Search Spam Primer

    December 7, 2007

Every Internet marketer has heard about search spam, the unethical tactics that so-called "black hat" search marketers use that violate the search engines’ terms of service.

Now if you have no intention of doing anything unethical, you might believe that you don’t need to understand search spam.

After all, if you don’t want to rob a house, you don’t need to know how to pick a lock, right? Well, what you don’t know most certainly can hurt you when it comes to search spam. Read on for my three-part series in Revenue Magazine for the unsavory tactics that everyone needs to know about.

Legitimate search marketers must have at least a passing familiarity with spam techniques in order to avoid them. Many companies have been tripped up because their employees unwittingly employed spam techniques, or because they unwittingly hired search marketing consultants who do. You’ll want to know enough to protect yourself, but also you’ll want to identify competitors gaining unfair advantages so you can turn them in to the search engines.

You can bone up on what you need to know (no one ever seems to "bone down") by reading my three-part series of columns in Revenue Magazine—now they are posted publicly online:

  • Spiders Don’t Eat Spam. Find out what spam search tactics are, what "cloaking" is, and how to spot a spammer masquerading as a legitimate search marketing consultant.
  • The Ingredients That Go Into Spam. Get the list of spam techniques that manipulate the content on your Web pages to try to mislead the search engines.
  • The Tangled Web of Link Spam. One of the most popular methods of spamming the search engines involves setting up bogus pages and even entire faked sites created just to send inbound links to a site the spammer wants to promote. Learn what you need to know to identify this technique.

The stakes are high. Companies that engage in spam tactics risk having their Web sites "banned" by the search engines, which is geek-speak for having all of their pages removed from the search indexes—it’s like the phone company suddenly giving you an unlisted number. Banned sites are never found for searches, and you probably were hoping to do better than that.

Some people make a living fooling Google, but it’s probably not going to be you. Unless you are clever enough to stay ahead of the spam police, you are better off sticking to the rules and making sure your employees and your search consultants do so as well.

You can check out the full list of "The Searchers" columns for Revenue Magazine that I write. They are posted publicly a few months after they are available to subscribers, so if you want to get them faster, you’ll need to subscribe to Revenue Magazine in printed form or online. Some of you might even qualify for a free subscription, so check it out.