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Search Engines and Spam

spamming search enginesSpamming Search EnginesWhat is Spam?

Spam (for Search Engines) refers to the use of any illegal technique to improve a page' ranking in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Who decides what 's illegal? The SEs, who else?

Tons of articles have been written about search engines and spam. Why the need for another article? Because, believe it or not,  MOST of the major search engines are still vulnerable to MANY unethical techniques used by malicious Webmasters.

Spam has been known for a long time. For years, Webmasters tried to cheat the search engines. Today, many SEs say they know all the tricks and penalize those pages. As you will see, most SEs only SAY that they will punish spammers, but in fact they DON'T.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

Search Engine Optimization, Placement, Positioning, Ranking, or whatever you want to call it, is the process of designing a Web page that can be easily indexed by the SEs and receive high rankings in the SERPs.

My Experience with Search Engines

Recently, using some major U.S. SEs, I made a search for a Web design company in New York. Let me to share with you my highly disappointing experience.

The search engine results pages (SERPs) in most of the search engines were full of Web pages that used one or more spamming techniques. The most frequently encountered illegal strategies used by many SEs were:

  • Keyword stuffing
  • Page redirect
  • Mirror domains

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is the adding of many relevant, sometimes irrelevant, words in the:

Keywords META tagKeywords META TagKeywords META tag

One of the criteria some search engines use to rank pages in the results list is the presence of relevant words in the Keywords META tag. From use to abuse is a little step, so some webmasters place many words, repeating them many times in the hope that the page will rank higher. The record was a page that had 1,150 words (no mistake, WORDS not characters) in the Keyword Meta tag. The word "design" was repeated 209 times. Unbelievable, right?
What are Search Engines' positions regarding this spamming technique? One of the Web's most important Search Engines, in their submission guidelines, states that it will "exclude submissions" with "excessive keywords". It looks like 1,150 words are not "excessive" enough, because THAT SE and many others index the page.

Besides stuffing words in the Keywords META tags, some Webmasters also add lots of words in the:

Visible page

Another criteria some search engines rank sites in the results list is the so-called "word frequency": the more times a word is repeated in the content of a page, the higher are the chances it will be near the top in the results list.

Some Webmasters often abuse this criteria by placing words or phrases- most of the time- at the bottom of the page, many, MANY times. Do you recall the site that has 1,150 words in the Keywords Meta tags? Well, the same site just "copied and pasted" those words in the copy of the page.

You might think that it's weird to see a bunch of words inserted in the page. Well, Webmasters have found two methods to work around this problem: "tiny text" and "hidden- or invisible- text". "Tiny text" means that the Webmaster places the text in a very small size, most of the time hardly legible. "Invisible text" means the use of the same color for text AND for background, so users will NOT see the words but SE's spider WILL see, so the page will rank higher than it deserves.

The Search Engines' position regarding this spamming technique? One of the Web's most important Search Engine, in its guidelines writes: "We must sometimes exclude submissions" of "pages with text that is not easily read, either because it is too small or is obscured by the background of the page". Other SE's will "significantly downgrade a page's ranking" ... "if words cannot be read due to their small size or color".

Despite these statements, both SEs, as well as other SEs, index pages with text in the same color as the background. To illustrate the total lack of respect for users with little fear for SEs, one Web page has a whopping 936 words in BLACK text on a WHITE background. Incredible!

web page redirectWeb Page RedirectPage Redirect

One page can be redirected either by using the "refresh" META tag or using cloaking techniques. Why the need to redirect a page? One of the legitimate reasons to redirect a page is having a new URL for the site. But some Webmasters abuse page redirection to obtain higher rankings for their pages.

How does it works?

Using the "refresh" META tag:

This technique consists in building 2 pages: one, highly "optimized" - read "spammed"- with many, MANY words in the KW and Description META tag and also in the Title tag. Most of the time the copy of the page is also highly "optimized" with KW stuffing- many times with invisible text.

These pages called: "Doorways Pages", "Gateway", "Entry" or "Bridge" pages most of the time display a "Click here to enter the site" or simply "Enter" or sometimes "select Flash or HTML" message on the entire page. Using the "refresh" META tag the Webmaster will "redirect" the user to a second page, which will appear after a determined number of seconds after seeing the first page. If the time is set to "0" (zero) seconds, the viewer will NOT see the first page, but directly the second one.

