9 7.5 Ways To Get Banned (or Penalized) by Search Engines

SMS Text

Putting together an SEO campaign and thinking that cloaking, link farming or regurgitating content will get your site high rankings? Think again. Chances are, your site will get banned or ommitted from the top search engines; meaning Google, Yahoo, Ask.com and Live.com, by using these techniques.

Black Hat SEO is a touchy field and if you’re not on top of the game, your best chance is not to get involved in it.

Miskandar Eko Sembodo outlines 9 basic Black Hat techniques to avoid as they will probably lead to sites being banned from the search engines.

9 Ways To Get Banned by Search Engines

1. Cloaking

When website or web pages are set up to display different content for a search engine spider versus a human user. Cloaking delivers one version of a page to an Internet user and a different version to a search engine. The cloaked page is packed with keywords and phrases that the website wants to be highly rank for so.

It is done by cloaking programs that compare the IP address of the requesting party to a database of known IP addresses from specific search engine spiders. If the IP address matches one on the list, it serves a page that was specifically written for the search engines.

There are good reasons for cloaking as well, such as targeted advertising, but if you are trying to manipulate your rankings in the search engines then your site could be penalized or banned.

2. Spamming (Keyword Stuffing)

“Stuffing” long lists of keywords into the content and the code on a page that makes the page unreadable.

Ever seen a web page with a very awkwardly written first paragraph where a certain word is repeated ad nauseam? Here’s an example:

“We sell the best father’s day gifts for father’s day. If you like to celebrate father’s day we can help with the best father’s day gifts for father’s day.”

It’s obvious that the page is trying to rank well for “father’s day gifts.” This is keyword spamming or stuffing but it is just the tip of the SEO iceberg; there is probably keyword stuffing happening in the code: in the meta tags, invisible text, alt tags, title tags, comment tags, etc. If the word or phrase is repeated too often Google can place a filter to reduce the site’s rankings or simply ban the site. Keyword density can be tricky but, as a general rule, Big Oak shoots for 3% to 12% of all text on a page to be our targeted keywords.

3. Hidden Text

If text or links are invisible to the website visitor but can be seen by search engine spiders then they are considered hidden.In the past people would simply make the text too small to read by using a 1 point font or make it the same color as the background. Now that search engines have built in algorithms to combat that, spammers are using cascading style sheets (CSS) to hide text or using tags set to not display text on the page. It is boils down to this: it is considered hidden if the text or link is invisible to the website visitor but can be seen by search engine spiders.Search engines can easily spot this today so it is best to avoid it altogether.

4. Doorway Pages

Pages that solely exist to rank well in the search engines. Sometimes these pages are ugly, containing paragraph after paragraph of meaningless text. Most the time doorway pages are orphaned pages meaning they are not part of the site’s regular navigation.

A black hat SEO firm may use software to generated doorway pages. They plug a few keywords in and the software proceeds to generate pages where much of the content is duplicated from other pages on the site except they swap out the keywords.

5. Redirect Pages

Keyword-stuffed landing pages that quickly redirect to the real page. These pages don’t necessarily contain content that any human would be interested in. They are meant to show up high in search engine results pages (SERPS). When you click on one of these pages from the results, you are redirected to another page-usually a high-pressure sales page. In other words, the page you click to see is not the page you actually get to read.

Sneaky redirection pages are set up in groups. They target similar and related keywords or phrases. The only links on these pages are links to other pages in the same family creating a false sense of related linking. The redirect can be automatic, done with a meta refresh command or through other means such as mouse moving while on the redirect page.

6. Duplicate Content or Websites

Setting up multiple websites with the same content or having several pages on a site with essentially the same information but different keywords inserted here and there. You see the duplicate content method a lot with travel-oriented sites. A “template script” is written then regional terms, such as state or city names, are swapped out on each page.

Of course, someone may have copied the content on your site and put it on their site. The search engines do not make any distinction on who had the content first. Make sure no other site is using your content. You can do this by performing a search using some of your text with quotation marks (“) around it. If you do find someone is using your original copy visit here to learn more about copyright infringement: http://www.google.com/dmca.html.

7. Code swapping

Submitting a text-only version of a web page to the search engines in an effort to gain high rankings for that page. Once the desired positions within the search engines are achieved the search-engine friendly text page is swapped out for a content page designed for human visitors. This will only work for a limited time as the search engine spiders will eventually return to that page and find its content has changed.

8. Linking to Unrelated Sites or Bad Neighborhoods

Link campaigns are good thing when done correctly; we would say they are a necessity in today’s SEO world. But linking to bad neighborhoods is a sure way to lose your ranking. If you aren’t careful about who you are linking to you can easily disappear overnight. Basically, while you may be ethical and do everything right, linking to someone who isn’t can be considered guilt by association. Always verify your links to other sites. Make sure they have page rank and are indexed by Google. Avoid linking to any sites that use spamming techniques to increase their search engine rankings. Regularly checking outbound links from your site and removing any offenders is a good idea.

A few site types to avoid:

1. Free-for-all link farms

2. Adult sites

3. Gambling sites

9. Link Farms

Typically a network of sites that are all interlinked to one another and have no other benefit but to try to boost the link popularity of the sites. Link farms are mostly used to try to increase the Google PageRank of a site.

Well after everyone saw the Black Hat techniques everyone also should see…

What does Google say?

“Don’t deceive your users, or present different content to search engines than you display to users,” Google says, and they list some bullet points on avoiding being banned.

