Google Tricks For SEOs to Avoid at All Costs

Portent Team Dec 5 2012


I’m going to play mind-reader for a moment. Here’s what you think about SEO:

  • You think search engine optimization is a closely-guarded secret bag of tricks
  • You think SEO means beating Google at their own game
  • You equate SEO with “buckets of cash” which would be pouring into your bank account if only you knew what the secret Google tricks were

Okay, okay, you busted me – that’s what I used to think SEO was. I’m projecting onto you.

But in total honesty, did you ever think that way? Do you think that way now? Maybe I should be embarrassed that I once thought that way, but you can’t know what you don’t know until you know it, ya know?

Who knew SEO was primarily eliminating technical roadblocks, making sure your site pages are relevant for how people search for what you offer, and earning off-site authority? Actually, a lot of people knew before I did. Better late than never, I suppose.

Who knew Google tricks for SEO really do exist? Turns out you really do want to stay away from those. Unless you’re an evil genius who can truly out-maneuver (yes, I’m actually laughing as I write that) the hundreds of super-smart Google engineers out there constantly tweaking the search algorithm, you’d better not use any of those nasty tricks.

Now, you may not even know what those Google tricks are. You may have no idea what actions will get your website banned from the Google index faster than catnip from a goldfish convention. But you might as well know what they are – not so you can do them, but so you can make sure your know-it-all nephew who spent five minutes on the Interwebs researching SEO doesn’t get your website torched for you.

Without further ado, I bring you “Google Tricks You Must Avoid Or You’ll Be Very, Very Unhappy”

Don’t stuff yourself

This is a trick that worked long, long ago in a galaxy not far away (the one we live in): keyword stuffing. In the early days of search engines, just repeating a keyword you wanted to rank for would boost relevance and rankings.

For example: “if you need a New Jersey Lawyer, there are several things you need to consider before hiring a New Jersey Lawyer. First, you want a New Jersey Lawyer located in New Jersey. The next thing you’re looking for is a New Jersey Lawyer who…”

You get the idea.

(I have a suspicion someone reading this is running to their website and blushing with shame at this exact moment).

Star ships do it, why can’t my website?

Cloaking is a sneaky technique where you show one thing to search engines (page about baskets of kittens) and another to human searchers (page about buy Viagra). There are other fun things you can (but should never) do with cloaking like using scripting to inject keywords seen by Google but not humans, or to check for googlebot (Google’s robot spider that crawls the web to index pages) vs. not and do a content bait-and-switch. Fun stuff, eh?

Note: it’s okay if you’re detecting a mobile user agent and serving up a mobile version of your website; you’re not trying to trick Google.

Hiding in plain sight

Here’s another fun one: white text on a white background. Humans can’t see that you’re repeating “New Jersey Lawyer” over and over and over and over – but googlebot sees that. This is like keyword stuffing, but a bit sneakier.

Another version of this is using CSS to position text so far off the page humans can never see it… but you’re tricking Google, and I want you to trust me on this one: Google does not like being tricked.

The old switcheroo

Another trick that Google will hate your website for is what they call “sneaky redirects.” Somewhat similar to cloaking, an example of a sneaky redirect is using a JavaScript meta refresh to switch URLs, here’s how that works:

Googlebot shows up all happy and trusting and crawls your webpage; everything is rainbows and unicorns, and googlebot leaves indexing what it found. But, meanwhile – muahaha – when a human visits that same page, after a certain period of time the meta refresh kicks in and a new page loads – no rainbows and unicorns for you! No, you get PPC (porn, pills, casinos).

Scheming & dreaming

Google just does not like it if you try to manipulate their ranking algorithm; which to no small extent depends on links. Someone once called links the currency of the web. Sure, there are other signals of authority Google uses, but for now links are pretty darn important to Google for determining authority (how important a site/page is and how highly it should rank for certain search queries).

People figured that out early-on and devised various link schemes to trick Google such as buying or trading links; automated link generation (via software) on blog posts, bookmarking sites, forums, or directories;  links in an article placed in various article directories, and so forth.

These schemes have worked for some time, but those hordes of Google engineers have been working on this and will continue to do so. They released the “Penguin” algorithm in April 2012 (with subsequent, ongoing updates) to counteract and even actively penalize sites trying to trick Google with link schemes.

Final thoughts & wrap-up

Trying to trick Google is doomed to failure. Google has been hard at work this year releasing numerous significant algorithm updates specifically designed to “close the dirty tricks loopholes” and you can bet they’ll continue to roll out more. Sure, you can probably out-maneuver them for a while, and some of the so-called “black-hat SEOs” even enjoy the cat-and-mouse game. But if you’re a “regular” business owner, marketing manager, etc., you’re better off staying away from Google tricks even if your competitors are using them. Fair warning: tricking Google today will result in the gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands tomorrow.

tags : digital marketingMarketingSEO


  1. Roy


    I was once explaining SEO blunders to my team. Two of my major points were: 1) You are NOT smarter than Google. 2) BE the most relevant result.

    You’ve hit a few other nice key points, in addition to those.

  2. Or put another way, just write stuff people will want to read, OK? For example, posts like this! Thanks for maintaining the rage.

  3. Tom


    My problem with these latest algo changes that target linkbuilding is that if one of your competitors decides to do some dirty tricks on your site, all he has to do is to build some nasty links pointing to your site. And that’s it, the damage is done.

    I know there is the disavow tool, but by the time you realize what’s going on, the whole thing might have impacted your site.

  4. How exactly Google finds out if a link is genuine or a paid one?

    Suppose I write an article about cloud. I can put several link as reference including to many companies. Now, one of these links is a paid one. How does Google recognizes this one?

    • I suspect a lot of Google’s recognition of paid links is through known sources. There were plenty of websites and businesses running large paid link operations. These are largely dead now due after the penguin update in April ’12, and they were reasonably easy to find.

  5. All common sense really, though I might have tried a couple of these in a past life … the one that really annoys me is link building and the assumption it’s only ever done for Google’s benefit. Kind of arrogant on Google’s part if you ask me.

    I build links to every piece of new content we publish, because they generate (targeted) traffic. That’s how the web was built … people linked to stuff they liked, people swapped links with other people for a whole host of reasons, and there was no need to stop and make sure the two pages were about the exact same content.

    Heck, half the fun of the web was never knowing where you might end up. Google can be as focused on precision as it likes, but it shouldn’t try to force it’s vision for the internet on everyone else.

    I don’t care if Google values the links I make or not… they do the job I want them to… but when it penalises me for any it doesn’t like, isn’t that getting into censorship territory? ‘Grow the web our way or else we’ll punish you!”

    I’m all for keeping spam out of the search results, but I think Penguin wasn’t as well thought out as it might have been…

  6. Good one! I guess people has stopped keyword spamming and keyword stuffing into their articles. After too much of hype, bloggers, webmasters and writers are finally putting up quality content on their sites. :D

  7. Satish, no, no they haven’t stopped. They just got smarter about it. The people who didn’t know what they were doing and were just following what they thought everyone else was doing stopped, sure, but the people who actually know how to do these kinds of unethical techniques are going at it harder than ever.

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