SEO 101

17 Ways to Get De-indexed by Google

Imagine this: In a blink of an eye your website vanishes from Google. Trying every variation of your domain name in the search box — but nothing. You, my friend, have been de-indexed from Google.

de indexed 17 Ways to Get De indexed by Google

That’s a tragic place to be in. All your  hard work gone up in smoke, you are effectively  invisible to everyone in the world now. This is exactly the spot that iAcquire found themselves in May 2012 when they were caught up in the Dun and Bradstreet link buying scandal. JC Penny, Forbes, and Overstock also found themselves in a similar position (being penalized for link buying, but not necessarily flushed from Google’s index).

Never mind whether or not you agree with Google’s rules, and the punishment meted out, Google’s rules are the ones everyone has to play by. These rules, and the penalties, should not really surprise anyone. And no one should need to have described how crucial search is to a business’ success online either. Although social recommendations are catching up, search remains the number one way to drive traffic a website. All this is common knowledge, I only reiterate to hammer home how crucial it is to have a healthy relationship with search engines.

Now that we’re focused on the horror of “de-indexing”, unnatural link acquisition isn’t the only way to get banned by Google. There are actually quite a few more. If you are new to SEO, let this be a warning. If you are a seasoned SEO, let this be a reminder—or a crib sheet you can forward to anyone who is suggesting you do WHATEVER it takes to rank them. Here’s a list of absolute “don’ts” where ranking is concerned.

1. Cloaking

image0011 17 Ways to Get De indexed by Google

The cloaking process works like this: You show search engines one thing and your visitors something else. The most obvious example would be a site promoting kayaking in the search results, but sending the searcher to a pornographic page. Or one selling Viagra. Or some shady off-shore tax scheme.

Cloaking is accomplished by delivering content based upon the IP address or the User-Agent HTTP. If a search spider is detected, then a server-side script delivers the kayak version of the page. If a user is detected, then the pornographic content is served.

This practice is deceptive—and flat-out forbidden by Google.

2. Duplicate Content

Black hat SEOs will try to boost page views by creating multiple pages of the same content. This is a pretty straightforward tactic, but is equally condemned by Google. Spammy sites and repeat offenders will more than likely get canned from Google—or at least dropped to the bottom of the barrel in search rankings.

Here’s the thing: You can inadvertently create duplicate content on your website through category, tag, and archive pages. This won’t get you banned from Google, but it could get you penalized.

And what about people stealing your content? Notify Google.

3. Writing Content with a Machine

As you can probably guess, black hat SEOs are lazy, and this vice is seen most clearly in the tactic of getting machines to create content.

Sometimes this is generated from scratch, but more often than not, this content is created by scraping already existing content, modifying the document, and then re-publishing.

The motto in this example  is “I’m not going to waste my time creating content when I can borrow someone else’s and make it mine.” Google will punish this.

4. Add Unrelated Keywords to Your Content

Keywords aren’t what they used to be in the search marketing game, so you don’t see a lot of keyword stuffing anymore. But that doesn’t mean Google won’t punish this practice.  You see, some SEOs still recommend this.

Never list keywords that don’t relate to your site, repeat a keyword that does relate to your site dozens of time, and embed brand name (trademarked no less) and competitor name keywords. This may not only get you banned, but it could get you a lawsuit.

5. Joining Link Exchanges and Bad Neighborhoods

Online etiquette says that if someone links to you that you should link back to them. Well, that’s debatable.

Google will judge your external links just as closely as they will evaluate the incoming links to your site — and they will evaluate the quality of those sites sending and getting links from you. Linking out to low-quality sites can damage your reputation and lower your Page Rank. Trade in paid links and you will get banned. Just ask iAcquire.

6. Font Matching

image002 17 Ways to Get De indexed by Google

Another old-school black hat tactic is to plaster keywords on a site in the same color as the background, inevitably hiding those keywords.

It’s laughable how easy this is for Google or anyone to spot (the keywords show up in the code as text—as does every other element of a webpage—no matter what color the font). What’s not so funny is the penalty; you could get dumped from Google.

7. Microscopic Font

Another variation of keyword stuffing is to place keywords at the bottom of a webpage in font so small that it’s incomprehensible to the naked eye.

Again, Google can de-index a site for this  (no matter the size of the font search spiders still read the same code) for trying to game the system.

