Article Archive by Author

May 14 2008

The Difference between SEO and Spam


In a great video about what Google knows about spam, Matt Cutts explained that optimizing a website for search engines is not the same as spamming them. This inspired me to elaborate on this theme by explaining the difference between search engine optimization and spam for three top optimization techniques.

1. Adding keywords to the page:

a. SEO:

  • Include keywords in places that will verify to visitors (and search engines that they have arrived at a page that meets their needs.
  • Label images and links with keyword rich text that helps them understand what the image is about (if they are vision impaired) or understand what the final destination of the link is about.
  • b. Spam:

  • stuff keywords onto your page in every conceivable place where search engines might look including title tags and description tags.
  • If the text isn’t something you want visitors to see, hide it in keywords tags, alt tags of images, title attributes of links, css class names or better yet, hide the text by making it the same color as the background or shifting it off the page with css tricks.
  • 2. Cultivate inbound links to your site:

    a. SEO:

  • Exchange links with sites that have a real relationship to your site because your visitors will want to visit that site and their visitors will want to visit yours. Only include links between pages of interest — not links from every page of their site to yours and vice versa.
  • become part of a community. Contribute to it and build trust with its members so that they will want to visit your site and patronize your service or buy your products. Or, better yet, create a community on your site where your customers can exchange opinions and let everyone know how great your products and services are.
  • b. Spam:

  • exchange links with other sites only to increase your rankings no matter what those sites might be about.
  • join communities and insert misleading links to your site on unmoderated forum pages and social media sites promising Free Ipods and lottery winnings even if that is not what you sell.
  • 3. Add content and pages to increase keyword reach in search engines:

    a. SEO:

  • compose useful and relevant content that your visitors will want to see and enjoy.
  • make every page of content unique by creating new and different items of interest about each topic you are targeting.
  • b. Spam:

  • add some words to the page — if necessary steal it from another site.
  • Make every page of content different by changing one or two words on every page.
  • Ultimately, any technique that provides benefit and clarity to your visitors about the topic of your site is likely to do the same for search engines. Not only that but as you build trust with your visitors, you build trust with search engines too. Over time, that translates into long term rankings and consistent traffic and isn’t that what we all want in the end?

    April 23 2008

    How Google searches forms and crawlable websites: blessing or curse?


    Building a crawlable website is one of the most important things you can do to have success in search engine results pages. After all, if the search engines can’t find your pages, they won’t be listing them. Make no mistake. Google wants to find your pages. Finding every page of the internet is the ultimate goal of all serious web crawler designers and there are numerous articles (both web and print) devoted to their quest to crawl the deep web. Last week Google announced a major step forward in their quest to do just that by searching within the form element on web pages — in other words, searching with the “Search” box on your site. At present, they are restricting this to a few high profile sites, so the average site owner does not have to worry too much but this new development has caused some concern in the internet community.

    The main concern of most webmasters on hearing this news was the duplicate content issue. Any SEO friendly website already tries to make their site accessible to Google by providing accessible links. If search engines are going to make random searches using the search button, there could be a lot of duplicate pages created by search queries that don’t have a result. Some search forms like this one shown below give the user pre-set choices to make search easier. If Google tries every possible search that could be created using a search form like this, a great many pages could be created especially if they input potential keywords.

    Google Advanced Search Bar

    Google claims that sites won’t be penalized for the content found by search engines but some webmasters might want to reconsider the way their sites display content. For example, Google’s Matt Cutts has recommended in the past that pages that consist only of search results not be used as targets for search. The fact that Google can now find these pages for themselves means that while the pages that they find when Google searches forms may not be competing with your real pages, what Google considers a real page might be up for debate. This is just one more reason to create pages with real content and when displaying product lists, always make sure to supplement it with at least one paragraph of plain text content, summarizing the overall theme of the page. Not only will your real pages be distinguished from your plain search pages but it will be much easier to optimize your pages for your targeted keywords.

    April 3 2008

    Visual Image Search Relevance


    Image search relevance is not something that we think about very often, but as Karen Umpierre noted recently, image search is getting smarter. Google can look inside images and tell the difference between faces and non-faces … well, usually. Occasionally a non-face slips in but it’s pretty impressive. This brings up the question of the future of search. Will there come a day when we won’t have to put 200 words of text on a page for it to rank well for relevance in a search query? The answer may be yes because new search engine technologies are emerging that take search into the images themselves. Instead of image search using text, we have visual search using images.

    Maybe the most exciting new visual search idea is Nokia’s wireless Point & Find where a user just takes a picture and gets relevant information about the image based on information on the internet — including location, price, etc. While this is very much an emerging technology, it could very well change the way people shop. Imagine seeing some shoes you like at a party and being able to find them using your wireless device’s built-in search. Nokia claims this technology is at least three years away, but in the meantime, there are some visual search engines available now.

    One that deserves special mention is because it is the first engine that is actually using visual search to help shoppers find what they want. For example, let’s say I want to buy some shoes. I go to the shoes section of and find a style that I like. Then I just click on the button marked Visual Search. This gives me a display of shoes that all resemble the shoes that I chose grouped by “overall matches”, “style matches”, “brand matches” and “color matches”. The most interesting aspect is the opportunity to refine my search by selecting a portion of the original image.

    I just draw a box around the part of the image that I most want to match and gives me a new result. has just recently launched a new site after a lengthy beta period so we’re interested in seeing how well the new site is received. Will shoppers take to it? One problem may be that, as we noted with Google’s face search, the results aren’t perfect. For example, one of the top ten results for my search for matches to that spiky heel was this wedge heeled number. Of course, it is a high wedge — sort of spiky as wedges go and roughly the same shape as the heel of the shoe I selected so maybe this is just the visual search algorithm’s interpretation of my query. This brings me to the point of my post today — image relevance.

    Just because a search engine uses a different point of reference (shape, color, style as opposed to words) doesn’t mean that we can stop worrying about relevance. If visual search becomes more prevalent, search engine optimization may actually become even more complicated with considerations of image quality, angle and other visually based factors coming to the fore. Furthermore, even relies on linguistic navigation to subsidize their product search and this is unlikely to change. So, if you were waiting around for the image search technology to get better before you optimized your site for keyword relevance, we would recommend that you not wait because whether it’s images or text, making your pages relevant to search queries will always matter.

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