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Google Bombing or Incremental Tool for Search Engine Ranking?

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I visited the WebProWorld forums and stumbled across a topic “New Google Bombing Technique” and was startled to see that the topic had been viewed over 22,000 times! It is by far the most active of the forums in the “Search Engine Insider Reports” section.

This article is simply my response to that discussion thread and I hope it helps cool off the heat being generated there.

The general gist of the conversation suggests that appending a question mark ? or a pound sign # to the end of an embedded link in a web site could lead to ranking a site at the top for any search phrase. An example is given of top rank for a particular phrase, then immediately forum members post their own URL’s in the discussion replies, using the technique to link back to their own sites with their own targeted search terms in an attempt to gain advantage with the technique, many times with odd or obscure terms.

This “new” so-called “#Google-Bombing” technique is simply a routine SEO strategy that has been used for years by pros. When we optimize a site for a client, we include keywords wherever possible within the visible page text. The top priority is ALWAYS page text and title tags. From there on, ALL uses of additional techniques are only incremental in value and don’t dramatically affect ranking for targeted keyword phrases.

I demonstrate the ease of ranking for obscure terms on a page where I discuss the foolishness of SEO guarantees by including the phrase, “screeching camels” one time on the page in visible text. There are no keyword or description metatags on that page, yet it ranks number one at Google when you search for “Screeching Camels”. That is not Google bombing. A one-time use of a keyword phrase on a page got this number one ranking for that phrase simply because it is an absurdly rare phrase.

Use of irrelevant and misleading keyword phrase stuffing in keyword metatags, in comment tags <.!– keyword stuffing –> (leading period used in examples to allow display without embedding links in HTML email) and in ridiculous “invisible text” (using text the same color as the background) got abusive and so the search engines began to penalize those who did those things. They will always attempt to ban the obsessive cheaters and keyword stuffing liars.

The ? and # technique has always been used legitimately for ?tracking-referrers, calling ?search-terms and #jump-links to take you to a named anchor within a page. Now obsessive webmasters are attempting to use the technique to increase their own search engine rankings.

Sometimes when I link OUT to a site, I append ?WebSite101 to the tail end of the URL simply to let them know where the visitor came from (referrer) when they view their logs or use a traffic analysis or tracking service.

The ? technique for tracking traffic is even recommended by Pay-Per-Click engines which give instructions to advertisers using the technique to track clickthroughs from PPC ads. Appending “?overture-keyword” to the end of PPC destination URL’s makes that visior who clicked your ads show up in your log files and allows you to know the phrase that delivered that visitor and that the visitor originated from Overture.

SEO’s have always used # and ? to advantage in an incremental fashion to optimize client sites. The jump links to named anchors is routinely used by SEO’s by placing keywords in the #named-anchor links.

This works particularly well on long FAQ pages and on glossary of terms pages. Instead of doing what most do and using <.ahref=”#FAQ1″> Keyword Phrase<./a> instead we use <.a href=”#keyword-phrase”> Keyword-Phrase<./a>. Of course you’ll need to use it again in the anchor tag at <.a name=”keyword-phrase”> <./> Again, just an incremental tidbit to increase the use of the keyword phrase by a slight margin THROUGHOUT the site in that same incremental fashion, without being excessive.

The same is done with image filenames <.img src=”keyword.gif”> second level directory names /keyword-phrase/keyword.html, page filenames, and embedding links in visble page text keyword phrases <.a href=”keyword-phrase.html”> Keyword Phrase <./a> rather than the worthless <.a href=”wordfrag4.htm”> Click Here<./a>

Every once in a while someone re-discovers these incrementally valuable techniques and attempts to abuse them a la “Google Bombing” (as discussed in the WebProWorld forum) and they get abused obscenely by overly agressive folks that risk being banned in order to gain short term advantage for their own sites.

This leads the search engines to downgrade or penalize those who abuse the techniques. SEO is not made up of a single technique used to compulsive levels. Wholistic SEO is using many techniques moderately for incremental gains. When you get obsessive about any one technique it leads to trouble.

Stay out of trouble – please!

Mike Banks Valentine operates SEOptimism, Offering SEO training of
in-house content managers http://seoptimism.com/SEO_Staff_Training.htm
as well as the Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial at
http://WebSite101.com and blogs about SEO at http://RealitySEO.com
where this article appears with live links to SMO stories, buttons, blog posts and examples.

Google Bombing or Incremental Tool for Search Engine Ranking?
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