7 Red Flags that Reveal to Google You’re an SEO Criminal – Avoid These!

July 15, 2009 - Written by Gyutae Park  

google-seo-criminalIf you label yourself as an SEO or openly engage in aggressive link building tactics, watch out. Google will treat you harshly and judge you on a different standard, similar to the way the law deals with known criminals.

Don’t believe me? Learn more about how Google profiles SEOs and treats them like criminals. For example, well-known SEOs Michael Gray and Rae Hoffman were both profiled and had their links taken from them – not because they were marketing any differently than other webmasters, but because Google thought they were doing it just for the links.

The reality is that Google is  a company that makes billions of dollars in revenue each year by selling advertisements around its organic search listings. While Google’s business is to return highly relevant search results that provide value to users, SEOs seek to reverse engineer the algorithm and manipulate rankings for their own gain (in varying degrees). You can see why there’s such a big disconnect here.

As a result, Google considers SEOs as “high risk” and does everything in its power to neutralize SEO efforts and smack them down, even if the associated sites offer real value and are truly deserving of their rankings. Google understands that there will be collateral damage, but honestly they don’t care unless you’re a big brand. There are thousands of similar small sites ready to take your place in the rankings without putting a dent in Google’s quality.

Is this fair for anyone practicing SEO? No, not at all. But you can’t blame Google for protecting its business. The minute it gives SEOs a free pass is the minute that Google’s search results fill with spam and irrelevant pages made for profit.

red-flagLook at it this way. SEOs disrupt Google’s algorithm like criminals disrupt society. Much like the government has laws and policies in place to minimize the effects of criminal activity and maintain peace, Google has many systems and filters in place to profile SEOs, neutralize the offensive tactics, and maintain quality.

So what are some of these filters and SEO profiling practices employed by Google? I’ll cover some of them in this article. If you’re an SEO or webmaster who’s working to rise up in the rankings, I highly recommend you stay under the radar and avoid these red flags. Life will be a lot easier for you if Google thinks you’re an innocent and ignorant webmaster who knows nothing about how SEO works. 😉

7 Red Flags to Avoid – Google Profiling SEOs

The last thing you want to do is draw attention to yourself and have Google profile you as an SEO. If this were to happen, Google engineers would scrutinize your site more than others and hold you to a different standard. Avoid at all costs! Here are some red flags to watch out for so you can stay under the radar.

1. You have a big mouth about your SEO tactics
loud mouthA sure-fire way to get the attention of a Google engineer and potentially have your rankings manually reviewed, is to blabber away about all of the SEO tactics and tricks you’re using to get ahead.

For example, John Chow, the infamous make money online blogger, openly exchanged links with his readers on his blog to rank for “make money online”. While it did work initially, Google quickly made an example of him and penalized him hard. John recently got his rankings back after cleaning up his act, but for over a year, he didn’t even rank for his own name.

Similarly, a very well-known SEO mentioned to his readers that his affiliate links were designed in a way to pass weight back to his site. For whatever reason, someone decided to report this to Google spam king Matt Cutts, and unsurprisingly, those links no longer pass any weight.

If you have an SEO blog or are involved in the Internet marketing community, be careful what you tell others – either privately or in public. It could come back to haunt you.

2. Your sites are all tied together = easy target
network targetLike it or not, the big G has a lot of information about you and your sites. Google runs the most popular contextual advertising platform, owns a free analytics package that’s better than most paid versions, has access to all WHOIS information and IP addresses, and can analyze sites that you interlink. Not only that, but Google has access to your email, documents, and browsing history. Sound scary? That’s what I thought.

If you can, it’s best to separate your sites as much as possible (e.g. different IP addresses, no interlinking, etc). Why? If Google suspects something about one of your sites, they’ll probably look into your network for other sites you’re involved with as well. That’s definitely not something you want. If I can find your network of sites using a free tool like SpyOnWeb.com, you can bet Google can easily do it too.

