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What you Need to Know about Search Engine Optimization and Spam

Aug 17, 2007
There is a fine line between proper search engine optimization, and what a search engine will consider to be spam. As we all know, not all search engine optimization methods are ethical. Search engines, such as Google, are making every effort to try to differentiate between ethical internet marketers and those who are simply taking the "easy" way out with spam.

The definition of spam, however, has been something of a debatable topic for many search engine optimization experts. The reason that everybody is working so hard to define it is because when it comes time to search engine optimize, there is a grey area between what is spam, and what is not. What is ethical marketing, and what is not. For a word that is so commonly utilized, spam is a very difficult thing to pinpoint and around which to place boundaries. An internet marketer would not want to inadvertently have their site penalized after all of the time and effort they have put toward making the site as search engine optimized as possible.

In theory, the difference is that a "non-spam" website that is truly meant for content, selling a product or service, and is optimized so that its content - which has value to the reader - is most attractive among search engines. On the other hand, a "spam" website is created for marketing purposes only. It has no real informational value and its content is worthless except for its attempts to achieve a search engine ranking.

Such spam sites can include those that have pages copied directly from other websites that are not of public domain. They might also include pages that are simply lists of keywords, instead of articles that happen to use the keywords among their information. Another kind of spam site is one that appears to either be blank or have text or images on it, but it also has hidden text in the background that has keywords repeated over and over, or simply in lists. This is done by making the text color and the background color the same color so that it is not visible to the reader.

However, some would argue that creating a site, such as one with keywords hidden in the background, is not unethical at all. The reason they argue for its validity is that it does not try to fool the search engine in any way, and it is unobtrusive to the viewer. Computers can see the text in plain sight, it is only the human eye that does not detect it.

However, by doing this, it reduces the chances of sites that are based on legitimate information and keywording techniques. These have been carefully created to include the right words, without taking away from the information and appearance of the site. It means that the sites for whom the keywords are truly relevant have a lower chance at achieving proper search engine ranking.

To prevent such efforts, search engines have employed such techniques as penalizing web sites and web pages that include information that has been copied directly from other sites. They also penalize pages and sites that have the same word repeated too many times in its content. There are other rules that are utilized as well, but they differ from search engine to search engine.

Penalization from a search engine can mean anything from assigning a very low rank, to blocking it from being indexed altogether. Naturally, when you are a legitimate site, you will want to avoid such punishment at all costs. Therefore, when you are performing your search engine optimization, it is important that you take care not to break the "spam" rules of the search engines. This includes one very important technique: when in doubt, err to the side of safety. It's much better to achieve rank number two instead of number one, when you risk being kicked out altogether.

It is not difficult to search engine optimize legitimately. Simply create your own original copy, and write naturally, refraining from repeating your keywords so many times that things look a little bit "fishy". The same thing goes for repeating the same website under a number of different domain names. Just keep yourself unique and natural, and all will work out in your favor with the search engines.
About the Author
Mark Nenadic
Mark is the director and face behind FifteenDegrees-North, where you will find articles and resources to help with SEO,
marketing and Web design.
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