8. Stacking Titles

You have to give it to the old school black hat SEOs. They are a creative bunch. Title <title> stacking means nothing more than writing more than one headline for a page—stuffing keywords into those titles. You’ll get no love from Google on this.

If you want to optimize your headlines with keywords, then front-load the headline with those critical words … and take full advantage of all 70 characters.

9. Doorway Pages

This is a tricky one because doorway pages are in the end landing pages optimized for one keyword. The difference between a legitimate keyword optimized landing page and one that Google will pooh-pooh is that the legitimate page provides original content.

For example, bloggers will often create a hub page for a series of articles they did on a particular topic, like “content marketing” or “social media metrics.” They’ll provide an introduction (unique and useful) and then links to those pages in the series.

A spammy doorway page optimized for “content marketing” will not provide original content (and probably employ one of the black hat tactics above) and will not send you to useful content—more likely an ad to buy Viagra from some offshore pornographic studio.

Spammy doorway pages can get you banned. And this is why you need to be careful if you are using landing pages for affiliate links.

10. Point 100 URLs to One URL

Because keyword-rich, exact match domains are still a strong indicator of a site’s content, people want to abuse this by buying every single domain available—plurals, misspellings, adjectives, location, and loaded with keywords. Just think used-clean-cars-sale-city.com.

Next, they point all of these URLs to one domain because, they figure, 100 hits a day to 500 different websites is 50,000 hits a day. Makes sense, right?

That would be super cool if it worked out that way, but it doesn’t  What happens is, these sites aren’t indexed except the one—and it may not be your main domain. Busted.

11. Abusing Rich Snippets Markup

image003 17 Ways to Get De indexed by Google

Google automatically generates the rich snippets you see on search results these days, but that doesn’t mean they won’t intervene by disabling rich snippets for a certain site if they detect abuse or deception—like marking up invisible content or deceptive content.

Rich snippets can be gamed by creating fake reviews or, like the cloaking tactic, show Google one thing and deliver something completely different to the user (like cheap Viagra through an offshore pornographic site). This destroys user experience and will bring Google’s wrath down on you.

12. Sending Automated Queries to Google

Remember WebPosition Gold—the software tool that automatically tested a keyword’s organic popularity using Google’s SOAP API?

If you’re new to SEO, then probably not, because back in late 2006 Google changed its webmaster guidelines and killed WPG:

“As of December 5, 2006, we are no longer issuing new API keys for the SOAP Search API. Developers with existing SOAP Search API keys will not be affected.”

Here’s the deal: Google hates automated queries. Why? In their own words:

Sending automated queries consumes resources and includes using any software (such as WebPosition Gold) to send automated queries to Google to determine how a website or webpage ranks in Google search results for various queries. In addition to rank checking, other types of automated access to Google without permission are also a violation of our Webmaster Guidelines and Terms of Service.

Violate that and you get penalized. The consequences vary.

13. Building Water-thin Affiliate Sites

Making money selling other people’s products is a viable way to make a living. This is why online affiliate programs are pure gold for people who want a passive income.

But if your website is nothing but a warehouse for other people’s products (Read: You are not creating original content, but, worse, simply scraping product descriptions from the producers) and you’ve adopted a paper-thin template, then Google won’t tolerate you.

Mess with the user experience and you make an enemy of Google.

To get around this professional affiliate, marketers need to invest time and energy in providing useful and relevant content, as well as building sites with safe and secure themes and long-term hosting signals.

14. Scraping Content

image004 17 Ways to Get De indexed by Google

Black hat SEO is really short-cut SEO. It’s the lazy man’s way to high rankings. These SEO tactics trade in short-term gains at the expense of long-term success. This is equally true for scarping content, scraping content is not something that the average person will do because most of us are programmed to know that taking something that isn’t ours is wrong.

But there are some fine lines on the Web. I’ve run into people who thought it was okay to copy and paste an article to their website—as longs as they left attribution (without the link). Sometimes they did link, but still grabbed the entire article. Still others publish a portion, but even this can spell trouble with Google.

The bottom line is this: “Are you producing original content?” This is where curators can get in trouble, too, if they aren’t adding value above and beyond the original site holder.

