On the Right Side of the Law

When you are trying to promote your website, it’s very tempting to use unethical techniques to score high in the search engine rankings. But there are plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t — not the least of which is that some of those techniques will get you banned, exactly the opposite of the result you want. So how do you stay on the right side of the law? (This article was originally published in the April 2004 issue of Plug-In).

Trying to stay on the right side of the law in terms of web promotion can be extremely difficult at times. The rewards of being found at the very top of the search engines can sometimes force Search Engineers and web designers alike to step over the mark using dishonest methods and both spoil the search engine results, and ultimately have their own sites penalized.

Being unethical is something that almost every Search Engine Optimizer has been guilty of at least once, and for some Optimizers, for most of the time. Methods used have changed over the years from same colored text as backgrounds, to doorway pages to IP filtering. Each has served a purpose, and some still do, but eventually, using only these methods and not laying foundations with good old-fashioned SEO will be the death of most sites.

To combat unethical web sites, search engines have updated their methods of finding and eradicating the sites that are guilty of cheating the system. As many people will know, the recent updates from Google, most noticeably the Florida update, have not only changed the way that Google uses commercial web sites, but also helps in a large way to rid the web of many sites that were abusing the system.

This is of course excellent news for the searcher, who can now find what he wants much more easily, but what of the clients of SEO companies whose websites have disappeared? What do they do now? Companies that have enquired about our own services since these recent Google updates have been alarmed at the tricks used by previous SEO firms on their own sites that ultimately got them banned or punished.

These are the top 5 basic rules of achieving an ethical website that will never be punished on search engines, no matter what algorithmic changes may happen.

1. Build a site FULL OF Content

Look to build a minimum of 50 pages of relevant content for the site. Of course, the more pages of content, the better. Write articles about your products or services. Pages like ‘About Us’ and ‘Contact Us’ usually do not contain relevant content and you should not count them as such.

2. Keep it Simple

Keep the web pages as simple as possible. Try to use HTML 3.2 rather than 4. Text in your website should outweigh the HTML code within. Keep JavaScript away in ‘.js’ files if necessary to include in the pages.

3. Add Content

It is important to add content on a regular basis to the site. This will help the engines to see that your site is constantly updating. This will increase importance over competing sites who haven’t updated pages since 2002 for example.

4. Cross Linking

It is very important that search engine spiders can find all of the pages that you want it to see. To do this, make sure you have good links, preferably text links, to most pages all across the site. A simple site map is also a must.

5. General SEO

A very generic rule, I know. Make sure on each page that your head tag is simple and does not contain any tags that are not needed. Make sure that you include the main keyword for that page in the title, the description, the keyword list, the H1 tag (if possible), the body text and link text.

Using these 5 rules as a start will help to outperform any website that uses mainly tricks to obtain good positions on the search engines over a period of time. It may take 2 weeks or it may take 12 months, but eventually you will beat the cheats at their own game by simply being ethical. At some point they will be punished or eradicated altogether.

As search engines become better at smelling the rats, websites need to be more informative and rich in content. No longer can a site become a copy of your company brochure.

You can check to see how ethical your own website is by using our free Online Web Optimizer tool at http:// optimiser.123promotion.co.uk

James Welch is currently MD of 123promotion.co.uk and has worked in the field of Ethical SEO for 5 years after many years as a Software Consultant. He can be reached at jwelch@123promotion.co.uk.

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