Things you should avoid

As you go about working on your websites, optimizing things and managing your social media programs, it’s easy to lose track of information, or overlook something.  In this post we’ll take a look at some things you want to avoid doing.  It may also be worth taking a look through your site and your programs to make sure you’re not doing any of these things moving forward.


Cloaking is the process where you determine who the visitor is coming to your website, then show content depending on who that visitor is.  Typically, the system detects a search engine crawler, and swaps more search-friendly content in place for them.  Human visitors would then see a different content page.  Taken to the limit, the content is completely different.  This is an obvious problem for the engines, as we expect to see the same content as anyone else would.  Showing us one piece of content and other visitors a different piece of content is misleading.  You want to avoid this.

Link buying

It’s no secret that inbound links play a role in ranking.  It’s also no secret that we don’t want you buying links.  There are a lot of services out there pitching this service, and calling it anything but “link buying” these days.  The bottom line is this: you are taking a big risk if you are buying links.

If we discover the link is purchased, at best we’ll simply ignore it and not pass any value, which is what happens in most cases.  This is still pretty bad for you, though, as you paid money for something that now gives you no value.  At worst, if it gets to be problematic for us, we’ll take action against the sites involved.

Link farms

Links to your content should grow organically.  Link farming essentially involves a network of sites which all link to your content.  On paper this would seem to create the impression that a bunch of sites now link to your content.  In reality, we see link farms and dismiss their value.  Again, you’ve paid money and will receive no value for it.  Given “link farms” are typically deemed to be more problematic than random buying of links across websites, you want to avoid associating your domain with these sorts of places.  Read more about building links the right way in this article.

Three-way linking

Site A links to Site B.  Site B links to Site C.  Site C links to Site A.  This may seem to be preferable to reciprocal linking, but it’s not, really.  Reciprocal linking can not only introduce us to your newest content or site, but can also deliver direct traffic to your website.  True, it doesn’t carry the same value as a straight one-way link, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

Three-way linking is often an attempt to avoid being seen building reciprocal links.  Don’t sweat reciprocal links and avoid three-way linking.

Duplicating content

We recently wrote and in-depth post on article site sourced content.  Duplicating content is a pretty simple concept.  You’re posting content which already appears somewhere online.  Using articles from third-party sources, copying and pasting from another source and using standardized product descriptions for items you’re selling all fall into this category.  Your content should be unique and not appear anywhere else online.  Building unique content takes work.

Another form of duplication can happen when you fail to manage permutations of your URLs.  When you attach a tracking code to your URL, for example, you create two versions of a URL, both of which will return the same content.  You can help guard against this by managing the issue through the use of the rel=canonical attribute.

Like farms

Like farms are similar to link farms.  In this instance, you’re essentially trying to manipulate the “likes” you receive by agreeing with others to like each other’s’ content.  These types of approaches are very obvious to a search engine, and we simply ignore the data we see.  It wastes your time and does nothing to help your rankings.  Read more here about like farms (and link farms, too).


Using an auto-follow service to help grow the number of followers you have on Twitter is another dead end.  You essentially end up following as many people as follow yourself.  To Bing this looks non-authoritative.  If, however, you have 4,000 followers and follow only 100 people yourself, this reflects a situation that many people want to hear what you have to say; a sign of authority.  Learn more about what it takes to be an authority here, and how to grow your social following the correct way, here.
The thin content approach

Thin content can describe many approaches to producing content.  To help you understand what it is, we’ll explain how to produce content which is not “thin” in nature.  When producing content, your goal should be to provide deep details.  Enough information that anyone who arrives on your website would need no further sources to feel they have everything they need to understand what they were searching for.

We covered how to build quality content in a previous article, so check that out for more information.  Just remember to avoid trying to take short cuts when you produce content.  The search engines need good quality content to return worthwhile results for searchers.  If you fail the quality content test, you simply won’t rank and drive traffic.

Join the conversation

  1. antiufo

    "Duplicating content"

    What are you going to do with the eFreedom spam pages? They just copy content from StackOverflow and provide no additional value.

    Every time I search for a programming-related question, I get eFreedom results above StackOverflow ones. This never happens with Google, and it's a shame you don't do something about it.

  2. floridapatio

    Outstanding Post! Spending the majority of my time scouting out the duplicate content issues. Copy Scape and other SEO tools I have discovered have been a great finding out where the duplicate content is coming from. My goal is to get a perfect score card and favor with B & G… This is the only way small business will survive on the web these days.

    Unrelated and unwanted play on words content link sites and large conglomerate top first page result organic content listings are killing search engine results. Especially on G where the marketplace is stock holder product pay-per-click driven. Sad when you do a search for patio furniture and get an entire front page of large conglomerate department stores that don't specialize in patio furniture!

