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Search engine optimization (SEO) is perhaps a noble and important business function. It can be an exercise in “playing by the rules” in order to help interested web surfers quickly find the content they are hunting for. Or, SEO could just be a euphemism for “tricking” search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and MSN Search. In this brief article, I am going to explain three of the “tricks” some web promoters are using to convince the Google’s of the world that their web sites are really important. With the possible exception of blog comment links these are unethical ways to build page rank and position. If an SEO hack, tries to sell you on these service, I would not work with that person. Invisible or Nearly Invisible Text: One way that some folks try to trick search engines into believing their web site is appropriate for a particular topic is to include text which only a search engine’s web robot or crawler can find or read. This invisible writing tends to take three forms, truly invisible, super tiny, or way down south. The truly invisible text is simply text that is written in the exact same color as the background making is invisible to a visitor but still readable to a search robot examining the HTML. Basically this invisible text is a repetition of key words and phrases which make the search engine believe that a lot of a page’s content is devoted to explaining or discussing those key words and phrases. Super tiny text is pretty easy to understand, just set your font size so small that it looks soft of like lines in the background, but pack the tiny text plum full of key words. By “way down south,” I am referring to text that appears after a very large space at the bottom of a web page, a visitor to the page might be able to find and read it, but they are going to be scrolling down from now until next Christmas to get to it. There are times when a web designer will want to include plan text at the bottom of a web page, for example, if the page is heavy in flash or Javascript which search robots cannot see, a readable footer of text can help users and search engines. But it is really unethical to try and trick both search engine and visitor with invisible text. Redirects: Web pages that automatically redirect visitors to another web page can be a useful tool too. For example, if you are planning a web advertising campaign, targeting a redirect page can help you track return on investment, but shady web promoters sometimes use redirects to trick search engines. This is common in adult web sites. Basically, a web designer builds a web page in plan text that is packed to the gills with key words, but sets that page up to automatically redirect to another page, which may or may not be related to all of the key words. This trick can back fire since search engines are getting wise to this practice and ignoring web sites which use this tactic. Blog Comments: Some web marketers have begun to use blog comments as a means of creating inbound links to their site. The idea is to go to web logs, more often called blogs, which allow visitors to post their comments about a particular topic. Then post a comment that includes a link back to your site. The idea being that you will trick search engines into thinking your web site is important since so many other sites are linked to it. I have included blog comment links here with the aforementioned shameful web marketing practices, but in some cases the jury may still be out. Let me explain, this tactic can take a couple of forms. First there are rapists who just post endless links in some poor blog’s comment section. These guys care little about the topic being discussed or the blog’s owner. They just take up space. This is a really bad practice since you are leaving your URL behind inviting blog writers to email you, sue you, or write awful things about you. But other marketers have actually hired professional writers who read the blog and offer insightful comments, which also happen to include a link back to the web site they are promoting. Often these professional comments add something to the discussion, so in this case, like I wrote before, the jury may still be out. Overall, I have mentioned this tactics because I hope you will not try them for yourselves. They can backfire, and they are for the most part unethical.

 

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