Inappropriate Website Promotion MethodsWritten by Dmitry Antonoff, Irina Ponomareva
The list of dubious means of search engine optimisation lengthens year on year. In theory, of course, we could all employ such means, but there are ethical issues to be tackled. And even if we ignore fair-play principles for a moment, it’s worth pointing out that cheap, scam-like promotion methods usually look cheap and scam-like, annoy Internet users and have a short lifespan because counter-measures are created. This article describes misleading, illegal and unethical methods of search engine optimisation, explains why they are wrong and highlights possible adverse results. Spam keyword density In their naive quests for high positions in search engines’ listings, some web site owners simply cram as many key phrases as possible into body text of their resources. However, if a key phrase is mentioned too often in text (so-called keyword damping), website may be overlooked by more advanced search engines. Moreover, site content will undoubtedly be unreadable for visitors. Nevertheless, few people know what keyword density is optimal or at what point keyword damping begins. Unfortunately, this can mean that innocent web site owners or editors can leave an undesirable content by chance, just because of a lack of attention or experience. To help prevent having your resource rejected by search engines, just keep to following recommendations before launching your web site. 1.Look through your text once again. Do you see certain words and phrases dancing in front of your eyes? If not, you can pass your text through to next test. If you do, try reducing number of sentences, writing alternative phrases or even consider starting again from scratch. 2.Read out text of your web page to co-workers or friends or ask them to read it to you. Does it sound annoying or amateurish because of excessive keyword density? If not, page is ready for launching. Hidden text Hiding text is another means of fooling search engines, but one that is becoming more futile. Body text is hidden when: •the font is exactly same colour as, or differs very slightly from, a web page’s background colour, or •when it is so tiny on screen (1 or 2 pixels) that visitors don’t see it. The idea behind scam is that search engine spiders will read code that makes up page but human visitors will not notice text, or will see it as a detail in graphic design. So theory goes, webmasters can place commonly searched words in these unseen areas that will hoist their pages up search engine rankings, even if true content has nothing to do with subject searched for. They think that hiding ‘Britney Spears’ on their mountain resort’s web page will cause an avalanche of visitors and increase sales. Life isn’t that simple! If you put yourself in user’s position, you’ll soon see why this won’t work. You won’t be too pleased about having to scroll through endless pages filled with absolutely useless content when searching for resource that you need. Because best search engines (i.e., ones that people actually use) can efficiently resist this kind of cheating, dishonest webmasters will have their rankings reduced or be left off indices, even if penalty is not instant. Remember also that a search entry‘s very popularity means that a page thus ‘optimised’ will be just one of millions of others, further reducing any perceived competitive advantage. Link exchange networks (link farming) The Web is by nature a network of interconnected sites supporting one another via hyperlinks. Some search engines use number of links pointing to a site as a factor in site’s popularity and, therefore, its ranking. For example, there are thousands of pages linking to NASA’s website, so it ranks highly and is spidered frequently. As with all relevance calculation methods, this one is open to abuse. In hope of multiple inbound links improving a website’s ranking, web pages, called link farms, are created containing nothing but links to other sites. However, this method of promotion is quite insecure, for three main reasons: 1.as a rule, such pages contain nothing but endless rows and columns of hyperlinks with no description of resources, therefore search value of link farm itself is tiny; 2.such linking is useless, since pages which contain too many links transfer almost no value to individual sites they link to; and 3.hardly any visitors are going to click on a site from such a page, as probability of a successful click on a page full of potential clicks is minimal. Keep away from link farms. Many owners of popular and well-promoted websites have already got sick of daily emails saying things such as: ‘I’ve visited your website, I like it, so I’ve placed a link to it and I’m waiting for you put a link to mine on your page’. The point is that it is quality of links that is of high importance for modern search engines when ranking a website, not quantity. Relevance is everything, and search engines are getting better at detecting and rewarding it. So, what are quality links? The simple answer is links to web sites devoted to related issues. Therefore, it is better to exchange links with business partners, sites with common themes or information portals dealing with problems of a similar business sphere. Also, you should insist upon adding short descriptions of your resources to hyperlinks. The value of simple reciprocal linking in terms of search engine optimisation has diminished over last few years. We can suggest another method, which tends to be much more promising: publication and wide distribution of articles that may be of interest to visitors. The articles contain links to sites and certainly attract your targeted audience. Cloaking Cloaking is another technology that is widely used by dishonest webmasters. Its effectiveness lies in identifying robots, which crawl around Web, by their IP addresses or host names. A special doorway page, developed beforehand and polished for SEO purposes but unreadable for humans, is shown to robot and added to search engine’s index, while a human visitor will see a very different page. However, modern search engines are able to unmask those who specialise in such tricks. For example, a robot can come from an unknown IP address or disguise itself as numerous human visitors and come from different addresses. Moreover, ‘sneaking’ is encouraged by managers of some search engines, whereby visitors report that content of a particular web site found by a search engine has nothing in common with its description on search engine result page. Then, if a search engine’s staff discover that a webmaster is employing illegal methods, his or her site will instantly be ejected from that index.
