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Search Engine Tips

By Dennis Gaskill
Friday, November 14, 2003; 3:30pm EST

Self-proclaimed search engine experts have, over the years, touted all kinds of methods for ranking higher in search engines. This has included things such as hidden text, hidden links, meta tag stuffing, double meta tags, page stuffing, cloaking, redirect pages, bulk-quantity doorway pages, and other "secrets" of dubious quality.

Those techniques, and newer techniques that still amount to trickery, can result in lower rankings just for using them. In a worst case scenario they can even result in your domain being banned. Once banned, it's hard to get back in. Let's look at search engines from the search engine perspective instead of a selfish perspective.

My site, www.boogiejack.com, has consistently been ranking high in search engines since it opened in 1997. The ranking will fluctuate from time to time with each search engine, but I usually enjoy a few front page and number one links at any given time. Try a search for "left border backgrounds" now (one of my specialties), and see how it ranks at several search engines.

What's my secret? It's quite simple, I know how search engines want us to behave, and I have always followed the rules. I do everything I legally can to optimize my pages, but always play within the rules using only legitimately recognized (read that search engine approved) methods. When a search engine catches on to new trickery, you can be dropped or banned without warning.

So what do the search engines really want? They want to be able to help their web site visitors find what they are looking for, and they want to give them the best and most logical matches first. They can't do that easily with webmasters trying to manipulate their ranking by artificial means.

They want webmasters to show the search engine the same content you show your visitors, so anything like hidden text and links, cloaking, redirects and other tactics that show the search engine one thing and visitors another are high risk tricks that often result in being banned.

Your web site's content is the search engine's content, so they want sites with high quality content above all else. They want to show the best sites available for a search return, because if their content is helpful to the searcher, the searcher will be more likely to use their site for searches time and time again.

It's hard to get search engine employee's to comment on how their engines rank sites, but speaking on conditions of anonymity, here are the words of a technology specialist from one search engine (...and I won't knowingly betray a trust, so don't ask who the specialist is or what engine he works for, I won't tell):

"Design your site so that your text accurately reflects your content, products, and services. We penalize sites that make obvious attempts at manipulating our engine. No tricks, no misleading verbage designed for placement.
Link popularity is very important, so make sure the sites that should link to you are linked to you, and you to them. This is more than the latest buzz, this is reality. So if your site is about MP3's, you should have links with music sites, MP3 software sites, band fan sites, and so on.

At the very least you should be exchanging links with non-competitor sites whose content complements your own, and if you're not afraid to link directly to competitors and they'll exchange links with you, all the better. We give a little boost to sites that link directly to competitors.

One of the things we're after with this is to have your site "pre-judged" for us by your fellow webmasters. All links help, because it shows others find your site valuable enough to link to you, but links from relative content sites help your ranking even more.

I'll admit that sometimes people find ways to manipulate results for a short time, but sooner or later we catch on to these techniques (nobody studies our search engine harder than we do), and we'll penalize or ban sites for obvious manipulation attempts. Whether we ban a site or just penalize them, is partly determined by the degree of cheating and partly by the mood of the reviewer!

Once we've flagged your site, you'll have a hard time getting a top ranking again no matter how well you clean up your act. You've heard the expression, "once a cheater, always a cheater?" So have we. And here's a dirty little secret for you: if we catch you once, we may check other domains you own with a fine-toothed comb to see if you're spamming or cheating us with them too.

We don't place quite as much emphasis on themed sites as some engines do, but a themed site will give you a boost with us too. That's not to say your MP3 site can't talk about your love of dogs, just that if you cover many topics within a particular theme, you'll get a boost in rankings. You're not penalized for addressing many diverse or unrelated topics."

So there you have it, search engines want the same things surfers want. Quality content presented accurately and honestly, links to and from sites with complementary content, at least one major theme, and no dirty tricks.

Gosh, that isn't a great revelation is it? It shouldn't be, it's the way we should all be doing business in the first place - honestly and accurately. It is what works best in the long term with search engines and in life, and your site will never be penalized or banned by playing fairly.

Source of Article
Dennis Gaskill is the creator and owner of Boogie Jack's Web Depot at http://www.boogiejack.com/ - a popular webmasters resource site ranking in the top 1% of the most linked to sites on the Internet. He is also author of the new book Web Site Design Made Easy and publishes Almost a Newsletter, named the Best Ezine of 2000.


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