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
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.