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Protecting your Search Engine Ranking


Protecting Your Search Engine Rankings

(C) Michael Rasmussen
All Rights Reserved

Your website’s ranking on search engines is a vital element of your
overall marketing campaign, and there are ways to improve your link
popularity through legitimate methods. Unfortunately, the Internet
is populated by bands of dishonest webmasters seeking to improve
their link popularity by faking out search engines.

The good news is that search engines have figured this out, and are
now on guard for "spam" pages and sites that have increased their
rankings by artificial methods. When a search engines tracks down
such a site, that site is demoted in ranking or completely removed
from the search engine’s index.

The bad news is that some high quality, completely above-board sites
are being mistaken for these web page criminals. Your page may be in
danger of being caught up in the "spam" net and tossed from a search
engine’s index, even though you have done nothing to deserve such
harsh treatment. But there are things you can do – and things you
should be sure NOT to do – which will prevent this kind of
misperception.

Link popularity is mostly based on the quality of sites you are
linked to. Google pioneered this criteria for assigning website
ranking, and virtually all search engines on the Internet now use
it. There are legitimate ways to go about increasing your link
popularity, but at the same time, you must be scrupulously careful
about which sites you choose to link to. Google frequently imposes
penalties on sites that have linked to other sites solely for the
purpose of artificially boosting their link popularity. They have
actually labeled these links "bad neighborhoods."

You can raise a toast to the fact that you cannot be penalized when
a bad neighborhood links to your site; penalty happens only when you
are the one sending out the link to a bad neighborhood. But you must
check, and double-check, all the links that are active on your links
page to make sure you haven’t linked to a bad neighborhood.

The first thing to check out is whether or not the pages you have
linked to have been penalized. The most direct way to do this is to
download the Google toolbar at http://toolbar.google.com. You will
then see that most pages are given a "Pagerank" which is represented
by a sliding green scale on the Google toolbar.

Do not link to any site that shows no green at all on the scale.
This is especially important when the scale is completely gray. It
is more than likely that these pages have been penalized. If you are
linked to these pages, you may catch their penalty, and like the
flu, it may be difficult to recover from the infection.

There is no need to be afraid of linking to sites whose scale shows
only a tiny sliver of green on their scale. These sites have not
been penalized, and their links may grow in value and popularity.
However, do make sure that you closely monitor these kind of links
to ascertain that at some point they do not sustain a penalty once
you have linked up to them from your links page.

Another evil trick that illicit webmasters use to artificially boost
their link popularity is the use of hidden text. Search engines
usually use the words on web pages as a factor in forming their
rankings, which means that if the text on your page contains your
keywords, you have more of an opportunity to increase your search
engine ranking than a page that does not contain text inclusive of
keywords.

Some webmasters have gotten around this formula by hiding their
keywords in such a way so that they are invisible to any visitors to
their site. For example, they have used the keywords but made them
the same color as the background color of the page, such as a
plethora of white keywords on a white background. You cannot see
these words with the human eye – but the eye of search engine spider
can spot them easily! A spider is the program search engines use to
index web pages, and when it sees these invisible words, it goes
back and boosts that page’s link ranking.

Webmasters may be brilliant and sometimes devious, but search
engines have figured these tricks out. As soon as a search engine
perceive the use of hidden text – splat! the page is penalized.

The downside of this is that sometimes the spider is a bit
overzealous and will penalize a page by mistake. For example, if the
background color of your page is gray, and you have placed gray text
inside a black box, the spider will only take note of the gray text
and assume you are employing hidden text. To avoid any risk of false
penalty, simply direct your webmaster not to assign the same color
to text as the background color of the page – ever!

Another potential problem that can result in a penalty is called
"keyword stuffing." It is important to have your keywords appear in
the text on your page, but sometimes you can go a little overboard
in your enthusiasm to please those spiders. A search engine uses
what is called "Keyphrase Density" to determine if a site is trying
to artificially boost their ranking. This is the ratio of keywords
to the rest of the words on the page. Search engines assign a limit
to the number of times you can use a keyword before it decides you
have overdone it and penalizes your site.

This ratio is quite high, so it is difficult to surpass without
sounding as if you are stuttering – unless your keyword is part of
your company name. If this is the case, it is easy for keyword
density to soar. So, if your keyword is "renters insurance," be sure
you don’t use this phrase in every sentence. Carefully edit the text
on your site so that the copy flows naturally and the keyword is not
repeated incessantly. A good rule of thumb is your keyword should
never appear in more than half the sentences on the page.

The final potential risk factor is known as "cloaking." To those of
you who are diligent Trekkies, this concept should be easy to
understand. For the rest of you cloaking is when the server directs
a visitor to one page and a search engine spider to a different
page. The page the spider sees is "cloaked" because it is invisible
to regular traffic, and deliberately set-up to raise the site’s
search engine ranking. A cloaked page tries to feed the spider
everything it needs to rocket that page’s ranking to the top of the
list.

It is natural that search engines have responded to this act of
deception with extreme enmity, imposing steep penalties on these
sites. The problem on your end is that sometimes pages are cloaked
for legitimate reasons, such as prevention against the theft of
code, often referred to as "pagejacking." This kind of shielding is
unnecessary these days due to the use of "off page" elements, such
as link popularity, that cannot be stolen.

To be on the safe side, be sure that your webmaster is aware that
absolutely no cloaking is acceptable. Make sure the webmaster
understands that cloaking of any kind will put your website at great
risk.

Just as you must be diligent in increasing your link popularity and
your ranking, you must be equally diligent to avoid being unfairly
penalized. So be sure to monitor your site closely and avoid any
appearance of artificially boosting your rankings.

Michael Rasmussen is a successful Internet Marketing Consultant and
author of many top-selling eBooks. Michael has been marketing online
since the early days and he knows what it takes to make money and
succeed online. Stop by his Web site and subscribe to his Free
monthly newsletter full strategies and techniques for successful web
site promotions that can help YOU!

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