15. Sneaky Redirects

The adjective in the title of this section is a dead giveaway: “Sneaky.” That means there are some legal redirects, the 301 being the most common—sending a visitor to a different URL than the one requested. The most common example is when you are moving a site from mydomain.com to myrockstardomain.com.

So, what differentiates an honest redirect from a sneaky one? Well, when you are trying to be deceptive. You’ll break WNT laws if you use some type of technology like meta refresh or JavaScript to shift the direction a searcher is travelling—in other words, when you toy with the user experience. What happens is the googlebots will index the original URL, but not the redirect.

Of course you can use JavaScript legitimately to redirect people, like in the case of moving users to an internal page once they are logged in, or even, as a hack, to redirect your site after moving it if you don’t have access to the server (not your best choice, though).

16. Duplicate Sites

By now you should know that this is dead ringer for a Google Webmaster Guidelines violation. You should be saying to yourself, “Google rewards those who contribute value to the Web and user experience.” Google punishes lazy webmasters.

People who create duplicate sites are usually trying to outrank the original site. This might be an affiliate who wants to rank above the company he or she is promoting. And because it’s not a unique site with unique content, it gets canned.

17. Interlinking

Some SEOs might argue that this is grey hat: You know … it’s a method that exists in the grey area of SEO tactics — not necessarily black, but not necessarily white. Regardless, Google will punish you if you are guilty of interlinking.

What is interlinking? It’s basically a scheme that takes advantage of the importance of inbound links in search engine ranking by building dozens of sites, and then linking to each other.

This is a tough scheme to detect by either Googlebot or users—unless someone delves into some serious sleuthing or notices that a handful of similar sites dominate the search engines in the search listings. If caught all the sites could get de-indexed.

Conclusion

You might consider yourself a true white hat SEO guru, but falling into using one of these schemes (or some slight variation of them) can ruin anyone’s reputation. If you get a message in your WMT inbox indicating that there are serious problems with your site, the wages of SEO sin can come back to haunt.

If you are reading this, let’s say you do wake up one morning and find yours or your client’s site gone from Google. Sure you can appeal and recover — like iAcquire did, but there has to be some serious boot-licking and website code overhauling going on. What risk it? I hope this has helped.

Photo credit: De-indexed – courtesy © pepere24 – Fotolia.com

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Eric Siu is the User Growth Lead at Treehouse, an online technology school that teaches coding, web design, how to build startups, and more. Feel free to follow him on Twitter: @ericosiu on Google+:+Eric Siu

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33 thoughts on “17 Ways to Get De-indexed by Google

  1. This is a great comprehensive round up. It’s amazing that some of these practices actually went on unpunished for as long as they did! It is a new world indeed :)

  2. Scraping content will actually boost your traffic rank and shoot you into stratosphere in SERP. Too many examples to mention here to support this statement…

  3. Comprehensive roundup indeed, but the sad truth is that Google many times appeared to be non-consistent with those “rules”. There many anomalies on the SERP that show G’s inconsistencies.

  4. I just want to mention that making one of these errors shouldn’t be enough to get you deindexed (although there is no guarantee) but the more of them you are guilty of doing the more at risk you are. Like some other people have said, sometimes Google isn’t as good as practicing what they preach but I feel like it’s not worth the risk to see how much you can get away with.

    1. I couldn’t agree more, Nick. De-indexing is some harsh punishment for most of these. And trying to see how much you can get away with is too risky.

  5. Pretty extensive list here – great job Eric!
    Goes unto say that shortcuts never last long.
    The focus should on brand building and creating great user experience and content for your target audience.
    Serve them with as best you can!

  6. Great post! Just as an FYI, 500 times 100 is 50,000 not 5,000. I can’t help it, my wife’s a math teacher. :) Thanks for sharing the great advice!

  7. Hey Eric, – this is really great advice and a very easy to go by summary. Well done. Got it via LinkedIN.
    Question – what is your take on W3C. If I run an ahref on my main domain I get hundreds of W3C errors. Some tell me to ignore but I’m not too sure. Key point though is that I have no clue how to move/change to me more compliant to W3C. I run WP and a purchased – very popular – theme. Any idea if the W3C error count is a) genuine, b) important, c) to be dealt with at WP level or d) purely theme issue?
    Cheers, Lucas

  8. Some of this information is actually quite useful, as a few of these violations could probably be made by accident. What it really seems to showcase however, is the constantly evolving game of cat and mouse that webmasters have been playing, and continue to play with Google. Just goes to show that short-cuts don’t get you anywhere but dropped, there really is no substitute for legitimate SEO tactics.

