Search Engine Penalties – What They Are And How To Avoid Them

If you are implementing any SEO techniques on your website in any way, shape or form, you probably have heard about some of the search engine penalties that you could experience. An important thing to remember, however, is that some people assume that they are being penalized by the search engine if they do not get the results that they want. If you think that you are experiencing search engine penalties, it is useful to learn what they are and what you can do to avoid them. There are penalties issued by search engines that prevent your website from appearing in search results and, as a result, any search engine optimisation investment you are making can see no reward until the penalty is lifted.

What a penalty looks like in Google Analytics

Code Swapping

One of the search engine optimisation pitfalls that you should watch for is cloaking, which is often known as code swapping. When you submit one thing to your search engine but your page contains something different to the users who click on the link to your web site, this is called cloaking or code swapping. Websites can be optimized to generate for a certain phrase or a certain and then the code used on the page is swapped. This causes the user to actually find they are on a different page than they expected. Some people use this tactic to avoid imitation by others or to hide certain kinds of pages that they do not want seen.  Whatever the reason, this is against the guidelines issues by  search engines and may well result in a penalty.

Doorway Pages

Another common penalty that you could see from a search engine is for using doorway pages. These tactics are used by website owners to create web pages which only exist to try and help them achieve better rankings within search engines. They are usually not even component of the website structure and are only searchable when they are clicked on through a search result. These searches are of no value to the serious searcher but are frustrating instead, which is why search engines often penalise sites which use doorway pages.

Keyword Stuffing

Key word stuffing is another issue that search engines can penalise when they find. When a person uses a certain word or a phrase and repeats it in the page of a website to try to increase the relevancy of the page, this is keyword stuffing. This can be avoided if the owner of the website uses a reasonable amount of keywords and does not fill a page with keywords in order to get better rankings with a search engine – regardless of the experience for the user.

Invisible Text

Invisible (sometimes called ‘hidden’) text is a tactic that some website owners use when they insert text in the form of keywords but hide them on the web page by using the colour text which is the same as the background colour. This prevents most people who go to the page from being able to see the text. Because the page contains these words they can still be seen by search engines. This is considered to be a breach of guidelines by search engines. To avoid any resulting penalties, website owners should not include any type of invisible or hidden text on the pages of their web sites.

Tiny Text

Tiny text is also considered to be a penalty with search engines. This tactic is a method to hide or stuff certain words in small font sizes in the content of a page on a web site. They cannot be easily seen or read but since they are included on the web page, they can still show up in the results of a search engine.

Meta Tag Stuffing

Another common technique which can result in a penalty is meta tag stuffing. Web site owners place some of the keywords that will generate high traffic in meta tags that are not related to the content of a web page. This is used to try to generate more traffic to a web site. This can be avoided by only using meta tags on the pages that have content related to the keywords and not using them on pages that do not.

Page Spoofing

Page spoofing, redirection or meta refresh are other practices which may result in penalties. They are tactics that are used when a page on a web site is created to fit a certain phrase or keyword. Then by some kind of redirection, the users are unable to see the entire content present on the page, but instead can see text that is not relevant. Users who are clicking on the link to get to the web page will be directed to a distinct page that usually has very little information in the content which is related to the keywords.

Duplicate Pages

Page stuffing or using duplicate pages is a tactic where the web page on a web site is duplicated or only slightly different from another page and is used as a different page to be submitted to search engines. Web site owners who use this tactic think that a page which contain strong keywords are getting results and thus they should create more similar pages and submit them. To avoid this, try to make the content different on each page or you may find that you recieve a duplicate content penalty.

Domain Spamming

Domain spamming is where a webmaster has the same website but on different domain names. These are also known as mirror websites. Most often they are used to try and improve the search engine rankings. These kinds of practices are considered spamming by search engines. To avoid making this error, only have one website per domain and ensure any other sites you run are markedly different.

Hidden Links

Hidden links are another penalty that you may see from a search engine. This is usually done by placing a small graphic and creating a link to it somewhere on the web page. You can be banned from the search engine results if you try to use hidden links on your site. You should also avoid linking to other websites that are already banned by search engines as this association can reflect badly on your site. Effective SEO depends heavily on the authority you build through careful linking with other websites.

Linking to Other Web Sites

Usually having links on the pages of your website that lead your users to related websites is a good idea. Before you place links on your website, make sure that you verify the information and content of the links so that you are providing accurate links to your users.

If you try to keep your content related to the keywords that you use and do not use tactics that you think could be manipulative to search engines, you can avoid a lot of the penalties considered here. To be safe, make sure that you carefully use keywords and create content that is related to what you are submitting to the search engines. Read Google’s website optimisation guidelines so that you know what is banned and what is encouraged by the search engine giant.  Use common sense and research and you will be able to avoid using Black Hat Techniques easily and stay on the right side of search engines.