Be Found:
The tricks to avoid at all costs

How to design findable web sites and get ranked with the best

The basics: understanding search engines and spiders

Index or directory?

Setting the right keywords

Using robot protocols to prevent unwanted indexing

Use core HTML tags more efficiently

Optimizing tricks to avoid

Getting dynamic web pages indexed

The problem of unreadable content

The commercial options for SEO

Using htaccess for efficient redirection

The final word on SEO

Tricks to avoid

Don't think you can come up with a way to fool a search engine spider. The odds are stacked against you and the risk is high.

As a page's text content is so important to getting high rankings in search results, some people try creative ways of hiding keywords in their pages to try to get more hooks without spoiling the way the page looks to the human viewer. As spiders just look at the raw HTML content rather than the rendered layout, it shouldn't matter that pale text containing half a ton of keywords is invisible on the white background - right? Unfortunately, no, that's entirely wrong. Less-than-reputable sites with irrelevant keywords have used this sort of trick for a long time. As a result, search engine spiders look for this sort of trick (and design concepts that look like this) and mark down or block sites that use it.

Don't create 'doorway' pages - that is, pages intended specifically to be indexed and to lead people into a site via numerous different entry-points. These include pages with auto-redirects, as these are seen as trying to fool an index into listing a site from a number of different places. This means you should avoid making initial home pages that wait a few seconds before taking the viewer to a different page. Even if you don't intend this as a trick, that's exactly how it is seen.

Many search engines use link popularity as a ranking method to calculate a page's relative worth. Link farms are pages devoted to hosting links to many other sites, specifically to make spiders think the referenced pages are more popular than they really are. On the face of it, link farms can seem like a good idea. However, this isn't the case, as this technique is regarded by search engine and directory owners as yet another form of URL spamming. The normal result, as you'd expect, is the downgrading of the linked URLs.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't have links pages with pointers to other sites - quite the opposite, in fact. Links are counted as important popularity indicators in many search engines. By all means arrange to share links between sites if you know other Web designers - this is a very effective way to improve your ranking with most worthwhile search engines and directories. However, be sure you include some form of useful content as well, such as snippets of information about the links. This shows the page is meant for human use rather than designed to trick spiders. Don't let it look like a link farm, with hundreds of URLs and no actual worthwhile page content.

You can use Google to see how many sites link to yours - or at least which sites Google knows do this. Just search for "link:" and your URL, as in Apple's UK site ( has around 2200 links to it in other sites that Google has found, which is not at all bad but doesn't begin to compare with the 89,000 for Apple's main US site.

When considering ways of getting your sites into indexes and directories, you should put aside ideas of tricks and subterfuge. Put your efforts into making the site more suitable in real terms by making it easy to navigate, easy to read, and full of useful and interesting content. That's the work that will serve you best in the long term.

Looking for tips on searching more effectively instead? Read the Search Secrets pages.

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