Why two pages? The first one shown to SEs as highly "optimized" will help the page rank very high in the SERPSs, by cheating the SEs. The second one is "nicer", not too much spam, a good page for viewers.

Cloaking technique is probably the most controversial spamming technique.

It also uses 2 pages, one for the SE and another for the viewer. The big difference between this technique and the one above is that in the first case it is possible to see the code of the first page (shown to SEs), but in the second case it is not.

Hiding the Meta data (especially keywords) in the code can provide a huge advantage in this current highly competitive market, as there are known cases of Webmasters that stole a competitor's keywords in an attempt to rank higher.

What are search engines' positions regarding redirecting? Do not submit any site with an address that redirects to another address" or "Your site cannot mirror or redirect to another Web site" or we "may permanently ban from our index any sites or authors who engage in cloaking to distort their search rankings" or simply: "Don't cloak".

Pretty clear, right? Then why some Webmasters insist in using cloaking techniques? To hide their pages' code from prying eyes. Bad guys are not afraid to spam- most of the time, SEs only SAY: "don't do that". If you do, there will be NO- or sometimes very little- punishment.

Mirror domains

Consists in building hundreds or even thousands of pages with SAME content but with altogether DIFFERENT URLs (Web addresses). The advantage is clear: by finding the "right" tricks to cheat the SE algorithm one can "dominate" the SERPSs with pages one after another. One company had 62 pages in the Top 100 results list.

What are the search engines positions regarding this spamming technique? "Do not submit mirror sites". "Your site cannot mirror or redirect to another Web site". "Do not submit" . . . "the same pages from multiple domains". But in practice most of the SEs are vulnerable to this technique.

Spamming in on page elementsSpamming in on Page ElementsQuestions for:

Search Engines

When are you going to be SERIOUS about your job?

When will you PUNISH the spammers? Have CLEAN indexes? It is not difficult. A dialog with the Webmasters community might result in opinions such as THIS one:

"I can't understand why the search engines aren't professional enough to put their anti-spam efforts into a detailed agreement and have anyone that wants to be listed sign their agreement. Such an agreement would spell out very clearly what is and what isn't allowed. Anyone breaking the rules would be subject to specific penalties or banning, but would be notified and have a chance to fix the problem especially if the infraction was not too serious".

Clear enough?

Why do you accept advertising from sites which use spamming techniques? So, if a page cannot achieve high rankings, for few buck it becomes "featured" site or listing and voilà!, on the top of the list. Is this the latest trick for a poor site to be listed high? Now, on one hand, in your guidelines you tell Webmasters not to spam, on the other hand, if a spammer PAYS, that's no problem. Good bye relevancy, hello profits! Here is a comment by a high-ranking official from a major SE: "the more we take payment for listings, the more you'll get great results" Excuse me? "Big" pockets' sites are NOT always more relevant than "poor" pockets' sites.

I know I'm not the first one to ask but, when are you going to make a CLEAR distinction between paid listings and real results? The user needs to make an informed decision. The user needs to be helped, not confused.

Webmasters

Why use techniques seen by the SEs as spam? Why take the risk of having pages penalized, or even permanently banned, from indexes? Two months of glory, then a new domain, blacklisted again- poor way to market any business.

Think it's impossible to get higher rankings WITHOUT using spam? My answer is NO. Do your homework, read thoroughly and abide to SEs guidelines, cross your fingers and you'll be # 1.

Have you ever seen one of your page's ranking lower than a page which uses spamming techniques? I bet you did. Now, how did you react? Did you report it to the SE or you said "nah, that's no use anyway"? Or perhaps you thought it's not nice to turn in the Webmaster. OK, let me ask you something: would you like, that while waiting in line to buy a ticket to a movie, somebody, who comes AFTER you, go in the front and buy a ticket BEFORE you do?

Or perhaps THIS is the solution?

A site will be nominated and posted on a listserv which any member can second then the offender will be notified of his conviction by the spamdex police. They will have a week to clean it up and re-submit and remove the offending listing from the search engines. After a week the offender will be reported to the search engines. The search engines will have a month to act or they will be added to the list as an accomplice to the activity.

