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Search Engine Spam: Useful Knowledge for the Web Site Promoter
Article by David Gikandi     Photo/Credit

Before getting started on using gateway pages and other HTML techniques
 to improve your search engine ranking, you need to know a little about
 spam and spamdexing. Spamming the search engines (or spamdexing) is the
 practice of using unethical or unprofessional techniques to try to improve
 search engine rankings. You should be aware of what constitutes spamming
 so as to avoid trouble with the search engines. For example, if you have
 a page with a white background, and you have a table that has a blue
 background and white text in it, you are actually spamming the Infoseek
 engine without even knowing it! Infoseek will see white text and see a
 white page background, concluding that your background color and your page
 color are the same so you are spamming! It will not be able to tell that
 the white text is actually within a blue table and is perfectly legible.
 It is silly, but that will cause that page to be dropped off the index.
 You can get it back on by changing the text color in the table to, say,
 a light gray and resubmitting the page to Infoseek. See what a difference
 that makes? Yet you had no idea that your page was considered spam!
 Generally, it is very easy to know what not to do so as to avoid being
 labeled a spammer and having your pages or your site penalized.
 By following a few simple rules, you can safely improve your search engine
 rankings without unknowingly spamming the engines and getting penalized
 for it.

What constitutes spam?
Some techniques are clearly considered as an attempt to spam the engines.
 Where possible, you should avoid these:

Keyword stuffing. This is the repeated use of a word to increase its
 frequency on a page. Search engines now have the ability to analyze a page
 and determine whether the frequency is above a "normal" level
 in proportion to the rest of the words in the document. 
Invisible text. Some webmasters stuff keywords at the bottom of a page and
 make their text color the same as that of the page background. This is
 also detectable by the engines. 
Tiny text. Same as invisible text but with tiny, illegible text. 
Page redirects. Some engines, especially Infoseek, do not like pages that
 take the user to another page without his or her intervention, e.g. using
 META refresh tags, cgi scripts, Java, JavaScript, or server side
Meta tags stuffing. Do not repeat your keywords in the Meta tags more than
 once, and do not use keywords that are unrelated to your site's content.
Never use keywords that do not apply to your site's content. 
Do not create too many doorways with very similar keywords. 
Do not submit the same page more than once on the same day to the same
 search engine. 
Do not submit virtually identical pages, i.e. do not simply duplicate a web
 page, give the copies different file names, and submit them all. That will be interpreted as an attempt to flood the engine. 
Code swapping. Do not optimize a page for top ranking, then swap another
 page in its place once a top ranking is achieved. 
Do not submit doorways to submission directories like Yahoo! 
Do not submit more than the allowed number of pages per engine per day or
 week. Each engine has a limit on how many pages you can manually submit
 to it using its online forms.
 Currently these are the limits: AltaVista 1-10 pages per day;
 HotBot 50 pages per day; Excite 25 pages per week;
 Infoseek 50 pages per day but unlimited when using e-mail submissions.
 Please note that this is not the total number of pages that can be indexed,
 it is just the total number that can be submitted. If you can only submit
 25 pages to Excite, for example, and you have a 1000 page site, that's
 no problem. The search engine will come crawling your site and index all
 pages, including those that you did not submit. 

Gray Areas
There are certain practices that can be considered spam by the search
 engine when they are actually just part of honest web site design.
 For example, Infoseek does not index any page with a fast page refresh.
 Yet, refresh tags are commonly used by web site designers to produce
 visual effects or to take people to a new location of a page that has
 been moved. Also, some engines look at the text color and background
 color and if they match, that page is considered spam. But you could
 have a page with a white background and a black table somewhere with
 white text in it. Although perfectly legible and legitimate, that page
 will be ignored by some engines. Another example is that Infoseek advises
 against (but does not seem to drop from the index) having many pages with
 links to one page. Even though this is meant to discourage spammers,
 it also places many legitimate webmasters in the spam region (almost
 anyone with a large web site or a web site with an online forum always
 has their pages linking back to the home page).
 These are just a few examples of gray areas in this business.
 Fortunately, because the search engine people know that they exist,
 they will not penalize your entire site just because of them.

What are the penalties for spamdexing?
There is an inappropriate amount of fear over the penalties of spamming.
 Many webmasters fear that they may spam the engines without their
 knowledge and then have their entire site banned from the engines forever.
 That just doesn't happen that easily! The people who run the search
 engines know that you can be a perfectly legitimate and honest web site
 owner who, because of the nature of your web site, has pages that appear
 to be spam to the engine. They know that their search engines are not
 smart enough to know exactly who is spamming and who happens to be
 in the spam zone by mistake. So they do not generally ban your entire
 site from their search engine just because some of your pages look like
 spam. They only penalize the rankings of the offending pages.
 Any non-offending page is not penalized. Only in the most extreme cases
, where you aggressively spam them and go against the recommendations
 above, flooding their engine with spam pages, will they ban your entire
 site. Some engines, like HotBot, do not even have a lifetime ban policy
 on spammers. As long as you are not an intentional and aggressive spammer,
 you should not worry about your entire site being penalized or banned from
 the engines. Only the offending pages will have their ranking penalized.

Is there room for responsible search engine positioning?
Yes! Definitely! In fact, the search engines do not discourage responsible
 search engine positioning. Responsible search engine position is good for
 everybody - it helps the users find the sites they are looking for,
 it helps the engines do a better job of delivering relevant results,
 and it gets you the traffic you want!

As a webmaster, you should not be too afraid that you are spamming the
 search engines in your quest for higher search engine rankings.
 No question about it, though, spam is something that every webmaster
 should understand thoroughly. Fortunately, it is easy to understand it.
 So learn the rules, re-examine your web pages, resubmit to the engines,
 then create gateway pages to get better ranking on the engines, using the
 rules above. If you need any more information on search engine spamming
 and search engine positioning, see

I wish you the best of fortune in your web promotional efforts!

David Gikandi
Positioning is 95% of your business!
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