Search engines have become very important to the way people use the Web. Of course that means there's a lot of value to getting in front of all of those millions of potential visitors.
Unfortunately, some people try to manipulate search results, create spam, and try to game the system to make money.
Search engines, however, are very good at detecting and penalizing sites that employ manipulative techniques.
Here are examples of things you should not try to do:
- Keyword Stuffing —Keyword stuffing refers to identifying valuable search terms, and then shoving those search terms into your content or meta keywords tag as many times as possible, even when the keyword has no relevance to the content of the site.
- Hidden Content —Hidden content is the technique of displaying content to the search engines that the users don't see, such as additional keyword phrases. Typically examples include using CSS to display the content way off the viewable area of the page, hiding the displayed content with CSS, or displaying the content in the same color as the background (ie: white text on white background).
- Link Farms —The importance of links has prompted people to swap links with as many sites as they can find, including sites that are not relevant. Some webmasters create multiple sites of low-value content exclusively for the purposes of interlinking those pages.
- Buying Links —Some people pay for links on other sites just to try and raise their search engine scores. This method is different than a sponsored link, or an advertisement, as they usually try and pay for these links to display in online content like natural links without any labeling that the link was paid for.
- Make Pages Just for Search Engines —Some people get so wrapped up in the search engines that they forget all about their users. If a page is over-engineered for the search engines, to the point that it loses value for the users, the users are not going to want to spend much time on your page. Even if they land on your site, they'll go elsewhere for their business.
What's the worst that can happen?
The search engines have a lot of very smart people and have gotten very good at detecting and penalizing sites that use manipulative techniques, like those outlined above. Don't try to outsmart the search engines. In some cases your site can disappear from the search engines for months, if not years, depending on the severity of the offense. The best advice is to stay within Google's webmaster guidelines and build your SEO strategy around sound principles, like having great content and proper meta tags. Remember, the search engine doesn't have to rank you for anything!
For more information, see:
How Do Search Engines See the Web:
How Do Search Engines Read My Page Content?