Does your web site make search engines happy? Despite all the negative hype lately, it’s pretty easy to design a web site that search engines will accept with open arms. All it takes is 3 easy steps:
1) Follow the Search Engine Guidelines
Nearly all search engines publish their own guidelines regarding the submission of sites, the type of sites they will accept and recommendations for optimized content. Google recently updated their Webmaster Guidelines - http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html - which cover the most common forms of deceptive or manipulative search engine behavior that they consider to be “spam”. They also published SEO Guidelines http://www.google.com/webmasters/seo.html – advice for webmasters to heed when choosing an SEO. Google was the first search engine to publicly acknowledge search engine optimizers in this fashion.
It’s not just Google publishing anti-spam guidelines. You’ll find them at the following search engine sites as well:
- MSN Search webmaster guidelines http://search.msn.com/docs/siteowner.aspx?t=SEARCH_WEBMASTER_REF_GuidelinesforOptimizingSite.htm
- Yahoo terms of service
- Yahoo guidelines on search engine spam (covering AltaVista and AllTheWeb as well)
- Yahoo definitions of search engine spam (covering AltaVista and AllTheWeb as well)
- Yahoo content guidelines
- AskJeeves / Teoma terms of service and spam policy
- AskJeeves / Teoma editorial guidelines
2) Avoid Spamming the Search Engines
Often, webmasters will use search engine spam techniques without even being aware that they are doing so. Or worse, web designers can – advertently or inadvertently - integrate techniques that could cause a site to be penalized in the site’s rankings in one or more engines, without the site owner’s knowledge of such penalties. The key to avoiding spamming the engines is research.
Keep track of the various search engine guidelines via the links above. Watch for any changes they make to these guidelines and tweak your site accordingly. Trawl the various webmaster and search engine forums regularly to ensure your site doesn’t use any of the latest methods that appear to be penalized. If you suspect your site has been penalized, remove the offending content, contact the engine concerned and ask to be reinstated.
Google actually encourage you to file a re-inclusion request via their Help Center - http://www.google.com/support/bin/request.py - and this post http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/reinclusion-request-howto/ by Google staffer Matt Cutts outlines what should be included.
Alternatively, here is a sample email template you can use instead:
Sample Re-inclusion Request Email
Dear [search engine name],
I am the owner of [your site URL].
I did not realize that participation in [spammy method] and
[spammy SEO name] programs could cause problems for my website. I was
assured that these techniques were search-engine-friendly by [your source for using spammy method].
I now understand that the practices used are not acceptable. I apologize for having allowed them to be placed on my website. I've removed the questionable pages and links from the site. I promise not to repeat such mistakes.
I am asking you to please consider reinstating my website,
[your site URL] into the [search engine name] Index.
To assist them to provide a high quality service, search engines encourage people to report search results they are dissatisfied with. If you spot some content spam or techniques that are clearly in breach of the search engine’s public guidelines, you can report it using these links:
- Google spam report or via firstname.lastname@example.org
- AllTheWeb relevancy problem report (AllTheWeb is a Yahoo-owned company)
- AltaVista search results manipulation report (or via Yahoo’s spam report)
- Yahoo spam report
- AskJeeves spam report or via email@example.com
3) Build Sites for Visitors Rather than Search Engines
The methodologies may have changed over the years, but the same principles have always applied to "good" or “white hat” SEO. Build sites for humans, not search engines. Make the site as user friendly as possible, avoid the bells and whistles and include high quality, relevant content.
Wherever possible, include text-based content and navigation menus with simple, descriptive, well-written copy designed to convert your visitors into customers. Include keywords and phrases your audience would logically type in to search engines to find sites like yours. Only link to sites that are relevant to your target audience and spend some time on usability, making sure all your forms and shopping carts work.
Remember that what pleases a visitor is almost always what pleases a search engine too.