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What is Spam?


The term "spam", in the context of what you see in your search results, refers to any unethical practice used to improve a page's ranking in search engine results. Exactly what is considered spam by search engines?

How search engines see it

  • Google defines spam as "trying to deceive our web crawler by means of hidden text, deceptive cloaking or doorway pages." You can report sites you suspect of spam at Google's Report A Spam Result page.
  • Yahoo defines spam as "pages (that) are created deliberately to trick the search engine into offering inappropriate, redundant or poor-quality search results." They have a pretty extensive list of what techniques they consider spam at their Yahoo Search Technology Content Quality Guidelines page.
  • Bing gives a few spamming techniques "discouraged" by their webmaster guidelines; among them are keyword stuffing, invisible text, or false links.
  • Ask defines spam as "the practice of purposely deceiving a search engine into returning a result that is unrelated to a user’s query, or that is ranked artificially high in the result set." They give quite a few examples of search engine spam.
While not an exhaustive list of search engines, this should give you a good idea of what is considered spam by search engines.

Techniques To Avoid

  • Invisible Text. Text that is the same color as the background pages; enables site owner to place more keywords on the page and attract more spiders.
  • Keyword Stuffing. Consists of placing as many relevant or irrelevant keywords and phrases as you possibly can in content and Meta tags.
  • Unrelated Keywords. If you have a site about Depression era glass bowls and your keywords include "Viagra" and "Britney Spears", that would be considered unrelated keywords.
  • Doorway Pages. Doorways are pages optimized only for search engine spiders in order to attract more spiders, thus more users. Usually optimized for just one word or phrase and only meant for spiders, not users. Read more about doorway pages.
  • Tiny Text/Alt Text. Tiny text consists of placing keywords and phrases in the tiniest text imaginable all over your site. Most people can't see them, but spiders can. Alt text spamming is stuffing the alt text tags (for images) with unrelated keywords or phrases.
  • Mirror or Duplicate Sites. Don’t duplicate your site, name it something different, and submit it again. Search engines will know if you do this.
  • Submitting Repeatedly. Submitting your site to a search engine or directory repeatedly in a short period of time is a great way to get your site banned, or at least delayed. Read more about site submission.

Stay away from spam

To recap: spamming the search engines may seem like the quick road to Easy Street, but it can get you in big trouble and is usually quickly discovered. The bottom line about spam and search engine optimization is this: a person who is determined to get around search engines, inflate their search rankings, or perform unethical SEO maneuvers is asking for trouble. Here are some good search engine optimization resources for beginners to SEO:

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