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SEO Spam Explained

Firstly are the terms “White Hat” and “Black Hat”. These terms are given to ethical and unethical SEO practices respectively.

This brings us to another two terms, “Ethical SEO” and “Unethical SEO”.

Ethical SEO is basically doing what the search engines want you to do, so that they are able to categorise your site and list your site in its results pages.

Unethical SEO is the use of search engine spam to fool the search engines into incorrectly placing a site in a high position for a popular keyphrase.

So this leads us to the main question: What IS search engine spam; and why is it bad for your site? Search engine spam is basically using a cunning trick to fool a search engine into ranking highly a certain webpage for a certain KeyPhrase even though that page may not deserve such a high ranking.

Examples of search engine spam – DO NOT use these unethical spam tactics on your site !! – are: cloaking, hidden text, hidden links, link spam (see link spike for more details) and sneaky redirects.

Cloaking is a tactic that uses doorway pages that present one picture to a search engine, and a completely different one to users. An example of this could be a site that optimises a doorway page to appear high in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) for the term “make friends” (for example) that serves up a pornographic website.

Hidden text is a way of having loads of text on a page that a search engine can see, but the user cannot. The way this is done is by making the text the same colour as the background, or by making the font so small that reader can’t see it.

Hidden links are done the same way as hidden text – the only real difference is the benefit gained by the unethical spammer.

Sneaky redirects do a similar thing to cloaking. A really good content site may be built and optimised for the KeyPhrase “make friends”, but the spammer uses a JavaScript redirect, or maybe a 302 redirect, to redirect from the page that the user wants to see to the pornographic site that the spammer wants them to see.

There are three main types of redirects: a JavaScript redirect, a 301 redirect, and a 302 redirect.

A JavaScript redirect is a client-side redirect that is employed after your web browser (client) visits the page that has the JavaScript redirect in the code.

301 and 302 redirects are server-side redirects – these two redirects are employed by your web server – when the URL is typed in to a web browser your server redirects this URL to the URL that you have chosen, before the web browser visits the page.

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect that tells the search engine that the intended page has permanently moved to a different location.

The 302 redirect is a temporary redirect that tells search engines that the page you are looking for has temporarily moved to a different location, but will return soon. A lot of times it is legitimately necessary for you to redirect a page to another page. If you do need to do this; make sure you make your redirect a server-side 301 permanent redirect. Search engines prefer 301 redirects, simply because JavaScript redirects and 302 redirects are often used in spam tactics used by unethical spammers to fool the search engine. 

Why is spam bad for your site?

Well, Google isn’t a bunch of amateurs messing about on a computer!

Google is a giant company that employs many very intelligent people, including thousands of PHD graduates. And these smart people are able to design algorithms to find out that you are using spam techniques on your site, to try to trick their creation. Therefore the smart people at Google have built it in their algorithms that if they find a website that is using spam techniques then that site will be excluding from Google’s results, or at best will suffer a penalty that will mean that the offending website will not rank very well in Google’s results for important KeyPhrases.

Therefore, the possible benefits that there may be for using spam are far outweighed by the negative effects. And if you do get caught then those possible benefits are all no-existent anyway.

For a sensible, long term search engine optimisation campaign always use ethical “white hat” SEO!!

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