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Avoid a search engine ban
Optimization software may lead to your site being downgraded

January 22, 2002  

Some of the techniques that Web sites use to trick or "spam" search engines into listing them have apparently gone so far that at least one major index is reportedly planning to delist many sites.


"I've heard through back-channels, including the head techie at Google, that anyone using WebPosition Gold to create autopages is going to be banned pretty darn soon," says one industry expert, who does not produce competing search engine optimization software but asked to remain anonymous. "The search engines all hate Gold for a variety of reasons, so they are all coming up with ways to stop folks who use it. This is an ongoing story that few search engines will ever, ever commit to on record," continues this source.

WebPosition Gold is one of the most popular programs that seeks to optimize the contents of Web pages to rank well with search engines. Autopages or "doorway pages" can be generated by such programs, giving prominent placement to certain words and phrases that a Web site operator thinks are likely to be searched for by consumers.

Too often, however, doorway pages consist of little useful information and are mainly "click here" funnels that lead to a final destination page. When the destination page is significantly different than the doorway page, many search engines downgrade the site, assuming that consumers want to jump directly to a useful location.

Brent Winters, president of FirstPlace Software, which publishes WebPosition Gold, said in an interview, "There's no way that Google can say, 'We're going to push a button and penalize all doorway pages,' because that's too ambitious." He says WebPosition Gold currently does not generate "any kind of text that is the same from one user to the next." This means it would difficult for Google or other search engines to downgrade certain pages based on a text-matching criteria alone.

Another objection often voiced by executives of search engine companies is that users of optimization tools constantly run queries, consuming resources that slow down searches by ordinary users. WebPosition Gold, like many other tools, can be programmed to interrogate numerous search engines and output a listing of your Web site's position on various search terms.

"Google has voiced concerns that they don't like any product, not just WebPosition Gold, querying their service," Winters says. "They've suggested that if you do run those queries, you run them at night." Winters added that his company encourages users not to query search engines every day with ranking tools, because a search index isn't likely to change much over a period of a month.

Contacted about Google's new strategy, David Crane, the company's director of corporate communications, says, "This is something that's been in the works for a number of months." He says that if Google's users "are seeing doorway pages and cloaked pages in their search results, it negatively affects their search experience." Cloaking techniques cause different pages to be displayed to search engines than to the general public, in an attempt to obtain higher rankings.

Crane says Google had implemented "a number of methods we use to evaluate this." He says Google staff had examined "a very broad sample of pages" to determine how to downgrade pages that are considered suspect. Google will describe its moves in more detail at the Search Engine Strategies Conference, to be held this March in Boston, Crain says.

I'll have more on this question from all sides of the issue next week. In the meantime, a good explanation of the points of contention is given by Robin Nobles, director of training at the Academy of Web Specialists, at the link given below.

Robin Nobles on Search Engine Optimization Conflicts

http://www.onlinewebtraining.com http://bri.li/?4e4b

Search Engine Strategies Conference 2002

http://seminars.internet.com http://bri.li/?61d3

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Computers that you can realistically wear on your person and use throughout the day may actually be getting closer. A company named Xybernaut has introduced its new entrant to the market, including a headset that weighs only 3 ounces but displays to the user the video resolution of an ordinary 15-inch PC monitor.

The Poma computer is expected to cost $1,599 and ship in March. It runs Windows CE and weighs a little more than 10 ounces, suitable for hanging from your belt.


http://news.bbc.co.uk http://bri.li/?755b

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1. New CDs that refuse to play in PCs may lose logo

http://www.theregister.co.uk http://bri.li/?413

2. Yahoo begins $299/year charge; use Overture instead?

http://www.sagerock.com http://bri.li/?7fb

3. Northern Light ends Web search, keeps news search

http://www.yankeegroup.com http://bri.li/?be3

4. Databases lose stories as publishers remove material

http://www.chronicle.com http://bri.li/?fcb

5. Amazon proves e-commerce can, in fact, mean profits

http://www.computerworld.com http://bri.li/?13b3

6. How a site persuaded 20 percent of its users to pay

http://www.wired.com http://bri.li/?179b

7. Jobs are down, but so are rents in Silicon Valley

http://www.siliconvalley.com http://bri.li/?1b83

8. Does your e-business site fail at "Security 101"?

http://www.crmdaily.com http://bri.li/?1f6b

9. HTML experiment: Echo links back to your visitors

http://www.yaywastaken.com http://bri.li/?2353

10. Free Wallace & Gromit videos to be released on Web

http://www.aardman.com http://bri.li/?273b

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What we need in life is more products like this: a small device the size of a television remote control that automatically detects a mind-numbing statement from a boring person and says, "Who cares?"

The Amazing Who-Cares Machine -- as displayed on a Web page designed by Melted Moon, a Web development firm run by Amir Karampour -- can be configured to speak its immortal phrase in any of four voices: male, female, monster, and chipmunk. Unfortunately for those of us trapped in conversation around the water cooler, I'm afraid the device is more of a concept than a working product at this point.


http://www.meltedmoon.dk http://bri.li/?c37b

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E-BUSINESS SECRETS: Our mission is to bring you such useful and thought-provoking information about the Web that you actually look forward to reading your e-mail.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: E-Business Secrets is written by InfoWorld Contributing Editor Brian Livingston (http://SecretsPro.com). Research director is Ben Livingston (no relation). Brian has published 10 books, including:

Windows Me Secrets:

http://www.amazon.com http://bri.li/?0764534939

Windows 2000 Secrets:

http://www.amazon.com http://bri.li/?0764534130

Win a gift certificate good for a book, CD, or DVD of your choice if you're the first to send a tip Brian prints: mailto:Brian@SecretsPro.com

Brian Livingston , an InfoWorld contributing editor, has published 10 books, including Windows Me Secrets and Windows 2000 Secrets. Win a book free if you're the first to send a tip Brian prints. Send in your tips today, at tips@secretspro.com.
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