The Search Light Newsletter
The Search Light Newsletter
  Guiding your site to the top of the search engines... 4 Jul 2003 - Vol 3 Issue #6  

In this issue...

SEOs Who Party Like It's 1999

Google Improves and Expands AdWords

Overture Sells AltaVista Enterprise Search to FAST

FindWhat and ESpotting to Merge

Your Ad Here!

Google Launches Toolbar v2.0

Overture Introduces Content Matching

SEOs Who Party Like It's 1999
By Kalena Jordan of Web Rank Ltd

Search engine optimization has come full circle in the last couple of years.
Back in the mid 1990s it was easy to achieve high search engine rankings. Just tweak your META tags and site copy with keywords and submit. Then, as more and more webmasters started to catch on to META Tags, it became more difficult to beat the competition. Many companies turned to spam tactics such as hidden text (the same colour as the background of the page), hidden links (using 1 x 1 pixel gifs to hide them), doorway pages stuffed with keywords and cloaked content, all designed to be seen by search engine robots and not humans in an attempt to trick the search engines into giving the site a higher ranking.
Thankfully, over the past few years, achieving high search rankings has become fairer and more straight- forward. The search engines have given less weighting to META tags and more relevancy weighting to sites that are popular, of high quality and contain unique, relevant information. Most search engines have developed comprehensive spam filters that weed out the spammers from the legitimate sites and penalize sites caught trying to cheat the system. Google in particular has led the charge for quality over quantity.
Fortunately, the web site aspects that most search engines prefer are also those that visitors prefer. Build a quality site with plenty of text, up-to-date, relevant content that other sites link to, a solid navigation system, submit it by hand to popular directories and search engines and you will be on your way to high rankings in no time. It's not difficult, it's not tricky and it certainly doesn't involve any black magic.

That's why I find it difficult to understand search engine optimizers who party like it's 1999 - using invisible text and hidden links in some pathetic, misguided attempt to trick the search engines into believing their site content is the most relevant. I mean, what are they thinking? I've heard excuses like "the search engine guidelines are unclear so we have no choice but to push the envelope". Give me a break. The search engine guidelines are quite obvious to those who are actually good at SEO and understand what is necessary to achieve results for their clients. Many search engines even publish their guidelines clear as day on their sites. Unfortunately, it seems this industry is full of lazy non-performers who prefer to rely on outdated cheat sheets that haven't worked for years.
I am so sick of all the cowboy SEO firms who clog up the search engine indices with meaningless keyword- stuffed pages, in a vain attempt to dominate the search rankings with their client's sites. Don't they do any research? Don't they read the search engine guidelines? Don't they understand these tactics are fruitless and ineffective? Don't they know these techniques haven't worked for years and are regarded as spamming? Don't they realize they are putting their client's sites at risk of ranking penalties or outright banning? Don't they care about the long term effects and the future of their client's web sites?
To see an example of these blatant spamming techniques, visit and type in a search for "new zealand power companies". Visit the first site in the results (a doorway page), right click the page with your mouse and choose "select all". Run your mouse over the darkened area at the bottom left of the page. See all the hidden links? All leading to yet more doorway pages.
This second example is trickier to find because it appears that Google has already penalized it. Go to and type in a search for "shopping new zealand must involve a visit". Check out the first page in the results (another dooway) and have a close look at the little arrows in near invisible font at the bottom of the page next to "more". Each one of those arrows leads to another doorway page stuffed with more keywords. I've even seen examples of companies hiding thousands of keywords in CSS tags or tables that are coded to an extreme left or right position so they don't actually appear on the visible page.
What is the point of these tactics? Even if they go unreported, Google will eventually locate the spam and degrade or ban the pages. It makes no sense to me why SEO firms would take such risks with their client's sites when it is so much easier to get good results using the methods recommended by the search engines.
But as bad as spammy SEO firms are, there are worse offenders. These are the spammy SEO firms who like to propagate myth and legend by publishing articles that are misleading, deceptive and often downright false. No wonder webmasters are confused when it comes to search engines and no wonder there are more cowboy SEO spammers springing up every day. With the amount of incorrect information floating around out there, it is extremely difficult for newcomers to sort out fact from fiction.
The sad thing is that many of these spam propagators justify their rubbish with endorsements from big name marketers or influential web marketing firms who allow them to speak at conferences and seminars and spread their misinformation. Some of these spam propagators have even set up their own training schools to educate people in deceptive SEO tactics.
It really rankles me when I see faulty advice such as the following being circulated to unsuspecting webmasters:

" could place content inside of the noframes tag, even though the site isn't in's also not something that's likely to get you in trouble with Google as long as the content is relevant to your page."
Creating content designed to be hidden from viewers and shown only to search engines by misleading use of a tag meant for a frames-based page? I am almost certain Google would have a problem with that. What type of example are these people trying to set? To think they are actually teaching these tactics to future webmasters is beyond comprehension.
So what can you do to fight back the spam propagators? For starters:
1) Study the search engine guidelines such as those outlined at Google, Lycos and Ask Jeeves
2) Circulate articles like this one to other webmasters
3) Spend time in knowledgeable webmaster forums such as the ihelpyou services forums
4) Make sure you report any cases of search engine spamming to Google and the other search engines as soon as you spot them.
When we cut spammers off at the source, we can stop the spread of misinformation and all benefit from the results.