Unfortunately, completely separating your sites isn’t always possible especially with Google’s growing dominance in so many verticals. This makes avoiding the other red flags even more important.

3. Your site is over-optimized for certain keywords
yellow flag refereeOptimizing the content of a page for SEO has always been pretty simple – target 2 to 3 keywords per page and place them in title tags (preferable the beginning), header tags, URLs, and on-page body content. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy anymore as Google automatically filters and penalizes sites that it thinks are “over-optimized”. This isn’t an exact science, but Aaron Wall of SEO Book explains how he got a ranking filter removed by mixing up the keywords and being less aggressive.

If you’ve tried optimizing a page for a keyword without much success in rankings, try taking this approach. Shift the focus away from your targeted keywords and don’t be so overly aggressive in your on-page efforts (i.e. forget about things like keyword density). Google actively tries to neutralize SEO, so this sort of filter is no surprise. You just need to be able to adapt to improve your rankings.

4. Your link profile is unnatural
link to meIn the same way that you can over-optimize for on-page SEO, you can also over-optimize for off-page link building. I wrote about this topic in my article, The Secret to Making Every Link Count For Your SEO Rankings, so be sure to read it before you move on.

In a nutshell, Google filters out sites in the rankings when it thinks the sites’ link profiles seem unnatural. Some examples include:

  • too many links too fast
  • link anchor text too similar
  • not enough deep links to other pages
  • too many links from low quality or unrelated sites
  • too many reciprocal links
  • all links are from the sidebar or footer of a page

Again, it’s Google’s goal to neutralize any sort of manipulation. If you want to be a successful SEO, you have to take this into consideration and appear natural in everything you do. Ask yourself the following question – how would normal webmasters with big sites obtain links?  Then seek to emulate their links.

5. You use the nofollow link attribute to sculpt PageRank
rel nofollowThe change in the way Google treats nofollow links has stirred a lot of debate over the past month. As it stands now, the use of the nofollow link attribute as a way to sculpt PageRank and funnel link equity to the most important pages is no longer a best practice.

Regardless, the important question here is whether or not nofollow is an SEO red flag. It’s definitely a valid concern. If you think about it, only webmasters involved in the SEO community know about the nofollow tag at all – and it could easily be used by Google to determine who’s an SEO and who’s not. Hm…

What you do with nofollow is up to you, but I will be removing it from all of my sites, other than the links in the comments section – which comes default in packages like WordPress. Apparently link consolidation is the new PageRank sculpting.

6. You buy or sell obvious paid links
paid linksBack in late 2007, Google declared war on paid links and claimed that any site buying or selling links would be penalized. The paid links issue is a major flaw in Google’s algorithm and is relatively easy to exploit as long as you know what you’re doing.

That being said, you should always buy links under the radar if you plan on buying. Going through some of the link brokers is not recommended (what’s stopping a Google engineer from signing up and seeing all the sites participating?) and obvious paid links should be avoided (e.g. footer/sidebar links, unrelated links) – especially because your competitors can easily report paid links to Google through this form.

7. You use SEO and links to get a spammy site to the top of the rankings
purple fur coatIn SEO, quality matters. If you avoid the previous 6 red flags, but miss this one, you’ll still end up in the Google dog house. What do I mean?

Google engineers constantly monitor and QA the rankings. If you manage to get a useless money site to the top of Google, it probably won’t stay there for long – even if you did your SEO under the radar. After all, it isn’t natural for a sub-par website to rank high for a competitive keyword and there usually has to be manipulative SEO practices and artificial link building going on for that to happen. Sure you may think that you did everything right, but Google could still profile you as an SEO and look into your network of other sites.

Don’t do anything that draws unnecessary attention to yourself and warrants a manual review. For example, in the movie American Gangster, Denzel Washington’s character is a low key drug dealer who profits big under the radar. However, it’s not until he wears an expensive fur coat (a gift from his wife) to a public sporting event that the authorities take notice of him and eventually figure him out. Don’t make the same mistake!