  9. Another good way to get deindexed is to create one of thouse “free backlink” blasts, you know the one where your site is submitted to 3000 meta indexing and analytical sites at once. No website can survive this kind of aggressive tactic.

  10. It seems like my friends who started blogging 4-5 years ago have it made because they’ve got thousands and thousands of backlinks already when they were easy to come by, but try to get started blogging today, and the strategies and rules seem to change all the time.

  11. I hate to be the bearer of bad news – but some of this isn’t quite right!

    2) Duplicated content
    “… Here’s the thing: You can inadvertently create duplicate content on your website through category, tag, and archive pages. This won’t get you banned from Google, but it could get you penalized. …”
    You do NOT get Penalised for Internal Duplication like this.
    Google have stated this numerous times over the past 4 years!
    G went and developed the Canonical system for this (not the CLE, but their own “best guess” approach incase they don’t see a CLE).

    3) Automated Content
    Not quite true – Google will identify and possibly punish “low quality” and “poor” content.
    If the content passes inspection, is legible, appears original (mostly) and isn’t full of nonsensical errors – you are generally fine with it.
    (still not advised though)

    4) Keywords
    Really? Oh come on!
    Shoving in some unrelated keywords into the Keywords tag will do absolutely nothing.
    I’ve not seen nore heard of anyone suffering for having some unrelated keywords – and I don’t think I’ve heard/seen anyone suffer for keyword tag stuffing in ages either.

    8) Stacking Titles
    I’ve not kown any site to get booted for this either – and in some cases it can occur “naturally” due to poor template setup etc.
    All G does is default to one (the last one I believe).
    I’ve not seen anyone get punished for it.

    12) Automated Queries
    Funny, as I see that SEOMoz, Raven, Samurai and SEMRush are all still ranking fine…

    13) Water-thin Affiliates
    “… long-term Hosting signals …”
    I do hope you are not suggesting that purchasing Domain Names for long periods is a factor!

    14) Scraping content.
    Yes/No/Maybe.
    There are plenty of sites out there using exact duplicate content – jsut look at many ecommerce sites.
    They are still indexed – some even rank.
    Then you have Mashup sitesand the Aggregate sites – some of them do quite fine too (Big Resource anyone?).
    There are also (unfortunately) plenty of people stealing other sites content and even ranking for it.
    The only time G take action is on DMCAs or if the site is also doing other “bad” things.
    So having External Duplicationmay not get someone deindexed of it’s own accord.

    15) Sneaky Redirects
    So what you are saying is that if Google see you are using Javascript or MetaRefresh Redirects, they will dump you?
    Funny that – as Google have a system in place to handle Meta-Refreshes and eventually treat them similar to Canonical/301s.
    Though these things are not as effective as 301s or the CLE – they are “Last Resort” options in some cases – and are Fine!
    The problem occurs when you send people to Bad Pages or Bad Sites – when they end up somewhere completely different … when you cloak and only do it to users and not bots … when you send them to phishing or malwared pages etc.

    16) Duplicate Sites
    May.
    In general, G will simply ditch one of the sites as it is a Duplicate. It will show one of the sites (either the first one encountered, or the most popular/most trusted one).
    It can cause some issues – such as fluctuations – whilst G tries to auto-canonicalise or filter the SERPs … but that usually resolves itself over a short period of time.
    I cannot think of a time when I’ve seen “all” the sites disappear.
    The only times that does happen is if there are other issues (such as all are garbage or thin sites etc.).

    17) Interlinking
    Possibly / Somtimes.
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with interlinking several sites.
    To coin a term that googlers use – it’s the Intent that is the issue.
    If G see you linking 5 sites you own that are related or of use to the user – things are fine.
    If you are doing so in deceptive/questionable methods, or linking to poor/bad sites, or appear to be doing so in a manner that looks like it’s to game the system … then you have problems.
    Plenty of sites out there interlink and do not suffer for it all.
    Obviously there are limits … and you should examine why you have so many sites and why you are interlinking them … but so long as you don’t “over do it”, and there is good reason/cause for that number of sites and interliking them … you should be fine!

