How “Not” To
Lots of online content is based around teaching someone “How To” do something. This post is essentially a ‘How Not To’ do something. We’re talking about Grey Hat SEO. Grey Hat is the name given to SEO practices that are deemed to be bending SEO rules or, at worst, dishonest. An SEOs goal is to improve visibility in organic search… to get one of the coveted 10 listings on Page 1 of Google. However, Google is on a hunt-and-destroy mission to quickly identify Grey Hatters and swiftly punish websites trying to game the search system. If you’re worried that you may be inadvertently using Grey Hat tactics, read on.
Grey Hat Tactics to Avoid
Here are some examples of Grey Hat SEO techniques that could get your website punished by a search engine:
Keyword Stuffing – Keyword Stuffing is the term for overusing a keyword on a page. In the past SEOs keyword stuffed so search engine bots would identify the keyword easier and thus make the page rank higher. With Google’s Panda filter, it squashed this Grey Hat tactic as it reduces a page’s readability and provides an overall poor user experience.
Automatically Generated Content – This is essentially a worse quality version of the above. Instead of a human writer, it is typically written by a software program that generates content at random, placing in the keyword as many times as it wants. Earlier this year we did an experiment with software-generated content. As you’d expected, this type of content is cheap and fast. But it’s garbage. It will turn off your potential customers and put your website at risk.
Hidden Text or Links – Search engines frown upon text on a page that’s not visible to the human eye. Here’s an example. You can hide text behind an image, put it outside of the edge of the page, change the font size so it’s illegible, or change it’s color so it’s invisible. This is a major SEO no-no and can in some cases lead to a manual penalty or a ban from the index.
Link Schemes – This generally refers to paying money for links or the use of link farms (websites that have no value other than list outbound links). Sometimes a link scheme includes any quid pro quo agreements at scale. This is most noticeable if you are in different industries to the site that’s sharing your link. You should nofollow anything you think that falls into this category.
Scraping – Scraping simply means copy and pasting an article from another site onto your own. Yup. This is blatant plagiarism. Another example refers to copying content that’s on another page on your site or elsewhere. If you find yourself needing to do this (perhaps you are syndicating content or are an affiliate), you should create a canonical link. This communicates that you know the original content is published elsewhere and you’re reusing it.
Doorway Pages – A doorway page is a page that’s created only for search rankings. Often doorway pages are created so the same page shows up multiple times on a SERP using different domain names. As you can imagine, Google and other search engines aren’t fans of these types of pages. Don’t use ’em…. unless you’re itching for a penalty.
If you’re careful to avoid carrying out any of the above Grey Hat tactics you should be able to keep your website out of trouble and free of Google penalties.
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