How to Avoid Spamming the Search Engines

"Spamming" is the practice of sending someone something they didn't ask for and don't want, like all those junk emails we seem to get.

SpamHistory lesson: "Spam" is a cheap, slimy lunch meat-like product, sort of a cross between a dry sausage and balogna, made from ham, that comes in a can. Many people buy it, eat it, and like to eat it. (I find it's not too bad diced up and fried into an omelet!)

But Spam was the butt of the joke on a few episodes of the "Monty Python" TV show. They performed comic skits where people would go into a restaurant and, no matter what they wanted or ordered from the menu, the only thing they would eventually be served would be--Spam.

On the internet, "spam" is the practice of sending unsolicited commercial email ("UCE", also known as junk email) and is considered very bad manners. It can get you in deep trouble. It can cause the company hosting your website to shut down your site. It can cause you to lose your email address completely and your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to shut you down. This can happen quicker than you think -- I knew one person who was shut down (website gone and email address cancelled) within ten minutes of sending out spam through his Internet Service Provider.

In fact, there are websites devoted to shutting down those who send out spam, run by anti-spam fanatics who enjoy hunting down spammers and closing them down. Here's one of those sites: CAUCE (the "Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email"). I encourage you to join them.

As of December 2008, I personally receive about 3000 spam emails a day. (That's no exaggeration.) Spam used to be the bane of my existence, but then I installed Cloudmark Anti-spam software, and my spam problem went way. I can't tell you how much time this freed up for me... It's a $40/year subscription and well worth it. You can try it free for a week, with all features enabled.


"Spamdexing"

Spamdexing is the practice of making pages specifically for the search engines with overly repetitious key words (or irrelevant key words having nothing to do with your site). It can get your site kicked to the bottom of the search engine's results, or banned forever from the search engine's index.

Spam is bad. Spamdexing is bad. Don't do it. It will get your site VERY poor listings in the search engines, or kicked out altogether.

Specifically how much repetition is too much repetition in your keyword tags?

The rules of thumb are:

Another practice to avoid is tiny text or invisible text.

Tiny text is text that is too small to see or read. Try specifying text that is one pixel high and you'll see what we mean, or, actually, you WON'T see it. That's the point. Visitors can't see it, but it still exists.

Invisible text could be white text on a white background, or black text on a black background. Variations of invisible text are using colors that are just one degree away from the background color. If it is too close, it will be considered invisible text. Don't do that.

Using invisible text, one could repeat "Banana ..." endlessly across a page that way, if one were trying to optimize a web page for the key word "Banana".

Don't use tiny text or invisible text. When the search engines figure out what you are doing, your site will be penalized for it. The search engines are very smart about uncovering the use of these two spamming practices and several of them have stated publicly that they will deal harshly with these practices.

Another practice to avoid in selecting keywords for a web page, which is considered a form of spamdexing, is to put in your competitor's names or products in your meta tags. So don't put copyrighted terms (belonging to someone else) in your meta tags without specific permission from the copyright owner. While it may seem like a good idea -- you can get people looking for your competitors' products coming to your website that way -- it backfires when their lawyers send you a letter telling you to cease and desist, and when the search engines drop your site altogether.

Ethics and Promotion

For more information about what specifically is considered by the search engines to constitute "spam" or "spamdexing" techniques, read this article by Jill Whalen about search engine spam techniques.

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How to avoid spamming the search engines with repetitions of your key word phrases. The practice can get your site banned from a search engine.

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