Common Link Tricks

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2003-12-01 Print this article Print

Considered by experts as the most egregious techniques are the actual buying and selling of links to Web sites and the use of so-called "doorway pages" optimized for search-engine spiders. Google is credited with introducing the ranking of search results based partly on the links to a site. The more links from sites already considered authorities for key terms, then the higher a site would rank—akin to an online popularity contest. The importance of links has led not only to sites agreeing to exchange links but also to intermediaries brokering link exchanges for money as well as setting up large networks of sites whose purpose is to increase links.
The tussle between Google and those networks have even landed in court. SearchKing Inc. sued Google in 2002, claiming that Google reduced the rankings of sites in its advertising network. A federal judge earlier this year dismissed the lawsuit against Google on the basis of First Amendment protections.
Along with link tricks, some sites and search-engine optimizers have created doorway pages. The pages are designed specifically for search engine spiders indexing Web pages and are optimized to match coveted keywords. They are often invisible to actual users or appear as a quick introductory page that leads into the main site. "(Google) had to come up with a way of overcoming the gaming of their algorithm because it was becoming so corrupted," Lloyd said. In the course of combating techniques what Google and others consider search-engine spam, Googles algorithm changes also appear to have caught other sites in the crosshairs, Lloyd said. The changes appear to be affecting the rank of commercial-oriented search terms the most, ones where over-optimization is often common, and to be hurting sites that use a given keyword term frequently in the site or in the domain, Lloyd said. At the same time, Lloyd and others have noticed that the results for some search terms seem more focused on directory listings or non-commercial sites rather than commercial sites. On one example, Lloyd tried searching for "Web design Calgary," expecting to find Web design companies in Calgary, Canada. Instead the first result was the site for the Calgary Flames hockey team. More than anything, the most recent brouhaha over Google algorithm changes points to the danger of relying too heavily on search-result positioning for ones business, experts say. All sites should follow a set of accepted best practices for being search-engine friendly, such as including enough content with key phrases and having descriptive titles on Web pages, said Heather Lloyd-Martin, president and CEO of SuccessWorks Search Marketing Solutions. Those that rely too much on the latest optimization tricks are left in a cat-and-mouse game with Google and other search engines. "The rules of the game havent changed, but a lot of people dont want to learn them yet," Lloyd-Martin said. "Sites need to err more on the side of the customer rather than the search engines."Discuss This in the eWEEK Forum

Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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