This is the final installment of our series on Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. As with most of the guidelines provided by Google, they are obvious, but only in that Google has made them standard procedure for anybody looking for quality optimization that won’t place their site in jeopardy of getting banned. Most of these guidelines are here because they were common “SEO” techniques several years ago, and amazingly still being employed by some SEO providers to this day. Below are Google’s guidelines in bold with my analysis below.
Avoid hidden text or hidden links.
I just got a call from a buddy of mine this week asking for some SEO advice. He build a flash site but wanted it optimized for top rankings. His questions to me were about hiding text behind the flash or using white on white. Search engines, and here specifically Google, don’t want you to feed them something different than what you are providing the viewers. If the viewers can’t see it because it’s hidden on the page then Google takes the position that it must not be important. But going a step further, if you are trying to trick Google into believing that the content is there for your viewers to see (and its not) Google will take measures to flag your site, remove you from their index, or worse, ban your site completely.
Don’t employ cloaking or sneaky redirects.
Again, this goes to trying to trick the search engine into believing something is there that is not. If you want your page to achieve top rankings, Google wants you to be proud enough of that page to allow your visitors to read the content and choose what to do from there. They do NOT want you brining visitors to a page only to redirect them to another page more to your liking.
Let’s back up a bit. Why would this tactic be used? This was, and perhaps still is, a ploy used by SEOs that simply do not know how to merge optimization with marketing. Their goal is to simply bring your page up in the search results but they don’t know how to provide a page that performs on a customer level. Today’s search engine optimization must also incorporate marketing skills and knowledge. It’s not enough to bring someone to a the site but the SEO must be able bring people in without reducing the sales element.
If the page can’t perform on a user level, Google simply does not want it. Don’t provide a different page to the engine and redirect your users to the “real” page. Let your real page speak for itself, optimize it for both search engines and ROI.
Don’t send automated queries to Google.
This was touched upon in the last newsletter and you can read a more detailed explanation there. Summed up, Google does not want their servers slammed with thousands of automated requests from site owners checking today’s rankings for their site. Be courteous and don’t use up their valuable bandwidth.
Don’t load pages with irrelevant words.
Each page of your site should have a theme. Stick to it. Don’t try loading up your pages with keyword that you think will help bring in additional traffic to your site if those keywords are not relevant to what you have to offer. If you have a shoe store, don’t “optimize” your pages for gym shorts. Sure the same audience looking for gym shorts might also be interested in your shoes, but if you don’t sell gym shorts, don’t target that keyword. this applies across the board to all industries. Stick to what you do/sell. If you want more traffic from these vertical keywords, expand your business so you can legitimately go after them.
Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.
Many spammers, even today, create multiple sites all targeting the exact same thing as a means to dominate the search results. Multiple businesses or varying sites targeting vertical markets (i.e. gymshoes.com and gymshorts.com) can be used properly and effectively, however if your create multiple sites all going after the same thing (i.e. gymshoes.com, runningshoes.com, leathershoes.com, etc.), you’ll find yourself in trouble with Google. If you build multiple sites be sure it makes good business sense to do so, not just a means to get top rankings in the search engines.
Avoid “doorway” pages created just for search engines, or other “cookie cutter” approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.
As with the point above, don’t create hundreds of pages on your site that serve no real purpose other than to achieve top rankings. A good rule of thumb is If you would be embarrassed to have your customers find and read each page of your site then you shouldn’t be building those pages. Each page should offer valuable unique content where a visitor can visit page after page without feeling as if they have read the same thing over and over. Good and unique content will help your site’s ranking performance a great deal.
Finally, I think Google sums it up best with the following:
These quality guidelines cover the most common forms of deceptive or manipulative behavior, but Google may respond negatively to other misleading practices not listed here, (e.g. tricking users by registering misspellings of well-known web sites). It’s not safe to assume that just because a specific deceptive technique isn’t included on this page, Google approves of it. Webmasters who spend their energies upholding the spirit of the basic principles listed above will provide a much better user experience and subsequently enjoy better ranking than those who spend their time looking for loopholes they can exploit.