A brief look at boneheaded attempts to dupe the algorithm.
Here’s a devious idea. (Also, hilarious.)
I was catching up with my niece’s husband at a recent family reunion. As we sipped beer from red Solo cups while waiting for the barbecue to work its magic, my kinda-relative was asking me about SEO.
I am not Red Letter’s SEO wizard—but I know more than your average niece’s husband (NH). I launched into an extemporaneous tutorial, during which I mentioned Google’s habit of favoring sites that are regularly refreshed with new content.
With a gleam in his eye, NH asked me whether the following scheme would fool Google while keeping his content production costs low.
The content flip-flop flim-flam.
“What if”—postulated my impish interlocutor—“What if I kept two versions of copy for every page on my website? They would say the same thing but use different words and sentence structures. Every few months I would switch them out. Google thinks my site is getting fresh content, but I don’t have to pay some copywriter to keep generating more words about my company. Whatdya think?”
Had I been in the process of swigging my frosty stout, I would have done a spit take suitable for the Spit Take Hall of Fame. (On the other hand, if I had been biting into a pulled pork sandwich, I might have choked to death.)
Resistance is futile. So relax!
I have shared my NH story with several people more expert than me about the workings of the mysterious Google algorithm. They have responded with a blend of eye-rolling and begrudging admiration for the mischievous workings of NH’s mind. Everybody thought this search marketing shell game was kind of funny. They also thought it was hopeless.
Link farms and other lunacy.
The history of the web includes countless examples of attempts to game the Google. You may recall link farms, a scheme in which a group of websites are artificially interlinked in order to improve the link profiles of all of them. This method of attempting to snooker Google’s index has been called spamdexing. (It was not 100% necessary that I mention spamdexing in this article, but I really wanted to use that word in a sentence. While this writer considers the practice of digital deception unsavory, he is quietly pleased at the infusion of delightful new words to our ever-evolving language.)
As for link farming—it doesn’t work, so don’t do it.
Writing like a robot frightens people. Not good!
There was a period when copywriters—wild with apprehension about how to appeal to their new audience (spiders)—started writing in a stilted, repetitive, keyword-saturated style that caused word watchers to fear the End Times were near. It was Stepford copy.
This was another stupid reaction to what Google is trying to do.
The sordid history of SEO hanky-panky.
Black hat SEO shenanigans never work for long, if at all. But the ingenuity of some of these dead-end schemes can be entertaining. For a thorough overview of search skullduggery, this exhaustive archive will keep you amused.
Google likes what people like.
It’s that simple. If you want to interest your audience, be interesting. Say insightful things using vivid language that could never be written by a robot. (No disrespect to my Robot Overlords, to whom I owe everything.)
Of course you should use your knowledge of search engine optimization (and of human behavior) to be sure you are delivering clear, compelling content that will appeal to both humans and spiders. But those who try to devise tricks to bamboozle Google are using the wrong part of their brains.
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