1. Avoid hidden text or hidden links.

2. Don’t employ cloaking or sneaky redirects.

3. Don’t send automated queries to Google.

4. Don’t load pages with irrelevant words.

5. Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.

6. Avoid “doorway” pages created just for search engines, or other “cookie cutter” approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
Get the latest news from Search Engine Journal!
We value your privacy! See our policy here.
  • http://www.howardowens.com/ Media Blog

    #6 seems detrimental to sharing/creative commons. Something for Google to fix.

  • http://www.services-seo.net Jan Hvizdak

    Does “a directory” equal to “a link farm”? In my opinion, it doesn’t. On the other hand, I’ve seen many sites (directories) linking to anyone. Then, it’s very hard to determine if a listing from such site is worth it. For example, dmoz is also pointing to expired domains, web sites which changed their content to “sell-only” and even though it isn’t penalized for it. I run a directory too, but I’m approving quality sites only… Even if they’re not related to my site by the subject, I’m glad of some links (I especially like those which critise MFA, affiliate, SCAM, or so web sites).

    Also, duplicate content is a problem. One of my web sites lists free information about fish; Every fish has some attributes (name, water conditions, etc., etc.). So there are some words which repeat on each fish’s profile. Let’s say that profiles pages contain about 50% of the same content. It’s similar to e-shops. Naturally, these pages don’t offer the same content even if it looks like it (since 50% is high value in my opinion).

    Basically, it’s very hard to determine if a content is duplicated. Also, Google doesn’t know how to separate two pages with the same content but different HTML structure.

    Last days, I found out that someone has stolen content of my articles on my web site. I’m affraid of people who want to cut&paste others’ content… It’s very easy to do. And it’s very hard to undertake any legal steps even if Google offers reporting duplicated content. I reported that site (which has stolen my content) to Google already, but I’m still waiting for answer…

  • http://www.bigbrushmedia.com Big Brush Media

    Excellent post. This will be a post that I’ll be including in my presentations to potential clients.

    Jan-for dup content I’ve had sites bumped into “supplemental results” but never banned. This came from mirror sites (not by my recommendation!) Anyone else?

  • https://www.searchenginejournal.com Loren Baker, Editor

    Does “a directory” equal to “a link farm”? In my opinion, it doesn’t. On the other hand, I’ve seen many sites (directories) linking to anyone. Then, it’s very hard to determine if a listing from such site is worth it.

    I think the best way to judge the value of a directory is by before submitting, looking at the types of sites which are listed. If you find spammy, linky, or made-for-adsense crap sites, the directory is of no value and listing your sites along with such no value sites could lead to a negative co citation of your site.

    Besides Yahoo and DMOZ, I’ve listed several directories on the sidebar of Search Engine Journal which I feel are of quality and stand out among other general web directories…. especially Best of the Web.

    I also really like the 2.0 Social link building Aviva is doing right now and feel that such social media optimization will add more value to their directory service.

    People also use such directories to find web sites… that’s a big difference. Alexa has its faults, but checking out a directory’s Alexa rating may help judge its usage and traffic.

  • http://www.seorefugee.com Skitzzo

    Thanks for updating. I’m mentioning it in my blog post (http://www.seorefugee.com/seoblog/2006/12/20/search-engine-journal-wrong-about-getting-banned/) as well.

  • http://www.improvetheweb.com/you-know-you-are-a-usability-consultant-when/ Yuri

    Jan, what you described is not duplicate content, though parts of the page, obviously, are. You can:
    – keep titles and meta titles page focused (unique)
    – use site section secondary navigation
    – in fact, wrte more about a particular fish (to increase the unique/duplicate ratio).

    And it is not a problem. You don’t get banned by duplicate content, you just get filtered out. Now linking to black hat sites can get you in trouble.

  • https://www.searchenginejournal.com Loren Baker, Editor

    Good point Rebecca, such sites are not worth submitting to ūüôā

  • http://www.saunders.bz Saunders

    Hi, Thanks for posting these helpful tips.

    I designed a site for my artwork which has very little text. At least very little text on the index page. A friend of mine told me that if I want to be found on search engines I need to add some text. I didn’t want to mess up the design of my site so I broke rule #3 above. (text same color as bg) At the time, I didn’t know this was search engine spamming. Then of course I submitted it to Google. I’ve checked a few times and my site still has not appeared on google. My question is: If I am banned, How long will I be banned for? Can I resubmit my site minus the offending code?

  • http://www.mybangaloreproperty.com Ehsan

    Thanks for the information, but is there any software which will tell us about the Outbound links we are giving, I mean to which sites my site is linked to, although I have full control on the links within my main site but I am afraid of the links on my Blog which is hosted on the same domain name, I am afraid about what if some one have left a comment on my site and might have linked to a Bad Neighborhood,
    Thanks in advance

  • Kathy Meyer Venice

    Great information Loren!
    Does anybody have a list of updated directories that are worth submitting to? Obviously there’s no way to get a comprehensive list but I’d love to get feedback on some of the top directories you use.

  • http://myspace.com Crystal

    how do i bypass my school filters so i could get on myspace.com..please help me

  • http://www.stlmuaythai.com R thomas

    How do I report…and to whom for multiple mirror site abuse?

  • http://myspace.com ryan

    vry good

  • http://myspace.com ryan
  • http://myspace.com ryan

    it dont work

  • http://blog-advisor.blogspot.com Amarnath

    good post… need to be careful