disappearance is due to technical reasons.
Have you recently redesigned your site? Was your server functioning properly when the search engine spiders requested a page from your site? Does your site have a navigation scheme and a URL structure that the search engines can follow? Has a disgruntled employee placed the Robots Exclusion Protocol on your server that has instructed the search engines not to spider your site?
Once technical reasons are eliminated, it's possible your site has been either penalized or blacklisted.
Search engines do penalize and ban sites, even ones you might not suspect. Companies with well-known brands often hire unethical search engine marketers who guarantee top positions. These company sites get banned regularly. After the ban, the companies purchase a new domain on a new IP address and begin the spam-ban cycle all over again.
Advertising agencies, amateur Web marketers, and Web hosting companies now offer SEM services for their customers. Before you hire them, make sure the marketing firm does not use spam methods to obtain top search engine positions.
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Shari Thurow is the founder and SEO director at Omni Marketing Interactive, a full-service search engine marketing, Web, and graphic design firm. Acknowledged as a leading expert on search engine friendly Web sites worldwide, she is the author of the top-selling marketing book, "Search Engine Visibility," published through Peachpit Press. Shari's areas of expertise include site design, search engine optimization, and usability.
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