    ——-

    So lets see … out of your 17, I’ve found issue with 10.
    Out of the 10, you have some that are plain wrong, some that are inaccurate and others that aren’t quite right/clear.

    I suggest you spend some time over at the Google Webmaster Forums.
    Read the guidelines, the FAQs and then dig through the forum and look at some of the subjects/issues you have raised. You’ll see some smart p[eople answering, dictating the guidelines and shedding some light on the issues. You also see people explaining why sometimes it’s safe and other times not. you may even get lucky and see a Googler respond.
    All of that would be far better than furthering/creating myths and misconceptions.

    1. I have to agree with Lyndon, a LOT of this information is incorrect.

      Lyndon’s comments are spot on, I think there are a few more mistakes in it as well but the ones he has listed are all right as far as I can see.

      Please, if you are going to claim to know about things like these, at least check your facts first. A lot of these would have been very easy to verify with any knowledgeable SEO, but it looks like the author did absolutely no fact checking before publishing this.

      The last thing we need is a publication like SEJ spreading fallacies, its tough enough for webmasters to work out what is going on with Google without more misinformation been spread.

    2. Nice work Lyndon. Your addition to this piece brought it to another level.

      I have been interlinking sites for years and was only slightly punished once- knocked down from PR3 to PR1. All the other times I got a boost. (Certainly not de-indexed.)

      I’m following you on Google+. Maybe I’ll learn some more.

      1. Thank you for both the kind words and circling me Ken Skaggs – both are very much appreciated.
        Though I cannot promise you learning anything – you should havea laugh at the least :D

        And nice to see Steven here as well. For those that don’t know, he’s a regular at the Google Webmaster Forums, and has to battle this sort of trash on a regular basis.

    3. Lyndon,
      Here we have an example of the importance of reading comments.
      Thank you for your insights. I realize you had a bunch of frustration while writing–and certainly deserved–and I really learned tons reading your take on these points. Will be following you on G+ along with Ken below.
      Ryan

  12. I want to thank all that took the time to add their comments! I think hats are off to all that try to help others in this crazy time of “New Rules” hats off to Lyndon & Steve for giving their input. “calling out” is not what I would give props for but gladly give “Hats off” to sharing their knowledge and helping the rest with this confusing set of Google rules.

    Thank you all!
    Bill

  13. Seems like its pretty tricky NOT to avoid the Google hammer even if you’re playing straight.

    As I see it, if I’m searching I don’t just want the relevant page, I want to find the site that wants to be found the most (as long as its not spam) that tried the hardest to get its message out there because they care about my traffic.

  14. Ah the basics, and each one well pointed out. The field is what it is, and those that get dinged get dinged. I wonder how many get caught under numbers 4 and 5 versus 7 and 8. Thanks for the share mate!

  15. Impressed article about de-indexed by Google delivered to me. This become a valuable information. A good job and great efforts for the author. Thanks for sharing this article.

  16. We run placement reports for our clients using Trellian. These reports often include several hundred keyword phrases. I heard recently that Raven discontinued this service due to a warning from Google Adwords. The article mentioned Adwords. We do only natural placement – no Adwords. Can Google penalize your site for “scraping” their engine in order to access first page placement results. We are careful to only run reports no more than every 90 days. This is a different kind of “scraping” than you mention in (14). Is this a practice we should discontinue? If so, what are the alternatives – to show clients the results you have achieved?

  17. Cheers to Lyndon for correcting the OP on a number of these myths that somehow seem to keep propagating. Actually, it did give me a GREAT idea for a new post on my own blog, though. :)

    ^ @Chandan Sanwal – That is a myth as well. Spinning content is FINE, so long as it does in a correct fashion. The problem is many people use cheap spinners that wind up reading like extremely broken English (at times, even completely unreadable). Since they don’t bother reading the results first, and instead just post them up as is, THAT is what gets them smacked by Google.

    I spin articles every single day, and every single one gets indexed. In fact, I make sure of it.