Search Engine Results PageSearch Engine Results PageHuh? What do you think?

Site Owners

When are you going to wake up? What am I talking about? Well, I'm taking about a report, which says, "nearly 46 percent of the marketers surveyed said they allocate less than 0.5 percent of their annual marketing budgets on search engine optimization (SEO) services". Now, read it again, and again.

So, you spend 95,5 % on gizmos such as Flash and Java Scripts and less than 1% for SEO. Let me tell you something: bells and whistles will never help a page rank high in SERPs. NEVER. In fact it will work against.

Which are your rankings, by the way? When was the last time you checked, if ever? Are you in the Top 30 results for your strategic keywords when the user runs a search? You're not? Practically you don't exist for your prospects. Still wonder why so many .com CLOSE? Are you going to be next?

Do you need a Ph.D. to realize that the SEO- your Web site "salesman"- is more necessary than ever? One of these days you'll discover the power of search engine marketing: the cheapest yet most effective way to promote your site to more than 300 million prospects. Bright future for SEO.
I can see a bright future for the SEO, don't you?

When are you going to understand that SEOs is NOT only optimizing the Keyword Meta Tag? SEO is a highly specialized, time-consuming and sometimes expensive but absolutely NECESSARY task. It's both an art and a science to position a Web page near the top in SERPs. So, forget about your in-house SEO "expert", shop around and find a reputable SEO firm or consultant.

Do;s and don'ts when you talk to the SEO guy:

If a Web Marketer suggests you to get rid of that flashy or framed Home Page, just DO IT! Or, don't blame HIM for the consequences. If a SEO says something about cloaking and doorways, run, and I mean it.
Don't even think telling a SEOs, that you'll pay him, AFTER the pages show up in the search engines. Enough said. Don't be a kid by asking him to GUARANTEE you Top 10 positions! No honest SEO will do it. The only thing a SEO can guarantee is an increase in the number of pages indexed and an increase of the current rankings. With some luck your sales will sky rocket.

Last thing: please, avoid those submission tools and their hype: "submit your site to 500,000 SEs for $24.95". Submit your Web site by hand. Period.

IN CONCLUSION:

SEM Search Engine MarketingSEM Search Engine MarketingSince the summer of 1995, when I worked for the first time with a Search Engine, I saw some SEs disappearing, and lots of new SEs appearing.

Competition is good, but users might be confused with thousands of SEs. Besides, not everybody knows sophisticated searching techniques such as the Boolean operators, so there is a lot of frustration out there. If we add the irrelevancy of the results in most of the SEs, we have a pretty sad picture.

A clean index should be the main priority for any search Engine. If a SE gives irrelevant results, the user will switch to another SE. Can a SE afford losing users in todays'fierce competition between SEs? I don't think so.

To wrap up, I am not saying here that ALL the Search Engines are vulnerable to ALL the known spamming techniques. All I say is that MOST of the Search Engines are vulnerable to MOST of the bad tricks.

I also believe that it is NOT important to list WHICH SEs are vulnerable to WHICH spamming techniques or WHICH sites spam WHICH SEs. The important thing is it STILL happens.

Not only in the American SEs. I've checked also Spanish, German, French and Italian SEs. Less spam, but still there.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for a free quotation, or more information

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Joomla Website Management Package

From 1 March all hosting companies have started switching off PHP 5 and started enforcing their clients to use PHP 7.

Since the security issues with PHP 5.x are no longer supported, all hosting companies have started moving their CPanel and Plesk clients to PHP 7.x. This affects all current Joomla, Wordpress and Magento clients, only to name a few. If you have a website designed in a Content Management System, like Joomla or Wordpress, it means that your website might break, unless all your components, C.M.S. and templates are up to date.

