I like to tell people to imagine someone from a search engine is pulling up a list of all the links pointing to your site, and then having to make a decision on the naturalness of links they find.That does sometimes happen, and additionally Google and other search engines have developed algorithms based around their manual reviews that catch unnatural patterns quite accurately now.
So now let’s talk a little bit about bad SEO practices, and how it is a waste of time and money. Marketers of bad SEO products will try to convince you to think that Google can be fooled while you make millions is all part of the bad SEO sales pitch. You buy their product or service that is supposed to fool the search engines, BUT the result is invariably the opposite. Your site becomes worthless due to an unnatural linking penalty.
What Google is especially fighting against is those links that have virtually no editorial process. Google and other search engines do not think highly of situations when links are auto approved or robotically submitted, or where content is not even written by a human.
So let’s look at some terms that are commonly associated with bad SEO companies and that should make for a good overview of what NOT to do. We’ll cover what you SHOULD do and how directories can help in another post, but for now, let's start with a crash course on what to look out for so your site's ranking doesn't become a train wreck!:
Article Spinner - This is basically a tool that takes content written by a human and “spins” it, replacing words with other words, or maybe switching the order of phrases or sentences around. This is meant to trick the search engine into thinking this is legitimate content, and then often these articles are spread around the net in different version accompanied by links that are supposed to pass an SEO benefit.
Profile Links - If you have ever owned a forum you will know all about profile links. Basically, profiles that are supposed to be for real people to login and participate on the site are instead created for the purpose of spamming the search engines with a link in the profile. There are automated tools like Captcha Sniper designed so registrations can be done from a robotic tool that goes around creating hundreds of profiles, and again this is not something google thinks too highly about. A product called Xrumor is one such product known to spam forums.
Link Pyramids and Link Wheels - Generally this is a where someone is paid to setup articles, tumblr pages, hub pages, squidoo pages, wordpress.com pages and many more that interlink with each other and are purported to then focus pagerank toward a particular page. The problem is they often employ article spinners, and are done with very little thought or editorial process, making the value of the content very low, and it really just is a waste of time and money in a large majority of the cases.
Do Follow Links - Google a while ago requested that webmasters add the “no follow” tag to links that are considered advertising links because they are paid links. Additionally, the webmaster can add the “no follow” link to things like blog comments to dissuade people from posting just for the purpose of SEO. So people in the bad SEO world are constantly craving any sort of Do Follow link that does not contain the “no follow” tag and can easily be added with automatic submission programs.
Blog Commenting - So assuming the bad SEO folks have found Do Follow targets and have a way to bypass captcha, they then go around selling “No Hands SEO” services. Just setup a few things like anchor text and a URL and their software will go around commenting on blogs on your behalf.
Ping Services - While there are legitimate pinging services meant to “ping” google that a page was updated on your site, too often products are created to ping for the purpose of telling search engines about a page where a profile link was created or a blog post was automatically added. Worse still some of them are used to provide a false referral which leads to another form of spam...
Referrer Spam - Similar to a Pinging Service, the goal is to artificially add entries to traffic laws that webmasters use to study their traffic, so that it appears a lot of traffic is coming from a site when the fact is they are simply repeatedly pinging with often false data. At one point the search engine Bing was accused of doing this!
Link Farms - This is the area that directories have sometimes developed a bad reputation. They have no editorial process and virtually accept any link, or even auto approve the links. So of course in time they get loaded up with spam, and the links are worthless, and worse result in an unnatural linking penalty.
Hopefully, that gave you a pretty good idea of what to avoid so you can choose good SEO! There is a lot that can be done help with rankings and traffic and quality directories can play an important role, so long as you avoid link farms, etc. If you are a directory owner, try to help educate your customers about what works and what doesn’t and make sure your directory is a worthwhile resource!« Back to ArticlesPreviouse article: 10 SEO Mistakes Directory Owners MakeNext article: Diversifying Content with a Thesaurus