Negative Ranking Factors

When people talk about search engine optimisation, they normally discuss the factors that will have a positive effect on rankings. In reality, it is just as important to know what not to do - understanding which factors can have a negative effect on search engine listings, and how they can be avoided.

When I talk about negative factors, I do not mean the things that can limit crawl-ability (such as javascript menus and non search engine friendly URLs). Instead, I am talking about the things that can actively cause a negative effect. Examples of these are as follows:

Outbound Links - Whenever you link to a site, it is treated as a vote for the site, which usually gives it extra credibility in the eyes of the search engines. However, if you link to poor quality sites or sites that are considered to be part of a “bad neighbourhood”, then your site can suffer by association. Examples of these may be splogs, scraper sites or adult sites. If you are unsure of the credibility of sites that you link to, make sure to use a rel=”nofollow” tag within the link.

Server Downtime - If your website is often down due to hosting issues, or if your site is down for other reasons, it can have a disastrous effect on search engine listings. This makes perfect sense from the search engine’s point of view, as they do not want to direct their users to non-existent web pages. Luck will play a part to determine whether or not a spider visits your site when it is down. However, make sure the chances are reduced by avoiding cheap and unreliable hosting.

Duplicate Content - This could be slit into two categories; copying content from other websites or using the same content on several pages across your site. Both should be avoided, as any page that does not have enough unique content is likely to do very badly in the search engines. Copyscape is a great resource for checking for website plagiarism. As well as unique page content, it is important to make sure that page titles and meta tags are varied throughout your site.

There are many other factors that can have a negative effect on a website, including spam, hidden text and various black-hat techniques. These will be discussed in more detail in the next blog post.

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