SEO: Tactics to Avoid

Santa's SEO checklist

Don't try to outsmart the search engines.

We talked in an earlier post about some SEO basics to get your site recognized by search engines. You want visits to your site because you provide them with unique, relevant, and engaging content (right?). But, not everyone on the wild wild web makes this a best practice. Instead, they may use some tactics referred to as "Black-Hat SEO." 

The people who practice this type of search engine optimization try to “outsmart” the search engines. Google will penalize you for cutting corners, and in some cases, remove your site from its index. But, a penalty may not be your fault; it could be a negative side effect of an algorithm update. Let’s examine some tactics to avoid when trying to increase traffic to your site.

Get Cozy with with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines

Google Webmaster Guidelines blanket the following elements of web design:

  • design and content
  • technical considerations
  • the quality of your site (what makes your site unique)

The quality guidelines cover Black-Hat SEO techniques like cloaking, scraped content, sneaky redirects, link schemes, and much more.


Cloaking displays different content/URLs to a human user’s browser and a search engine crawler. For instance, you present HTML text to a web crawler, but the human user sees a page of images or Flash. Search engines have a tough time accessing JavaScript or Flash. Google has some recommendations to make that type of content more accessible to search engines.

Scraped Content

When you "scrape" content, you are taking it from other sites to increase the number of pages on your own site. The pitfall here is that the content is not unique, and in some cases, you may violate copyright laws. Creating original content is the best way to avoid this violation.

Sneaky Redirects

We know that a redirect is necessary when you are migrating content to a new site or changing the URL of your site. But, this doesn’t create a gap in what the user expects to see and what displays as a result. Likewise, the web crawler knows to reroute to the correct site.

A sneaky redirect occurs when you publish content on your site that contradicts itself on the front and back-end of the site. Here's what happens: the web crawler indexes the page (instead of following the redirect, as it should). The user lands on the redirect page. For instance, if you visit a site on your desktop that seems legitimate, but end up in a spam domain when you view the site on a mobile device.

Link Schemes

A link scheme occurs when you link to a website (or vice versa) to increase PageRank or generate revenue. Be sure to track the referral traffic coming to your site, or you could inadvertently be part of one of these schemes. One of my colleagues experienced this when he saw over 100,000 PageViews in a month coming to his website from a source in the Middle East. Of course, he immediately blocked the referral traffic from his home page. After all, it skewed his website data, increased the load on the web servers, and he risked lowering his site’s PageRank.

Visit to see what other factors equate to a link scheme.