Appropriate Website Promotion MethodsWritten by Irina Ponomareva
Why would you want a site? Why indeed? The unceasing growth of World Wide Web has resulted in an enormous number of sites, and new ones show up daily. Why would you want to create more? And what do you think about widespread opinion that Internet has been made for evil, and that people may get permanently lost there, breaking their connections with real life and all its virtues? There is only one way to reply to this. Good or evil dwells inside us, not in tools intended for everyday use. If Internet is evil then so is car, since people meet their deaths under its wheels. Fire, knives, pills and even water find uses in good and bad. It depends entirely on context. So how should we use this phenomenon, still pretty new for majority of us, to make it work for people, not against them? What can it do for hypothetical site owner described below? You are a site owner. What next? It is by no means hard to become a site owner. A person just has to register his or her domain at any free web hosting service. Respectable enterprise owners prefer a paid hosting, since domain name will not be a mixture of trade name of business and hosting company’s name. Your web site is your virtual business card. From look and feel of it your visitors will judge how much you respect yourself. Let’s say you have registered a domain: www.myowncompany.co.uk. You’ve uploaded some HTML pages presenting your business (let’s assume, it is selling mobile phones, second-hand office equipment and labour-saving devices). Your site has been available online for several months, yet nobody calls your office, and nobody sends emails to you to enquire about your goods. Web statistics show that during last week your site was visited just three times (two of those visits being, most likely, your own). What is going wrong? Most probably, you have not ‘paved way’ to your site. People know nothing about it, so what could induce them to type its URL in address field of their browsers? The route to your site runs through search engines. First of all, you will need to inform all major search engines about your domain name – every search engine has a web interface intended for this purpose. (We are planning to discuss this aspect in detail in one of our future articles.) The site must be easily found Let’s assume that all major search engines have found your site and indexed it – will it guarantee crowds of new visitors coming to your site? Not necessarily. Of one thing you can be sure: your site has lots of competitors, and each of them wants top position. That puts forward your next task. Every time search engine user carries out a search for keywords for which you want to be found, your site should appear on list as close to first line as possible. That’s where search engine optimisation (SEO) comes into play. SEO is a new skill for a new century. SEO starts from a few simple rules. Work on your site copy; pick up keywords and key phrases with utmost care The visible content of every page on your site (also known as site copy) is used by search engine to define main topic of your page. Your visitor will see same text, read it (or refuse to waste time reading it!) and decide if it is worthwhile coming again. Your site needs to be helpful for customers. It is important that a page’s copy: •clearly describes what page is dedicated to; •is easily understood; and •is interesting for target audience. Of course, search engine is incapable of estimating how ‘interesting’ page is. The nature of your business and quality of language are not for a search engine to judge. It is, however, capable of detecting relevancy of content to one or another keyword or phrase. That’s why you should very carefully pick up words and phrases to optimise your pages for. The key phrases selected with use of WordTracker or similar tools should be included in page copy as often as possible. It is desirable to target not very competitive but comparatively popular key phrases. It is agreed that one page should be optimised for one, two, or at most three key phrases, otherwise all optimisation efforts will be wasted. The key phrase density will drop, and search engine will not know which key phrase is most important one. Yet it is even more important not to go too far (this rule is general for SEO) and not to yield to a temptation to include targeted keywords in your copy too many times. Your copy should remain readable and sound natural when read out loud. If your key phrase sounds importunate, then there is a chance that people will not read your page, and that search engines will penalise it for abuse. Let us get back to our example: www.myowncompany.co.uk. The main topic: selling mobile phones, second-hand office equipment and labour-saving devices. One of SEO rules reads that you should not describe all these goods on same page. In each case, there must be a separate page optimised for its own key phrase. And do not forget to find out how popular your key phrase is. You might spend months polishing your content up for ‘second-hand office equipment’, and then suddenly discover that people much more often prefer to search for ‘used printers’.