As websites fight to get noticed on the rankings, we can understand why many webmasters may make use of unethical search engine optimisation practices to get ahead.

However, as algorithms become more sophisticated in recognising these methods, they become not only redundant but actually harmful to your sites rankings. We have a look at some of the most popular methods below.

Keyword Stuffing

Using too many keywords and keyword variations in the meta information.

Meta keywords carry no real weight in SEO these days, the focus is on keywords in the content. So its really just a waste of time and is heavily penalised by Google.

Sites that are built just to house bunches of unrelated links, without any content or thematic design.

Most search engines recognise these almost instantly, due to their high number of links, and either completely ignore the site or penalise its members.

Automatic Content Generators

Programs that are coded to automatically grab relevant content on the web, change it around a bit and post it on a site to gain content keywords or freshness.

These can be fairly sophisticated and it’s not strictly spam. (Although really it is.) Websites using this technique run the risk of posting poor, or even worthless, content that will often be penalised by Google anyway, as these programs often produce nonsensical sentence syntaxes.

Cloaking

When different site content is presented to web crawlers than what is shown to web browsers.

From a ranking perceptive, this can very effective and challenging to detect. The problem often arises from the users, although Google is also getting pretty good at detecting this. When you bait and switch visitors into coming to your site with irrelevant content, you risk harming your reputation.

Cybersquatting

Using a competitor’s domain name or keywords, or ones just related to your site, and occupying them. This is either to redirect traffic to your site or so the competitor can’t use them.

Search engines can quite easily recognise keywords that aren’t related to the content and heavily penalise sites that use other domains as pointless feeder sites that don’t add value.

Social Media Spamming

A link building strategy that involves posting pointless links in the comments section of blogs, forums and on social networking sites.

This can be somewhat effective, particularly in light of Google’s increasing emphasis on social signals. Many sites and blogs deal with this by recoding links posted on their site as ‘nofollow’ links, which means search bots shouldn’t take them into consideration when scanning.

Throwaway Domains

Very temporary spam sites designed to redirect traffic to a more a popular site which are taken down before filters recognise them.

These can be hard to stop due to free hosting services and their short lives, often less than a day. If found to be connected to a site, the site may be dropped by registrars. Links from these type of sites can also result in penalties for the site they point to.

Mirror Domains or Pages

When a site creates another domain or page with duplicate, or incredibly similar, content to increase keyword exposure.

Obviously, these are quite easy for bots recognise and will be considered spam if linked to the other domain.

Gateway Pages

A form of cloaking. A page is designed specifically to attract search engine results and redirect visitors to another site using a meta refresh. This is so the latter site isn’t penalised for spamming.

Can be particularly effective depending on how keyword rich the doorway page is. But search engines are known to drop sites that use them from their indexes completely

Swapping

Very similar to cloaking except that site information is submitted to web-crawlers and then changed completely when they get the desired ranking.

This practice is an incredibly temporary fix as search engines are constantly indexing pages, and will re-rank them as they find the changes. Sites that do it often are penalised.

Googlewashing

When multiple pages use a particular description in their anchor text for link-containing keywords that results in an unrelated search term being connected with a particular topic.

Normally used simply for activism and comedic purposes (also known as Google bombing) as the problem is normally corrected by search engines rather quickly.

Hidden Content

Keyword rich content, that doesn’t logically connect to the site, is hidden on pages using various methods.

Search-bots can have trouble recognising these as they are so many subtle methods of doing it, but will consider it spam if they do detect it.

A link building strategy very similar to hidden content, that posts multiple invisible links to increase relevancy.

This can often be more easily recognised, as it looks like a link farm to crawlers.

Linking to pages that have been penalised in the past for black-hat SEO techniques or are listed as spam sites.

How heavily this is penalised depends on how thematically related your site is to theirs and whether its an inbound or outbound link.

Competitor Brand Keywords

Using competitor specific keyword or even brand names in your meta information or content to get traffic from search queries related to them.

This not only opens you up to trademark infringement implications but is a remarkably ineffective SEO strategy, as the use of the keywords won’t compete with its use in the competitors web design and it will be penalised for being unrelated to your site’s content.