Search engines have declared a silent war against those of us working on their behalf (well, OK, on behalf of our clients really - but they clearly benefit!) to ensure that good Web sites make it into top positions for relevant keyword and phrase queries. More and more, search engines are cracking down on the use of techniques they consider inappropriate for gaining top rankings in their indexes. Those indexes that are most difficult to master seem to return most irrelevant documents (the Excite search engine ranked second to last and last).Because the search engines are working to penalize the small minority of spammers who inappropriately submit dozens of pages and present off-topic material, legitimate Web marketers must be careful that we don't get clipped in one of these "cyber stings."

Penalties can be draconian and can include having your domain name, your IP address, and even pages registered under your Internic handle banned from a particular search engine. In extreme cases, we've heard of search engines checking domain registrations. With this information they can prevent known spammers from registering new domains and getting back into their index. We received an e-mail from someone recently claiming that AltaVista was blocking submissions of all of his URLs, even new ones he registered. He suspected that AltaVista had captured his "Nic" handle information and was blocking any new URLs he registered under it, though we could not confirm this practice. You do not want to suffer such a fate. There is no reason you should if you observe these guidelines:

  1. Never use keywords in your META tags (or otherwise promote your site toward keywords or phrases) that do not apply to your site's content.

    Tip: Let's say you have a travel service business. The single keyword "travel" will probably be very hard to be positioned well on. To attract the visitors you want, you may want to create good content related to your business in order to attract the right type of visitors. For example, if you sell vacation cruises to the Caribbean, make a page all about "Parasailing in the Caribbean." Give visitors all the information they'd want to know about the sport, the pros and cons, then show them how to get there on one of your vacation plans! However, good content is the KEY. Your page must really get the prospect excited about going parasailing before they're going to start thinking seriously about buying a ticket.

  2. Avoid repeating the same keyword dozens of times in a row on your page or in your META tags. Increasingly, search engines are penalizing and even banning Web sites for employing this technique. List a keyword one to seven times, no more. Any more than that and you're entering the "danger zone."
  3. Do not create too many doorway pages. It's good to create multiple doorway pages that each target different sets of keywords or topics related to your site, but do not be excessive. Search engines now watch for multiple submissions that appear the same or very similar. Try a couple of variations, submit them, then wait and see how you rank.

    Tip: It's important to review your Web site and check your rankings for many keywords that appear in the text of the different pages. Often you'll find that your Web site did not rank well for one important keyword, but it may rank very well on some other keyword or phrase found on the page!

    If you don't rank well anywhere, redesign your page and resubmit. Search engines don't really care if you resubmit a page after making changes. In fact, they encourage it.

    The easiest way to get in trouble is to have three or more of your pages all appear together in the matches for a single keyword search. One of your competitors will likely report you. This could get you banned from that search engine.

  4. Avoid submitting too many pages at once. If you have 100 pages you need indexed, first review the rules of the particular search engine to make certain the search engine will index this number. We suggest you play it safe and break up your submissions. Submit half one day and half the next; this way you'll avoid any undocumented limits a search engine may have whereby it simply ignores your pages after a certain number of submissions. Also be wary of automated site submission tools that submit too many pages simultaneously.
  5. Avoid submitting the same page twice on the same day. Generally search engines will simply ignore a second submission. You can, however, rename the page and resubmit it, but again, don't abuse the system. Keep page variations to a minimum, follow up, and if you don't rank well for your keywords, then redesign the page and submit it again. Consider it doorway page recycling.
  6. Following up by checking your rank for many keywords in 10 search engines sounds like a lot of work. It is. Some people tell us they spend 30 hours a week checking their rank for their important keywords.

After your Web site has been online a while, you'll learn that to succeed, you need a competitive advantage. Use technology and knowledge to do more in less time. This is how the smaller or newer companies can often compete against the big boys. However, don't sacrifice your ethics to achieve your goals. For example, using Princess Diana's name on your Web site to bring traffic is patently offensive. This deception won't translate into revenue, only aggravated visitors. Making money on the Web is not so difficult, and you need not lower yourself by employing the tactics of those miscreant hacker types. Now go forth, conquer, dominate your keyword phrases in the search engines -- climb to the top of the search engine charts and report back to us on your successes!

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