How to Ruin Your Google Rank

Don't like being found on Google? Here are a few ways to lower your ranking and get the worst search engine results. These are some of the worst of the worst dirty tricks, and they can lower your Google ranking or just get you banned from search results completely.

Getting page views at any cost is not a good tactic. It never works in the long run, even if it may work for a short while. Beware of any company that recommends you employ any of these techniques. JC Penny's learned the lesson. Their Black Hat SEO technique of paying for links worked incredibly well until a New York Times reporter uncovered the scheme.

Duplicate Content

Twins sitting on sofa, smiling
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Spam sites sometimes try to collect page views by duplicating the same content on multiple pages. This isn't the same as using headers or footers on your pages with the same content. We're talking about repeating the same body copy or using very slight variations on the same theme. 

Don't copy and paste large amounts of text from your own pages, and certainly don't violate copyright by copying content from elsewhere. Google has been known to ban sites that duplicate too much content or at least severely penalize their ranking in search results.

This can occasionally cause problems because some spamming Web site might be duplicating your content. If you find someone violating your copyright this way, you can let Google know.

Have a Robot Write Your Text

Robot typing
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It's a bad idea to duplicate content, and it's a worse idea to get a machine to write your content for you. There are programs out there that skim content from other sites or duplicate the same content but make a few changes here and there. If Google catches you, and they're pretty good at catching this, you can kiss your page views goodbye.

Write your own content. That's as simple as it gets. Don't buy "instant AdSense" Web sites. If this sort of instant affiliate website made lots of passive money for anyone but the seller, they wouldn't be selling them. They'd just be making them. 

Add Keywords That Don't Relate to Your Content

A page in the Dictionary
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Meta keywords aren't that important to Google anymore. However, when you list keywords, do list keywords that directly relate to your site, and don't repeat the same keyword multiple times. Spamming keywords by listing every word in the dictionary is a great way to have your ranking lowered in Google.

Likewise, don't use the trademarked names of products made by your competitors as keywords. At best it's a bad user experience, at worse it can get you sued by those competitors.

Link Exchanges and Bad Neighborhoods

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Linking ordinarily would make you a good neighbor and a good citizen of the internet. However, just because someone links to you does not obligate you to link back to them. Sometimes you do get judged on the quality of the friends you keep. Google calls spamming sites bad neighborhoods, and linking to them could lower your PageRank.

Link exchanging programs, paid link placement, and other schemes to manipulate PageRank are far worse sins. You may get away with it for a while, but eventually, Google will catch onto the scheme, and your search results will drop like an anchor. This is essentially what happened in the JC Penny's incident. The SEO firm they hired (and subsequently fired) created an artificial web of links on unrelated websites.

Hidden Text

Tip of the iceberg
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Don't try to hide keywords by making the background color the same as the font color—also known as fontmatching. This is an old-school trick, and it hasn't worked for ages. Google and other search engines are sophisticated at catching this, and they'll likely demote any offending Web sites on their search engine index. This goes back to our earlier rule about not making content that gives search engines and humans very different experiences. 

Likewise, watch how small you make the text. In a variation of keyword stuffing, some people try to put teeny tiny text at the bottom of a page. It doesn't work. It just makes your website look like spam. 

Title Stacking

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Chalirmpoj Pimpisarn / EyeEm / Getty Images

This another trick from way back in the ancient days when dinosaurs roamed the web. The old way people used to title stack was by using extra tags to try and add more keywords into the very important field. The new way people try to do this is by adding titles with dashes and stacking up key phrases "Pie Crust Recipes - Cherry Pies - Apple Pies - Peach Pies." 

That sort of titling system was highly recommended by SEOs at one point. Use it these days, and it will probably lower your search engine ranking. 

You're better off figuring out a clever title for social media sharing instead of using it as a way to stuff in extra keywords. Write your titles for people to read, not search engines. 

Distribute Viruses, Trojans, or Other Badware

Cyber security concept.
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If your site is distributing a virus, trojan, or other badware, Google's going to remove you from their index for the public good. This should be a no-brainer.

Double check any software you agree to distribute to make sure it isn't harmful and confirm that your server is secure so that hackers don't decide to hijack your Web site and distribute malicious software for you. 

If you've been hacked and clean up your site, you can contact Google to let them know you've rectified the problem. 

Doorway Pages

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Doorway pages or Gateway pages are pages that are optimized for one key term but are really designed to be gateways to lead you to different content. For instance, the "blueberry," "strawberry," and "orange" gateways might all be designed to get you to go to "fruit punch."

Doorway pages usually have very little in the way of original content and often cloak or redirect users to the intended Web site. It's really a variation of duplicate content issues. 

Beware of affiliate programs, because some of these may look like doorway pages to Google. Occasionally stores and other sites can run into problems with this, so it's important to work with Google Webmaster Tools to make sure you've structured your site in a way that makes sense both to users and to Google and other search engines

Automated Inquiries

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Google doesn't appreciate robots writing your content, and they're even less appreciative of robots checking your ranking. Automated Google queries and automated link submission are both against Google's terms of service, and both of them can get your site banned. They tie up computing resources for everyone.

So Basically, Don't Be a Jerk

A real jerk
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Don't be a jerk. Optimize your Web site for Google by designing a clear, well-organized site that is written for people instead of machines. Gather traffic by writing quality original content. Don't try to trick people or take the lazy way out.