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Revenue Magazine logoEvery Internet marketer has heard about search spam, the unethical tactics that so-called “black hat” search marketers use that violate the search engines’ terms of service. Now if you have no intention of doing anything unethical, you might believe that you don’t need to understand search spam. After all, if you don’t want to rob a house, you don’t need to know how to pick a lock, right? Well, what you don’t know most certainly can hurt you when it comes to search spam. Read on for my three-part series in Revenue Magazine for the unsavory tactics that everyone needs to know about.


Legitimate search marketers must have at least a passing familiarity with spam techniques in order to avoid them. Many companies have been tripped up because their employees unwittingly employed spam techniques, or because they unwittingly hired search marketing consultants who do. You’ll want to know enough to protect yourself, but also you’ll want to identify competitors gaining unfair advantages so you can turn them in to the search engines.
You can bone up on what you need to know (no one ever seems to “bone down”) by reading my three-part series of columns in Revenue Magazine—now they are posted publicly online:

  • Spiders Don’t Eat Spam. Find out what spam search tactics are, what “cloaking” is, and how to spot a spammer masquerading as a legitimate search marketing consultant.
  • The Ingredients That Go Into Spam. Get the list of spam techniques that manipulate the content on your Web pages to try to mislead the search engines.
  • The Tangled Web of Link Spam. One of the most popular methods of spamming the search engines involves setting up bogus pages and even entire faked sites created just to send inbound links to a site the spammer wants to promote. Learn what you need to know to identify this technique.

The stakes are high. Companies that engage in spam tactics risk having their Web sites “banned” by the search engines, which is geek-speak for having all of their pages removed from the search indexes—it’s like the phone company suddenly giving you an unlisted number. Banned sites are never found for searches, and you probably were hoping to do better than that.
Some people make a living fooling Google, but it’s probably not going to be you. Unless you are clever enough to stay ahead of the spam police, you are better off sticking to the rules and making sure your employees and your search consultants do so as well.
You can check out the full list of “The Searchers” columns for Revenue Magazine that I write. They are posted publicly a few months after they are available to subscribers, so if you want to get them faster, you’ll need to subscribe to Revenue Magazine in printed form or online. Some of you might even qualify for a free subscription, so check it out.

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Mike Moran

About Mike Moran

Mike Moran has a unique blend of marketing and technology skills that he applies to raise return on investment for large marketing programs. Mike is a former IBM Distinguished Engineer and a senior strategist at Converseon, a leading social consultancy. Mike is the author of two books on digital marketing, an instructor at several leading universities, as well as a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research.

5 replies to this post
  1. Great article Mike.
    Also your book Search Engine Marketing is hands down THE best book bar none that I have read on SEM,SEO – thank you for sharing the knowledge.
    Could you please clarify something regarding landing pages / doorway pages.
    I manage a job board.
    Many searchers come to such sites through terms such as “Electronics Engineer Jobs” for instance.
    They are expecting to see a result that delivers relevant job listings.
    There are literally 100′s to 1000′s of these types of searches for different types of positions.
    The job board can generate these on the fly via a sitemap with all the pre-formed searches and suitable snippets text to explain the context of the content.
    So … the process is
    - pick the keyword
    - design a dynamically generated results page, with title, h1, h2 etc etc.
    - put the url in the sitemap file (no the url does not have any other links to it from within the site)
    - SE indexes site
    - user searches and clicks, gets relevant results.
    Is this spam (seems white to me but grey/black to others) and how do I overcome such a situation if it is spam?
    Cheers
    Tony
    Thanks for your help

  2. Thanks for the kind words about our book, Tony. There are so many ways to violate search engines’ terms of service and inadvertantly be guilty of spamming that you are smart to be cautious. The key difference between a landing page and a doorway page is whether someone on your site would able to navigate to the page or whether it can be found only from a search engine. (You also must be sure that search crawlers would see the page the same way searchers do, so that you avoid cloaking.) Hope that helps.

  3. Thanks for the answer.
    I know that in this gray area it is a little difficult to be definitive.
    Users could / can get to the landing page/s mentioned above from within the site but only by conducting the same search that is predefined in the sitemap.
    Users could not reach the page just by clicking on a link.
    Does that sound OK or should I create a links page as well within the site – Say “Common Job Searches”

  4. It’s not easy to make a hard and fast judgment, as you say, but I think it’s important that the pages be part of your site information architecture–easily reached through links from pages within your site. If you do that, it starts to seem like a landing page.

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