Inappropriate Website Promotion Methods
This article takes a look at dubious website promotion methods and why they should not be used.
by Irina Ponomareva
The list of dubious means of search engine optimisation
lengthens year on year. In theory, of course, we could all employ such means,
but there are ethical issues to be tackled. And even if we ignore fair-play
principles for a moment, it’s worth pointing out that cheap, scam-like promotion
methods usually look cheap and scam-like, annoy Internet users and have a short
lifespan because counter-measures are created.
This article describes misleading, illegal
and unethical methods of search engine optimisation, explains
why they are wrong and highlights the possible adverse results.
In their naive quests for high positions in search engines’ listings, some
web site owners simply cram as many key phrases as possible into the body text
of their resources. However, if a key phrase is mentioned too often in the text
(so-called keyword damping), the website may be overlooked by
the more advanced search engines. Moreover, site content will undoubtedly be
unreadable for visitors.
Nevertheless, few people know what keyword density is optimal or at what
point keyword damping begins. Unfortunately, this can mean that innocent web
site owners or editors can leave an undesirable content by chance, just because
of a lack of attention or experience. To help prevent having your resource
rejected by search engines, just keep to the following recommendations before
launching your web site.
- Look through your text once again. Do you see certain words
and phrases dancing in front of your eyes? If not, you can pass your text
through to the next test. If you do, try reducing the number of sentences,
writing alternative phrases or even consider starting again from scratch.
- Read out the text of your web page to co-workers or friends
or ask them to read it to you. Does it sound annoying or amateurish because of
excessive keyword density? If not, the page is ready for launching.
Hiding text is another means of fooling search engines, but
one that is becoming more futile. Body text is hidden when:
- the font is exactly the same colour as, or differs very slightly from, a web
page’s background colour, or
- when it is so tiny on the screen (1 or 2 pixels) that visitors don’t see
The idea behind the scam is that search engine spiders will read the code
that makes up the page but human visitors will not notice the text, or will see
it as a detail in the graphic design. So the theory goes, webmasters can place
commonly searched words in these unseen areas that will hoist their pages up the
search engine rankings, even if the true content has nothing to do with the
subject searched for. They think that hiding ‘Britney Spears’ on their mountain
resort’s web page will cause an avalanche of visitors and increase sales. Life
isn’t that simple!
If you put yourself in the user’s position, you’ll soon see why this won’t
work. You won’t be too pleased about having to scroll through endless pages
filled with absolutely useless content when searching for the resource that you
Because the best search engines (i.e., the ones that people actually use) can
efficiently resist this kind of cheating, dishonest webmasters will have their
rankings reduced or be left off indices, even if the penalty is not instant.
Remember also that a search entry‘s very popularity means that a page thus
‘optimised’ will be just one of millions of others, further reducing any
perceived competitive advantage.
Link exchange networks (link farming)
The Web is by nature a network of interconnected sites supporting one another
via hyperlinks. Some search engines use the number of links pointing to a site
as a factor in the site’s popularity and, therefore, its ranking. For example,
there are thousands of pages linking to NASA’s website, so it ranks highly and
is spidered frequently. As with all relevance calculation methods, this one is
open to abuse. In the hope of multiple inbound links improving a website’s
ranking, web pages, called link farms, are created containing nothing but links
to other sites.
However, this method of promotion is quite insecure, for three main
- as a rule, such pages contain nothing but endless rows and columns of
hyperlinks with no description of the resources, therefore the search value of
the link farm itself is tiny;
- such linking is useless, since pages which contain too many links transfer
almost no value to the individual sites they link to; and
- hardly any visitors are going to click on a site from such a page, as the
probability of a successful click on a page full of potential clicks is
Keep away from link farms. Many owners of popular and
well-promoted websites have already got sick of daily emails saying things such
as: ‘I’ve visited your website, I like it, so I’ve placed a link to it and I’m
waiting for you put a link to mine on your page’. The point is that it is the
quality of links that is of high importance for modern search
engines when ranking a website, not the quantity. Relevance is
everything, and search engines are getting better at detecting and rewarding
So, what are quality links? The simple answer is links to
web sites devoted to related issues. Therefore, it is better to exchange links
with business partners, sites with common themes or information portals dealing
with problems of a similar business sphere. Also, you should insist upon adding
short descriptions of your resources to hyperlinks.
The value of simple reciprocal linking in terms of search engine optimisation
has diminished over the last few years. We can suggest another method, which
tends to be much more promising: publication and wide distribution of articles
that may be of interest to visitors. The articles contain links to sites and
certainly attract your targeted audience.
Cloaking is another technology that is widely used by dishonest webmasters.
Its effectiveness lies in identifying robots, which crawl around the Web, by
their IP addresses or host names. A special doorway page, developed beforehand
and polished for SEO purposes but unreadable for humans, is shown to the robot
and added to the search engine’s index, while a human visitor will see a
very different page.
