The Difference between SEO and Spam

- May 14, 2008

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?

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