Ho! Ho! Ho!
Tis’ the season to make sure your search engine optimization (SEO) techniques are in accordance with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Why? Because Santa, I mean Google, will put your on the naughty list. A spot on Santa’s naughty list means receiving coal instead of presents on Christmas morning. A spot on Google’s naughty list means a lower pagerank, or worse, taken off the index completely.
In order to keep in Google’s good graces and avoid these undesirable consequences, you have to play the rules, which means avoiding black hat SEO techniques.
I’ve brought for you the most common forms of abuse according to Google. However, Google reserves the right to take action against acts not listed here as well; so be careful to take steps to improve the user’s experience, instead of looking for loopholes.
Read over this list and check it twice, because Google knows if you’re naughty or nice..
The following list comes straight from Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Automatically generated content is content that has been created by a program or software. Google is referring specifically to content that will be difficult for a user to understand because it has been automatically generated.
2. Link Schemes
Link Schemes can include “any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.” Some of these schemes include; buying and selling links, trading links excessively, large scale guest posting campaigns, or using services that create links to your site.
Web pages that attempt to improve their page rank by using a lot of words, but fail to provide original and meaningful content will be penalized. The key here is that these pages do not provide value for the user.
Cloaking is a tactic that involves presenting different content to users and to search engines. Matt Cutts states very clearly that “There is no such thing as white hat cloaking… any type of cloaking is against our guidelines”
“Redirecting is the act of sending a visitor to a different URL than the one they initially requested.” Whereas sneaky redirects involve showing human users to significantly different content than what is indexed by search engines.
Hiding texts or links on any given page in order to manipulate Google’s search results is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This can include hiding links in hyphens or other hard to find places, using white text on a white background, or setting the font size to 0.
Doorway Pages are websites or pages that exist for the sole purpose of ranking high on specific search queries. If the purpose of the page/site is to redirect users all to the same destination, this disrupts the user’s experience.
Scraped content is content that has been taken from another website and republished on a different website without offering anything new to the user. An example of this violation includes changing around a few synonyms of an article and republishing it without offering adding any original or new content..
This category refers to “pure” affiliate sites which offer no added value to the user and simply take content from other places on the web. This can include copying product reviews from the merchant without adding value, or sites that have very little added value and every page is an affiliate link.
Any attempt to improve search engine ranking by loading a webpage with keywords such as repeating a keyword over and over again in an unnatural way weakens the user experience and is not allowed.
Malicious behavior in this instance refers to websites that execute activities/downloads that the user did not want or agree to. This behavior includes: installing malware and viruses, including other files in a download that the user didn’t request, or changing a user’s homepages preferences without consent.
Structured data that creates “misleading or deceptive experience for search users” should not be used in order to hide content from the users in any form. Snippets using fake ratings, reviews, and other forms of misleading information are all not allowed by Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Using automated software to conduct research and inflate search engine results is in violation of Google’s Terms of Service.
Put on Your White Hat
If you’re unsure as to whether your practice might be in violation of Google’s guidelines, ask yourself “Does this help my users?” or “Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”. It’s best to avoid practices that deceive users or search engines.
1. Concentrate on building relationships with relevant influencers who will link to your content.
2. Do your keyword research and make sure you and your target audience are on the same page.
3. Make content so good that strangers will want to link to your content.
4. When using images and videos include appropriate ALT tags.
5. Make your website is user-friendly for desktop and mobile.
6. Focus on creating quality content over quantity.
7. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and ask yourself if you are proud of the content you have created.
There are no shortcuts here. If your focus is on creating great content and displaying your unique selling proposition, that is what will allow you to stand out from your competition.
And remember, if your website is on Google’s nice list, it’ll be on your users’ nice list too.