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What If You Accidentally Spam the Engines?

by Paul J. Bruemmer ©Copyright 2002-2003



Google and other search engines will boot anyone using spam tactics to get high rankings. But what if this happens accidentally -- or worse still, an unethical search engine contractor uses spam tactics on your site without your knowledge? Believe it or not, there can be light at the end of the tunnel. If your listings suddenly disappear and you suspect something's wrong, here's what you can do.


Start From the Beginning


Begin by reviewing some of the possible reasons for your page/s being excluded from the engine database. For instance, Google, and most others, publish a page with Reasons your site may not be included. Take a look at each engine to determine if you have inadvertently breached their guidelines or simply have not followed the correct procedures for getting listed in the database.


If you suspect your page was manually removed from a search engine's index because of spamming, the engine will likely not comment on the reasons for removal. Furthermore, they will not give you an exhaustive list of practices that can cause removal.


Spam Tactics to Avoid


Below are some of the common tactics identified as search engine spam:


· Cloaking: When one page is served to search engine crawlers to get a good ranking but a different version of the page is served to search engine users. Sometimes involves changing of meta tags after positioning.


· Spoofing/Redirects/Meta Refresh: A meta refresh tag permits visitors to automatically be taken to a different page. When abused, users are taken to content unrelated to their search. Thus search engines are suspicious of pages with a fast meta-refresh rate. Pages using JavaScript to perform redirection are also suspect. Use server-side redirection if legitimate redirection is required.


· Domain Spamming: Identical sites found under different domain names to increase search engine traffic, also known as mirror sites.


· Tiny Text: Overused to hide keyword stuffing.


· Invisible Text: Used to hide keyword stuffing by making the stuffed keywords the same color as the page (white on white).


· Deceptive Title and Tags: Irrelevant keywords in the title and meta tags.


· Deceptive/Misleading Links: Setting up pages/links for the sole purpose of deceiving search engines.


· Over-submitting: Using the AddURL form to submit hundreds of deceptive pages.


If You Get Caught


If you intentionally spam the engines with any of the above tactics and get caught, the removal of your links will be disturbing when you are penalized. Spamming is not worth the temporary benefits. Search engine marketing done right is a long-lasting marketing investment, so don't jeopardize your rankings with any suggestion of spamming a search engine. Search engines have many ways to detect spamming with so called spam filters. They also actively encourage spam reporting by users. So even if you get by the spam filters a few times, others might report you, especially your competitors.


Making Your Way Back


If your site was removed from Google's database, the first thing to do is to clean up the page/s and send a re-inclusion request to [email protected] Google probably won't make any guarantees about if and when it will re-include your site. If everything is in order, your site should reappear in a month on the next Google refresh.


Before re-submitting your site, ensure there are no technical problems with your server. Check for any robots.txt files that turn away search engine spiders. Remember, if you use frames or Flash, it can be hard to get indexed. You need plenty of relevant text on your pages and tags to get indexed by search engine crawlers.


In any event, you should contact the search engine in writing. Also make an attempt to contact them by phone. Admit your mistake and make a sincere promise that it will not happen again.


Search Engine Algorithms


Should you worry about the changes in search engine algorithms? Yes, but there are acceptable and unacceptable methods for dealing with these changes. Spamming is simply unacceptable. Currently, the engines are emphasizing relevancy. Algorithms seem to favor relevant content, relevant title and description tags, and a relevant linking strategy. In other words, tell it like it is and be precise in your descriptions. Know what keywords are used to find your site and use those keywords appropriately. Provide good navigation so the engines can crawl deep into your site.


Algorithms have been affected by search engine optimization practices and user behavior. That's how spamming and best practices have surfaced. That's why search engines continually adjust their algorithms.


Good Search Engine Visibility


Google is only one search engine; there are many more with substance, integrity, and a large number of users. All of these engines should be referring searchers to your Web site.


There are millions of new web pages being submitted daily, many of them competing for top rankings with your site. Don't risk your future business online by spamming search engines. It's your responsibility to know the rules and act responsibly.


The Major Search Engines


Below is a list of the major search engines, their editorial content guidelines, and contact information to settle-up any possible abuse issues:


* MSN: Receives editorial content from Inktomi. Inktomi editorial guidelines. Inktomi's content policy FAQ will answer most questions on do's and don'ts or email their spam reporter for help.

* Netscape: Receives editorial content from Google. Google Guidelines are worth reading before getting started. Google partners with Yahoo! and Netscape, providing results to Yahoo! and DMOZ directories. Email [email protected] with the name of your site and a detailed description of your problem. Be honest and be sincere.

* Open Directory Project aka DMOZ: Provides content to several partners including Netscape, Google, AOL, HotBot, Lycos, and Pandia. See guidelines or email any category editor for advice. List of editors appears at the bottom of every 'category page' within ODP.

* Yahoo Web Sites and Yahoo Web Pages: How to suggest a site provides basic information about what they expect from you. Or email Yahoo customer care for further assistance.

* AltaVista: Submission Policies will help understand the rules. Alta Vista's contact e-mail. Include "Search Results Manipulation" in the subject line puts you in touch with their spam reporter.

* AllTheWeb (Fast)/Lycos: Webmaster resources. Here is the Spam Policy and Spam Report email address. Write if you've inadvertently made a mistake.

* HotBot: Receives editorial content from Lycos. See guidelines. To contact its Abuse Manager send an email inquiring about your situation.

* AOL Web Sites: Receives editorial content from DMOZ and Google. See suggestions for getting listed. To contact AOL for information write an email and describe your problem.

In a nutshell: Work with all the engines, use their guidelines, admit it when you've made a mistake, make written contact, follow-up with phone calls, and be sincere in your request for re-admission into the database.

Remember, your editorial content (a search engine link to your site) below a search engine's advertising fold is your business's best means of acquiring a target audience. This audience consists of astute individuals performing searches and research who are interested in what you do. You can't afford to make mistakes. If you do…start with damage control right away.

Paul J. Bruemmer mailto:[email protected] is the CEO of Web Ignite, http://www.web-ignite.com/ a professional search engine marketing company founded in 1995.  His articles have appeared on ClickZ, MarketingProfs, Marketing Sherpa, New Media, Pandia, Search Engine Guide, SitePoint, SiteProNews, Traffick, WebProNews, and WorkZ.

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