Google, the unquestioned ‘god’ of search, has its own set of SEO commandments.
If you follow them, it will take you under its wing and catapult your business to the forefront of its SERPs (search engine results pages). If you do not follow them, your website may fall into the vast depths of the virtual world, far away from the eyes of potential customers.
Since Google outranks all other search engines by an almost absolute majority, it would be a great folly to resort to search engine optimization methods which it does not approve. However, often people stumble upon such resources and make use of them unknowingly. Here we will discuss a few of the practices which one should avoid during SEO.
1. Hidden Paid Links: DO NOT try to hide any paid links which may be present on your website. Although, you will be held in higher esteem if you do not resort to it at all, but even if it is unavoidable, make sure that you describe it with words like ‘sponsored’, ‘advertisement’. Another way to be on the safe side is to add the ‘no follow’ tag so that Google’s crawlers can identify a paid link and differentiate it from an organic one. Google ensures that it ‘discounts’ links intended to manipulate search results which have excessive link exchanges and purchased links that pass PageRank. Any reputable SEO company will advise against buying links.
2. Irrelevant Content: Webmasters tend to use substandard text simply to incorporate additional keywords. The content is thus not for the user, but for the sake of Google’s spider bots. Google’s new Panda update deals with such nuisance in the strictest way. You will lose all your traffic benefits and may even be dropped out of search results. Useful content gets relevant links to your domain from other sites and helps your gain popularity in the Internet community. The better your content, more are chances that others will find it valuable enough for their readers.
3. Link Schemes: Slow and steady wins the race. Do not try and create as many backlinks as possible in a short duration. You will end up with hundreds of artificial links which will have no use whatsoever. It is not just the quantity of links which direct to your website that matters, but also the relevance and quality of those links.
4. Manipulating Google’s Algorithm: In one sentence, IT CANNOT BE DONE! So, don’t even think about it. You will not only fail miserably and lose a lot of time and resources, but also get into a lot of trouble. If you do try and make such a suicidal attempt the fact that your site will get banned forever may not be the biggest of your concerns. If somehow you are important enough to be worthy of the trouble, you might just face a lawsuit from one of the most powerful corporations in the world.
5. Duplicate Content: Google defines duplicate content as “substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar”. Although duplicate content may not always be malicious or deceptive, one has to be very careful.
If your website has many pages with identical content, you can use canonicalization to indicate the preferred URL to Google and avoid any negative effects on your standing. If it seems like you have intentionally used such content to manipulate search results of get more traffic to your website, Google secures the interest of users by either choosing one of the pages to add to its index or in extreme cases remove the site from the index altogether.
Use a ‘noindex’ meta tag in the page source to avoid such actions. Alternatively you can use 301 redirects (“RedirectPermanent”) in your .htaccess file to redirect the Google-bot and users. In IIS, you can do the same through the administrative console. Instead of boilerplate repetition at the bottom of every page, include a small text with a link to a page with details. The Parameter Handling tool is useful for specifying how you would like Google to treat URL parameters.
6. Publishing Stubs: Never serve empty pages to users. They don’t like it, and neither does Google. Placeholders are a big NO. Publishing of pages without any real content, like placeholder pages should include a noindex meta tag so that Google does not index them.
7. Keyword Stuffing: Now this one is a biggie. Stuffing your webpage with keywords may have worked a decade ago, when search engine optimization was in its nascent stages. SEO has evolved and so has Google. Keyword stuffing in itself is good enough to land you a hefty penalty. Monitor the keyword density on your page and keep it at an optimum level.
8.Broken Links: Broken links are not considered malpractice, but they hurt your standings. Your site will seem highly unprofessional and thus not worthy enough to be put on top of the search engine results page (SERP) by Google or any other search engine for that matter. Use the webmaster tools to fix broken links as well as duplicate meta-tags. The good news is that it is basic SEO and barely requires much time.
9.Invisible Text: Ask yourself this question, why have you hidden that text? Is it irrelevant? Is it illegitimate? These are the exact same questions which occur to Google. If a text is hidden, it is taken as a sign of malpractices. People often try to stuff keywords, codes etc. in such hidden text to try and boost the rankings. Help yourself and avoid such tactics. Hiding irrelevant text within your site will make Google hide your site from users.
10.Advertisements: Yes, many sites thrive on the advertisement and sponsors, but that doesn’t mean you make your site look like a newspaper classifieds page. There has to be a balance between good content and valuable advertisements. Otherwise, Google will be cracking down on you hard in no time if your website is nothing but a cloning front for affiliate partners with banners, links and promotional content splashed all over the page.
The Eleventh Commandment:
Outdated Content: Websites are always a ‘work in progress’. Your website may have been amazing in terms of both design and content when it was launched, but its value drops with every passing day. People search for different things. Trends change every so often. The keywords used in your website become obsolete in a few days. While this isn’t a crime, it can barely be called good SEO practice. In such cases Google will not take any action against you because it simply wouldn’t have to.