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Poisoning the Google Spider

You can always find someone who wants to stray from the straight and narrow. Yes, they are some silly folks who engage in risky optimization tactics intended to artificially inflate PageRank, manipulate the ordering of search result pages in Google, and gain an unfair advantage in the index. Google, with a superb reputation to protect, is harsh in dealing with any and all of those tricky techniques. The company resorts to only one remedy when a site violates its guidelines: expulsion from the Web index.

No guarantees or even policies are published concerning when or how an eliminated site can work its way back into the index. Google doesn't even explain why a site was removed. Being blacklisted from Google is a serious — one might even say catastrophic — business consequence. This section is here not to give anyone ideas but to inform readers of unscrupulous tricks to avoid.

Most outlawed optimization tricks concentrate on one of two angles:

  • Loading up on keywords
  • Hiding the site's identity or location

Keyword stuffing, as it's called, is usually attempted in a fashion that remains invisible to visitors, although occasionally you run across a site that flagrantly plasters its pages with visible keywords. Keywords can be hidden in two ways: in the HTML meta tags and on the visible page using a font color that matches the page's background color. Sometimes the color is different but a tiny typeface makes the stuffed words inconspicuous. To a crawler, all of this "cleverness" is glaringly visible.

More diabolical is hiding an entire site, either from the search engine or from visitors. Actually, the hiding always goes both ways; both the engine and the visitors are deceived. This bait-and-switch tactic is usually called cloaking and is accomplished in a couple of ways.

First, an underhanded Webmaster or SEO specialist can create a page, let it be indexed by Google, and then switch out the content of that page for new content. What a surprise to click a site about butterfly migration patterns and land on a pornography page! This type of cloaking provides only temporary joy to the deceiving Webmaster, of course, because Google's spider sees the change at the next crawl, and nobody can anticipate Google's crawl schedule well enough to continue the deception for months on end.

Second, redirection can create enduring confusion. Here, a doorway page is designed to rank high in Google and then used to redirect traffic (usually quickly and invisibly) to a different site. Visitors never see the indexed page at all. Not all doorway pages are illicit; the term is also used to describe legitimate entrances to Web sites.

Suffice to say that these artificial optimization schemes degrade the online culture and risk getting your site tossed from its most important online portal.

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