    If their is a dollar in a product or service and it's competitive you have two choices. Spend a kings ransom or get your hands dirty by opening the hood and making darn sure you are hitting on all cylinders!

    My personal and professional advise for B&G is to put up a form results page in Webmaster tools displaying your score card and how to improve with generic tools to get out of the sandbox. Too many search engine filter secrets, seo scams promising results and poor search results on high searched keywords is a major issue.  

    Thanks from an old guy of who has been on and in the web business for 23+yrs.

  3. Kevin Mullett


    While I certainly do not advocate auto-following or placing quantity of followers over quality followers, and I applaud your highlighting of the issue, it is astonishing to read that you seem to be promoting anti-social behavior on social networks. The very statement increases an already alarming trend for people to use automated tools to follow people, wait for a reciprocal follow then un-follow to make themselves look more important.

    There are a plethora of other signals and metrics past the simplistic follow ratio that can be used to establish both credibility and authority. The thought that you are promoting the concept of being a selfish elitist snob seems to indicate a lack of research and understanding of the very principle of social media. Please do not encourage people to utilize social media like just another push marketing bullhorn. Social media authority is not based on "subscriptions."

  4. Meditation

    Interesting article. I run a <a href="">meditation</a&gt; website and have content that goes out regularly, yet uniquely to various websites, how do I avoid Bing thinking they are link farms? The content is unique to each site so duplication should never be an issue.

    Thanks and namaste,

    Stephen Frost

  5. Vijender

    Nice read Duane,

    I run a site on which I had installed an open source forum on phpBB.

    However, in my early days of setting up the site, had installed the forum and kept it aside for some time focusing more on shaping up the site. A lot of spammers had created spam posts advertising obscene products and the like.

    By the time, I had noticed this, those spams posts were already indexed by Bing pointing to some forum threads (which I have deleted currently).

    Admit that it was my fault in not monitoring my forum and cleansing the spam posts way up early.

    Now, I have changed it to a vBulletin forum, but Bing still mentions "Some posts have been removed" and on clicking it shows a message of abuse content being hidden. Am sure, it refers to the spam posts indexed earlier.

    To prevent this, I have also blocked the forum from getting indexed (through robots.txt). Still the issue lingers. To Bing, it may sound like link farming although I havent done it intentionally. Just a suggestion, shouldnt Bing actually discount these inbound links as they are not related to the content on my site which is based on Indian MBA?

    Any suggestions please.



  6. ksuarsana

    Nice article! I Just start building my blog, at least i get something that i should or should not do.

  7. Tony Merrigan

    Simply put and informative, thanks.

    I guess we are guilty of duplicating content, we have a sister company to our new one and pretty much copied T&C's etc as well as some promotional material. Looks like I'll need to busy myself retyping some bits over the next few weeks.

  8. Link-Building-Club

    Google is using their new Panda algorithm to weed out the spam type links and Bing is relying on indicators from social media. Both organizations are obviously taking different approaches to the same desirable end result…better targeted search results.

    In the past people bought hundreds or thousands of links that no doubt lured in masses of unsuspecting webmasters. Now many sites are feeling the pain and even trying to erase these dead links to improve their SEO efforts.I wrote about this in my Blog:…/googles-panda-may-bite-you

    If you have a newer site and you are thinking about creating a fresh start for your site please remember one thing.This isn't the old days!The big mega players are learning how to filter out the junk.Its not just the fear of getting negative web "Karma"…its also the frightening reality that you may be wasting tens or even hundreds of hours of work for no reason.

  9. Ellie K

    This is so depressing, seeing spam comments, even here.

    JackieW: I will NEVER EVER purchase your Retin A cream! Stop spamming up all the Bing posts with your anti-acne spam comments! PLEASE! It is NOT ship shape.

    Barbu: Same applies to you. I don't want to see links for depression squared dot info!

    Bing: I don't know why you don't have a spam or moderator attention flag, like MSDN and TechNet offer. Please consider adding that feature to the Bing community forums?

    Now for something on-topic: I have noticed the same thing that the first comment referred to, which is how StackExchange questions that are scraped are showing up in searches before the original versions, on StackExchange websites.

    Here's some praise for Bing search: When I submit a general sort of query, you return a nice variety of responses. Thank you! Recently, Google universal search seems to return only Wikipedia related entries for most of the first page of results. Wikipedia is great and all that but I like to have a few choices, if you know what I mean!

  10. Vikrant Baba

    how does duplicate content is defined

    if some other website publishes my website's content, is my site considered as duplicate or some way to protect this ?

Comments are closed.