Webmaster Guidelines spell out Web design and search engine optimization techniques that are encouraged by major search engines, as well as those techniques that are discouraged. Disregard for search engine guidelines sometimes results in penalties, such as a reduction in rank in search engine results pages, or in severe cases, a total removal of a site from a search engine’s database. It therefore pays to follow the advice offered.
Some guidelines offer constructive advice related to design issues that search engine spiders have difficulty working with, such as an HTML frames design. Others, like the use of hidden text or hidden links, provide a warning that a site may be penalized for using these techniques. Most guidelines are presented in a subtle manner. But take heed—violations and the resulting penalties can have a serious and lasting effect on your web site.
When you follow the advice offered by the major search engines, you are engaging in white hat SEO techniques. When you violate the guidelines, you may be targeted for using black hat techniques. Black hat techniques are dangerous and can be very detrimental to your search engine traffic is you get caught. Sometimes even innocent violates are severely penalized.
The following links lead to guidelines pages for each of the major search engines:
The most common penalties are clearly stated by the search engines in their guidelines:
- Mirror sites (duplicated sites) or duplicated page content
- Use of hidden text or hidden links
- Use of doorway pages or pages created strictly for search engines
- Excessive cross-linking of related sites
- Google: Linking schemes design to improve Web site rankings
- Google: Links to penalized sites or "bad neighborhoods"
If you suspect that your site contains any of these violations, it would be worthwhile to have your Web site evaluated and corrective actions taken. All potential penalty situations are essentially a “game of chance”. Some sites in clear violation of the search engine guidelines escape penalties because they have not yet been detected. But when detected, a penalty will likely be applied and your site’s search engine rankings and user traffic will decline.