However, modern search engines are able to unmask those who specialise in
such tricks. For example, a robot can come from an unknown IP address or
disguise itself as numerous human visitors and come from different addresses.
Moreover, ‘sneaking’ is encouraged by the managers of some search engines,
whereby visitors report that the content of a particular web site found by a
search engine has nothing in common with its description on the search
engine result page. Then, if a search engine’s staff discover that a webmaster
is employing illegal methods, his or her site will instantly be ejected from
Why Cloaking Is Always A Bad Idea
These are pages specially prepared for search engines and contain a number of
isolated key phrases which are designed solely to attract search engines and
cover issues completely different from those of the site proper. These pages are
often concealed from human visitors with the help of cloaking (as mentioned
above), because they contain nothing of interest. Since it is necessary to
hide the fact that their content is meaningless, these pages need regular
updating. However, programmers who are in charge of development of searching
algorithms are constantly looking for new means of semantic
analysis of a web page content. It is becoming more and more hard
to create a really 'smart' doorway page that would successfully deceive
August 2009: How Google beat Amazon and Ebay to the Semantic
The Semantic Web
All this results in a waste of the webmaster’s time and mental energy –
energy that could be better spent on good activities such as optimising and
polishing existing web pages and creating new ones with attractive, useful and
Multi-level marketing (MLM)
The plan looks so simple. A certain web site raises its ranking in search
engines listings due to receiving, say, five inbound links from other sites.
Each of these sites aims at getting five links from some other sites, and so on.
As a result, the site which is on top of the pyramid inherits value from all
descending sites. So the main goal of this kind of website promotion is reduced
to merely clambering to the top of this accurate and well proportioned
structure. So why is it no good?
First, this scheme needs to be well organised and managed by a person who is
in charge of looking after the pyramid, drawing new members and tracing their
progress. If he or she decides to take fees for this job it may lead to a
conflict of interests. Dragged into the fight for reaching the top of the
pyramid, webmasters will have less time for polishing web sites. Thus, the
pyramid structure destroys the idea of the ‘natural evolution’ of the Internet,
a principle that is widely speculated when discussing issues of web
Visit Search Engine Watch and use the following principle belonging to the
code of honour of search engine specialists: ‘Keep away from
False overstating of a website’s traffic statistics is another unfair method
of web promotion. It suggests that the resource is very popular among Internet
users, although it is actually not so. The aim of this trick is to deceive
potential buyers of the website, rather than search engines, because site owners
can gain maximum profit selling the resource if they demonstrate high traffic
for the website.
The so-called clickers are hired and instructed to do this job. They keep
visiting the web site several times a day on a regular basis for a modest fee
(or free of charge if the site owner is an undisguised cheater), each visit
being recorded by a hit counter. A high stated popularity of a web site will
increase its perceived value. Then, when the contract is concluded and the web
site finds its new owner, the number of visitors will drop, possibly to zero, as
the phantom visits will, unsurprisingly, stop.
Indexing of a website on different servers
In an effort to attract extra traffic, many people register several domains
linking to one and the same resource. But nowadays it makes no sense to
duplicate web pages with different domain names but identical content, for
modern search engines have learned to identify them. It can even result in being
removed from indexes.
It is difficult to avoid such troubles and stop a search engine robot from
doubting the originality of the content at all web pages exposed to indexing.
First of all, the robot sees that the resources are linking to each other and
compares their headings, key phrases and content. Pages which look suspicious to
it are processed by a special algorithm and deemed duplicated if:
- they hold outbound links which lead to one and the same resource; or
- these links are equal to or less than 10 per cent different in
Some search engines, for instance AltaVista, also employ this program when
checking up their indices revealing pages which were entered there by mistake.
Therefore, don’t be surprised if you find your duplicated web pages expelled
Placing of duplicated pages on different servers is also regarded as an
unethical way to promote a web site and is best avoided. However, if you find
the method essential and are not going to take the foregoing advice, we offer
- alter the content on your web pages so that they look somewhat
- slightly change headings, the list of key phrases, and the description;
- make sure that at least 10 per cent of the number of links on your pages is
Even though there are many legitimate
and efficient methods of web site promotion, many people
find unethical ones more attractive. Disregarding web surfers’ interests, they
attempt to deceive the search engine itself in an effort to make it place their
resources nearer the top of a listing. Most of all, they concern themselves with
visitors’ clicks, thus transferring money to a site owner’s purse.
Left unchecked, such unscrupulous practices will be counterproductive. The
reason? The web will be driven into chaos and cheating will prevail, thus making
it a battlefield for ‘intellectual’ confrontation between crafty webmasters and
developers of special algorithms to resist their tricks. As the war is fought,
both sides will make small gains which will instantly be swallowed up by newer
ideas. In no man’s land will be the frustrated users of the Internet, gradually
losing faith and trust in the medium and starting to switch off.
We are convinced that it is preferable to work towards better quality, more
interesting web pages, polished, usable sites and improved services. The result
will be well-deserved brand recognition and insistence, and sites will promote