   Dear Reader,

Not sure what the weather's like in your part of the world, but here in New Zealand it's turning out to be a very cold Winter. As I look outside, there is sleet hitting my office window and any minute now I am expecting it to turn to snow. It's times like these I wish I could ski!
Speaking of icy conditions, in this month's feature article I give search engine spammers the cold shoulder. I am so sick and tired of seeing false information being circulated about search engine optimization and hearing stories of woe from ill-informed webmasters who have had their sites banned after following poor advice or letting cowboy SEO firms "optimize" their sites.
I felt it was time to stand up to the SEO spammers and speak out about their unethical tactics that taint the search results for everybody else. I also have a go at those SEO firms that spread their spammy methodology like gospel to unsuspecting webmasters. Such misinformation spreads like a malignant cancer in this industry and it's time for us to put a stop to it.
As you can see, I get pretty fired up about this subject!
On a brighter note, we are finally ready to launch our Special Report - Search Engine Compatibility and the Top 100 New Zealand Companies - which reveals just how invisible the web sites of New Zealand's top companies are to the average searcher. At this stage I can reveal that 100 percent of the Top 100 sites had compatibility issues. Incredible! Watch this space for Report highlights, our press release and details on where you can get your copy.
Enjoy this issue and remember to visit our daily Search Engine News Blog for the latest industry news and gossip.

Till next time - wishing you high rankings...

  • Google Improves and Expands AdWords
  •    In response to advertiser feedback, Google has developed a series of improvements to their AdWords pay-per-click advertising service. Changes include:
    * Faster loading campaign details
    * Easier campaign editing and management
    * Campaign search of Ad Group, keyword list, ad text, or entire account
    * Customized report generation and storage in a new Reports section
    * Sorting and viewing of tables, reports and graphs of performance history
    The changes will be implemented over the next few weeks. Along with the improvements, Google has expanded the reach of their global ad network.
    AdWords ads targeted to the UK will now appear on Ask Jeeves UK and DealTime UK. In addition, AdWords ads will now appear on more content pages, including:

    * Lycos Europe
    * Mac Publishing (includes JavaWorld, LinuxWorld, MacCentral, and
    * New York Post Online Edition
    * Reed Business Information (includes and
    * U.S.News & World Report online

    Full Story...

  • Overture Sells AltaVista Enterprise Search to FAST
  •    FAST Search & Transfer of Norway confirmed last month that it had bought AltaVista's Enterprise Search unit from Overture. The deal was done entirely in cash for an undisclosed sum and includes accounts for over 200 customers. A spokesman for FAST said it will not be integrating AltaVista enterprise search technology into its own search systems, but will encourage AltaVista's enterprise customers to migrate to FAST's data search technologies.

    The sale follows a bizarre chain of search engine buyouts, fast becoming typical for the unpredictable search industry.

    Full Story...

  • FindWhat and ESpotting to Merge
  •    The board of pay-per-click provider last month agreed to merge with privately-owned rival ESpotting Media Inc.
    The announcement is sure to shake up the paid search industry, particularly for market leader Overture as two of their major competitors team up. The U.S.- based FindWhat and the European-based ESpotting each have considerable market share in their own right, but combined, they form a formidable global rival in the paid listings sector, considered to be the fastest growing segment of Internet advertising.

    It is estimated the combined company would service approximately 40,000 advertisers and is expected to generate combined revenues of over $140 million in 2003.

    Full Story...

  • Your Ad Here!
  •    The Search Light is looking for sponsors. Have a product or service related to search engines or online marketing? Want to reach a very targeted audience on a tight budget?

    Then sponsor one or more issues of The Search Light newsletter. Click Here to email us for more information and pricing.

  • Google Launches Toolbar v2.0
  •    Google has introduced v2.0 BETA of their groovy Toolbar. New features include a pop-up blocker (hooray!), auto fill for online forms and, for users of, the ability to create an instant blog post pointing to the site you are currently viewing.

    Click Here for more info...

  • Overture Introduces Content Matching
  •    Overture has introduced Content Match, a new source of contextually targeted ads.
    Content Match works in a similar way to Google AdWords content-targeted advertising, by displaying paid search listings from Overture when Internet users are viewing related content on the pages of Overture partner sites.
    Unlike AdWords though, only the top bids for a given keyword on Overture will be displayed in Content Match listings. Therefore advertisers need to bid high enough to achieve Overture Premium Listings (positions 1, 2 or 3) in order to receive the additional traffic offered by Content Match.

    Full Story...

    Click here for a full text/print version of this newsletter...

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