We have a management package that is specifically designed to keep your website up to date, every week, month or when needed. You can have peace of mind when it comes to your website and security updates, from only R450.00 per month. This includes all your components, your chosen C.M.S., and any add-ons you have on your site, and if you wish to host your site with us, then there's no additional charge. Click here to view what you get for this low price, which saves you R 1000.00's every year, as our price even includes license fees for most common Joomla components.

managementOnline Marketing Package & SEO

Our top selling product, the Online Marketing Package, is great for any business, any size. We will manage/set up your companies FaceBook/Twitter/Linked in and/or Google Page, post on a weekly basis and also do monthly SEO on your website (Joomla/Wordpress Only.) We can also write Blog articles and even send out weekly/monthly newsletters. When it comes to marketing, we can do it all, and we can ensure that your Company/Brand is promoted sufficiently and professionally, to reach as many new/existing clients as needed. Click here to view our Marketing Packages, starting at R 2 950.00 per month.

For ALL your Website needs - Contact Us for a free quotation or to discuss your needs or call us on 081-525-1727

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Congratulations

congratulationsWe would like to take this opportunity to congratulate those who responded to our warning about PHP needing to be updated.

Well Done!!!!!

So glad we were able to assist you in getting your website PHP up to date and keep it in excellent working order. You sure saved yourself some huge headaches and expenses.

We were totally overwhelmed by the response we received and are very happy that we were able to help so many people.

If you did not respond and are having problems with your website due to your PHP not being up to date, all is not lost yet. We can assist you and restore the website to working order, if you act quickly before your website is so damaged that it needs to be completely redesigned.

You need to take care of your business and we will take care of your website for you.

StormBiz can keep your website and all its components up to date and functioning to its full potential. Avoid losing your website or having it breaking by investing a miniscule amount in a management package from StormBiz.  We can also take care of your marketing and advertising.

Your website must always be compliant and all apps up to date.

We also install software and website monitoring software to ensure your website is always live.

Contact us today for a free quotation or free evaluation of your website.

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Your Biggest Mistake When You Create a Website

Build a WebsiteDesign and Build a WebsiteWhy Should You Create a website?

A. What do you want when you create a website?

B. What to do to get what you want.

A. What do you want?

1. You may be in a non-profit organisation and want to post forthcoming events on the web. You don't want to have thousands of visitors to the site. But wait - do you want to create a website for new members from the web? I found a new barbershop singer through my website.

2. You may have a small business selling locally. You're happy with yellow pages. But wait - how many thousand words can you put in your yellow page advert?

being kept on phone while workingBeing Kept on Phone While WorkingThere is no limit if you create a website.

Have you ever had someone keep you on the phone for half an hour of your valuable time with their questions? Wouldn't it be nice to direct them to your website for answers and sales messages? Create a website!

Once you've written all those answers, wouldn't it be profitable to have potential customers reading your answers? Create a website. A dentist has clients from a hundred miles away, from his website.

3. Perhaps you sell items weighing a hundred tons costing a million dollars. When you create a website you can still write as much information about your product as you like - not like the yellow pages. Then you can direct prospects to phone to make an appointment with your best sales staff.

4. You want to sell a product on the web. First create a website then get lots of traffic.

5. You want to make money on the web?!! Without a product?!! No...I'm not laughing. Create a website. If you have lots of traffic you don't even have to be good at selling to make some money with Google Adsense.

If you're good at pre-selling, then you can try affiliate marketing, or selling advertising on your site, or several other channels of income. Just create a website and get the traffic first.

website trafficWebsite TrafficB. What to do about it

To get high traffic you must give visitors what they want. Tricking Google will only get your domain banned from their listing.

Here are some things not to do when you create a website. If your visitors hit the back button their numbers don't count.

a) Don't use frames when you create a website - the search engines can't find you, and the inventors of frames don't use them on their own website.

b) It may be artistic to disguise your links, but you will lose customers. I visited a site that displayed just one big picture. I happened to pass my mouse over the picture on the way to the back button, and discovered links flashing on the screen. Apparently I had to click on bits of the picture to see any more!

c) Don't use Flash when you create a website. If people are using ADSL they are unlikely to wait longer than three seconds before hitting the back button. If they're on a 56K modem they might be prepared to wait ten seconds. You've just lost another client.

d) Don't use big pictures when you create a website. If you have a photography site, use postage stamp sized pictures with the size stated in your coding, and ask the visitor to click for a larger picture. Telling the browser how high and wide your picture is will allow it to load after the text, so your visitor has something to look at meantime.

e) Don't use irrelevant pictures when you create a website. One picture is worth a thousand words, but only if the picture is saying what you want it to say.

business informationbusiness informationWhy do people visit websites? It is NOT for entertainment. Their TV gives them all the moving pictures that they need. Even if it is an adult site, the visitor is really wanting to download digital information for later entertainment.