  18. This is really good. I usually run out of steam part way through articles, but read this top to bottom for once. It’s super important to me to stay all-white all the time. If I’m just starting up an affiliate page though, and it takes a few weeks to get a number of quality articles up on the site…do I have much time, or how quickly might I get penalized for too thin of content?
    Thanks for your advice!
    ~Michelle Roan

  19. People who spin content are the scum of the earth. Pure and simple. They steal someone else’s work and pass it off as their own just to make money. Amazing that some people leaving comments on here will even admit they do. Must be nice to be that lazy and a thief to boot.

    1. ^ Says the ‘author’ and ‘writer’. :D

      Your personal feelings about people who use spinners has nothing at all to do with the conversation here, which happens to have everything to do with how to get yourself de-indexed from the search engines.

      I’ve seen your type a thousand and one times, at least. The difference between you and I and the rest of us here is that WE happen to be businessmen. We are online to make money, plain and simple. The vast majority of the business people online have no wish or desire to be an ‘author’ and write ‘the next great American novel.’

      I have several dozen blogs that need content supplied each and every day, another dozen sites (not blogs) that need daily content, and these are in addition to my real work that I have to do when running my own businessES. , <= notice the use of the plural from there, Miss Writer.

      Our readers care absolutely nothing abot where the TOPIC of my posts originated so long as they are supplied with valuable information that is relevant to them.

      Secondly, if the article has been spun, how that does that make me a thief? At least 75% of the content has been changed. Of course, we will still share some words, such as 'and,''the,''is,' that sort of thing.

      Further, I'd be willing to wager a dime to a dollar that I could Google, within 5 minutes, at least a dozen examples of whiny wannabe authors such as yourself saying the EXACT same thing you just did above. Does that make you a thief? No, because you came up with the idea yourself? So what? The same idea with your same exact words above has been said VERBATIM over and over and over ad infinitum almost since the internet began. The fact of the matter is, there are only so many ways you can say things.

      If you want to debate the 'author' point, please go hang out with the rest of the whiny 'authors' somewhere else. You'll find lots of kindred spirits that have entire forums dedicated to nothing about whining about people like 'us', while simultaneously jerking off each other's egos and feeling superior about being 'real' authors and writers.

      'Writers' and businessmen are two completely different animals. Feel free to go write your novel, Miss Writer. I wish you much luck. But please notice I have not stooped so low as to call you 'scum' or 'thief' or anything even remotely similar simply because you happen to have a differing belief.

      Given your lack of imagination and incomplete sentence structure above, though, I wouldn't get too deep into a conversation about 'writing'. I seriously doubt you would be able to hold your own very long if the above is indicative of your writing abilities.

      Now you go craft that perfect, official 'writers' response (that will, again, be just like the thousand and one others out there) while I go make another hundred grand this month. Let me know when your oh-so-original work hits the bestseller list, and I'll take you out to dinner at a five star restaurant to celebrate. Or do you also happen to subscribe to the 'starving artist' mentality, as well? Those people are even funnier. I'm a loser, so I'll just act like I don't really want to be a successful author or artist, and hence that will make me a success. :D

  20. Eric, thank you for this article even though Lyndon Have found a few error on it.
    Lyndon thank you for clarify Eric’s point BUT I think there is a better way to say things even if Eric was absolutely wrong! “So lets see … out of your 17, I’ve found issue with 10.
    Out of the 10, you have some that are plain wrong, some that are inaccurate and others that aren’t quite right/clear.” So, you found that much mistake, so what? So you know better then him and you are smarter! Hooray! “you may even get lucky and see a Googler respond.” – This is not trying to help, this is trying to Smash someone, embrace him in public. Again, thank you both for helping all of us get better.
    Cheers!

  21. Hi! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering which
    blog platform are you using for this website? I’m getting fed up of WordPress because I’ve had
    issues with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform.
    I would be great if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  22. Great Advise. I’ve experienced some of these scenarios before indirectly from some fellow marketer whom I’ve none for year who thought the black hat is the way to go. I’ve warned him many times to walk the straight line but he did not listen One day all his stuff hot de-indexed. I’ve chosen to stay in the online game for a long time and been making a living from it for over 10 years. White hat is the way to go. It may take a little time but remember the old wise saying Rome was not built overnight. It takes time to reap a pure harvest. So be patient and go by the book and you will receive a crown of honor. What athlete can receive a crown of honor or medal if he does not play by the rule. So play by the rules.
    Feel free to make any comments back to me at my blog at: http://blog.leadspluscash.com