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Protecting Your Keyword Phrase Search Engine Rankings

Aug 1, 2008
Your website's search engine ranking is a vital element of one's overall marketing campaign; you can use many honest, legitimate methods to improve your link popularity. Unfortunately, the Internet is populated by dishonest webmasters who seek to improve their link popularity by faking out search engines. Search engines are now on guard for "spam" pages and sites that have increased their rankings by artificial means. When a search engines identifies such a site, that site is demoted in ranking or completely removed from the search engine's index.

The bad news is that some high quality, completely legitimate sites are being confused with these web pages criminals. Your page may be caught up in the "spam" net and tossed from a search engine's index. What should you do, and not do, to avoid this kind of problem?

Link popularity is based primarily on the quality of sites to which your site is linked. Google pioneered this criteria for assigning website ranking, and virtually all search engines on the Internet now use it. You must use extreme care about which sites you choose to link to; Google frequently imposes penalties on sites that have linked to other sites solely for the purpose of artificially boosting their link popularity. They have labeled these links "bad neighborhoods."

You will not be penalized when a bad neighborhood links to your site; a penalty is incurred only when you are the one sending out the link to a bad neighborhood. But you must check, and double-check, all the links active on your links page to ensure you haven't linked to a bad neighborhood.

The first thing to determine is whether or not the pages you have linked to have been penalized. The most direct way to do this is to download the Google toolbar at http://toolbar.google.com, where you will see that most pages are given a "Pagerank" represented by a sliding green scale on the Google toolbar.

Do not link to any site that shows no shade of green at all on the scale. This is especially important when the scale is completely gray. It is more than likely that these pages have been penalized. If you are linked to these pages, you may catch their penalty, and much like the flu, it may be difficult to recover from the infection.

By contrast, don't be afraid of linking to sites whose scale shows a tiny sliver of green. These sites have not been penalized, and their links may increase in value and popularity. However, do make sure that you closely monitor these kind of links to make sure that they do not sustain a penalty at any point and time.

Another smarmy trick that illicit webmasters use to artificially boost their link popularity is the use of hidden text. Search engines regard the words printed on web pages as a factor in forming their rankings, which means that if the text on your page contains your keywords, you have more of a chance to enhance your search engine ranking than a page not containing text inclusive of keywords.

Some webmasters have avoided the effects of this formula by concealing their keywords in such a way so that they are invisible to any visitors to their site. For example, they have used the keywords but made them the same color as the background of the page, such as a plethora of white keywords on a white background. You cannot see these words with the human eye; however, the eye of search engine spider can spot them easily. A spider is the program search engines use to index web pages, and when it sees these invisible words, it goes back and boosts that page's link ranking.

Most search engines have figured these illicit methods out and are assessing penalties for sites that use them. As soon as a search engine perceives the use of hidden text, the page is penalized.

The downside of this is that sometimes the spider is a bit overzealous and will penalize a page by mistake. For example, if the background color of your page is gray, and you have placed gray text inside a black box, the spider will note only the gray text and assume you are employing hidden text. To avoid any risk of false penalty, direct your webmaster not to use the same hue for text as for the background color of the page.

Another potential problem that can result in a penalty is "keyword stuffing." It is important to have your keywords appear in the text on your page, but sometimes you can go overboard in your efforts to avoid the wrath of the spiders. A search engine uses what is called "Keyphrase Density" to determine if a site is trying to artificially boost its ranking. This is the ratio of keywords to the rest of the words on the page. Search engines assign a limit to the number of times you can use a keyword before it penalizes your site.

This ratio is high, so it is difficult to surpass without sounding as if you are stuttering; unless, of course, your keyword is part of your company name. If this is the case keyword density will soar. If your keyword is "renters insurance," for example, be sure you don't use this phrase in every sentence. Edit the text on your site so that the copy flows naturally and the keyword is not repeated incessantly. A good rule of thumb is that your keyword should never appear in more than half the sentences on the page.

The final potential risk factor is known as "cloaking." To those of you who are diligent Trekkies, this concept should be easy to understand. For the rest of you, cloaking occurs when the server directs a visitor to one page and a search engine spider to a different page. The page the spider sees is "cloaked" because it is invisible to regular traffic, and deliberately set up to elevate the site's search engine ranking. A cloaked page tries to feed the spider everything it needs to rocket that page's ranking to the top of the list.

It is natural that search engines have responded to this act of deception with extreme enmity, imposing steep penalties on these sites. The problem on your end is that sometimes pages are cloaked for legitimate reasons, such as prevention against the theft of code, often referred to as "pagejacking." This kind of shielding is unnecessary these days due to the use of "off page" elements, such as link popularity, that cannot be stolen.

Make sure the webmaster understands that cloaking of any kind will put your website at great risk. Just as you must be diligent in increasing your link popularity and your ranking, you must also avoid unfair penalties on your site. So be sure to monitor your site closely and avoid any appearance of an artificial boost to your rankings.
About the Author
Garey Simmons writes about
Search Engine Ranking
from personal experience. Having spent countless hours
working with a SEO and how to market his many
business online, Garey has lots of tips to share. For a Free Report 'Business
Owners Fear SEO' go to http://SEOCoach.Net
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