Information is what your visitor wants - When you create a website don't waste your time and money on anything else.

A paid designer will use all sorts of clever artistic tricks - you now know that you will lose clients that way. More than 99% of new websites soon have to close because they have no traffic, which means no profit.

That is your biggest mistake. Instead, find what people want to know first, then give it to them.

So why create a website? Simple, you know more about your own subject than any show-off website designer. You don't even need to understand HTML coding if you use SBI. You still should learn a little about HTML coding, but there are free lessons on my website.

Contact us for a free quotation, or to discuss your website requirements

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Your Company's Website – Design, Development & Marketing Aspects

planning a websitePlanning a Website This is the last part of a three part series dealing with guidelines on how to plan, present and develop your company’s website. In part one we explored the importance of having a professional website to represent your company online. In part two, we identified the quality approach of planning your company’s website.

Now in our last part of this series, we will take a quick look into the website design, development/and marketing aspects and your Company’s image.

Company Brand

First step when looking into website design, development and marketing, is concentrating on your company's logo. Your company logo should be the focus point of your website – remember: it is all about your company. Your marketing material should all look similar – business cards, printing materials, online PDF’s – all should deliver the same message and have the same connection.

The main objective of your website design, development and marketing, is to connect prospective clients with your company. They are all alone there, without any sales person to guide them, and explain how the company works, so make sure it can stands on its own merit. Your website must present your company well, as there will be no human factor once a visitor comes around.

build search engine friendly websiteBuild Search Engine Friendly WebsiteEngine and User Friendly

A website is not a brochure! When concentrating on your company's website design, development and marketing, all materials should be created according to using online marketing. The copyright for a website is not the same as used on your printing materials, images have a special format and size, colours should be wisely used, and navigation should be easy, with absolutely no dead ends.

Building a search engine friendly website is not a task that every website design and development company can manage, so make sure you do your homework before hiring a web site design, development and marketing expert. To create a website that is search engine friendly, the team of professionals working on your website, need to have the knowledge and expertise on search engines; how they work and index websites. If a website is not built taking into consideration how search engines work, and the criteria used to index sites in their database, it will probably be invisible to search engine robots. They will not be able to index your site properly, or maybe not to index it at all.

Another common mistake is to hire a website design and development company without enough knowledge on search engine algorithms and might put your website at a great risk using spamming techniques. With the incredible growth of websites being indexed -- about 11.5 billion websites indexed with search engines -- you want to make sure the company working on your website has the expertise to build it to be seen.

crawling and indexingCrawling and IndexingSearch Engine Optimization [SEO] & Search Engine Marketing [SEM]

If you offer products or services that Internet users are searching for, you certainly should look into having your web site indexed with search engines. Building a search engine friendly website is just the beginning; you need to make sure the website will be found by potential users searching for the products and services you offer.

Potential customers are more and more using the Internet and search engines to look for products and services they need and want, and having a website that no potential customer can find, is a waste of time and money. Use your website as a marketing and online sales tool.

Over the past few years of the web’s evolution as a key business tool, shows that an effective website mines prospects that other vehicles do not reach, shortens the sales cycle – in many cases dramatically so – and delivers early and consistent ROI.

seo analysisS.E.O. AnalysisMonitoring and Measurement of the Product

The capability of being able to evaluate, validate and verify if the effectiveness of your SEO campaign is critical. Reputable Search Engine Optimization [SEO] & Search Engine Marketing [SEM] companies will provide you monthly reports showing your current status and suggestions for areas that need improvement (number of visitors per page, time spent, referrals, exit pages, high traffic pages, keywords being used, etc).

Happy manHappy ManUse the information above as guide lines and always use common sense. Your website should be an extension of your company’s image online, and present the same standards of quality and customer appreciation.

Now that you are ready to start, don’t forget that creating a website has lots of work involved, but also lots of excitement. In the process of building your website, you are also expanding your company, and giving it new form and shape.

You must be full of enthusiasm to start, or redesign your website now.

For more information, or to request a free quotation, please contact us

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