Final notes
SEO is getting harder and the days of tricks and manipulation to obtain top rankings are almost over. In fact, you now have to trick the search engines into thinking you’re not using any tricks (i.e. by being as natural as possible).  Provide value to the your users and stay under the radar with your SEO efforts. Sure you might not get the same attention from the SEO crowd, but you’ll make up for it with more sales, conversions, and money.

Have you encountered any of these SEO criminal red flags? How has Google profiled you as an SEO with your sites?

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103 Responses to “7 Red Flags that Reveal to Google You’re an SEO Criminal – Avoid These!”

Mark - Niche Store Builder on July 15th, 2009

Good post… I do however want to argue one point. SEO’s aren’tsimilar to criminals as you mention, they are more like Attorneys, who are stretching the letter of the law to their own advantage, and making good use of the gray space inbetween, that is not written about.

Its usually SEO’s who FIND these flaws in the Google Internet and bring it to the light of day, ultimately helping Google further its efforts to control 100% of the advertising market on the web.

Having had a few of my own sites slapped down by the Big G for gaining high rankings on highly competitive, aka, high paying keywords, in the ad space, I can relate to anyone who feels the wrath of biting the hand that we count on to feed us traffic.

Bottom line in my opinion, as long as you stay out of the top 5 of SERP’s, you will never have a problem! Get into that top 5 rank on short, high volume, competitive, and most importantly AD SPEND terms, forget it… they will manually review your colon until they find a reason to push you back down!


Gyutae Park on July 16th, 2009

Hey Mark,
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The attorney analogy works as well. In the post though, I was referring to the fact that Google profiles SEOs similar to how the police may profile people with criminal records.

I don’t agree with you about purposefully staying out of the top 5 for competitive searches though. Yes, Google may monitor these sites more carefully, but why not build a valuable site that actually deserves those top 5 rankings? I think that’s the best long term strategy – building useful sites, then complementing it with aggressive SEO so that no one has reason to believe you’re doing anything wrong.

Evan on July 16th, 2009

If they are close to getting rid of the manipulation tactics, I for one am breathing a sigh of relief.

It will be great for all of us who want to provide genuine value!

Roll on the day!!!

Gyutae Park on July 16th, 2009

Manipulation will always exist as long as there’s money to be made with high Google rankings. Sorry to burst your bubble!

What I’m saying here is that Google is taking a harder stance on SEOs who are openly attempting to get their sites to the top of the rankings. Spammers and black hat SEOs aren’t going anywhere – but they will have to adapt to survive as search technology advances and Google looks to manually edits their sites.

Mark on July 16th, 2009

Lol 🙂

Do you happen to have an example of a site that was penalised for buying links?

Didn’t think so.

Gyutae Park on July 16th, 2009

I wouldn’t say penalized – I don’t think that’s the right word to use here. I don’t think Google gives out penalties to sites it thinks are buying links. Instead, the links themselves are devalued, which then may result in a drop in rankings (looks like a straight penalty but that’s not how it works). Otherwise, competitors can buy tons of links to other sites in order to sabotage them.

There are plenty of examples of links being devalued, if that’s what you meant.

TheMadHat on August 24th, 2009

I do, and it can be verified from several different sources in the same industry. And it was certainly a penalty and not a link devaluation.

Mark on July 16th, 2009

“not enough deep links to other pages”

I can show top ranking companies in finance (mortgages, credit cards, loans) and travel who have in excess of 98% of their links to the homepage.

Do you *really* think this?

Gyutae Park on July 16th, 2009

I believe you. There are many sites that have links to only their homepage and still manage to rank at the top. There will always be ways to manipulate the algorithm.

However, what I’m getting at in this article is that you don’t want to trip any filters or raise any red flags that may suggest you’re an aggressive SEO. This will only draw attention to yourself and could result in a manual edit of your site.

How natural is it for a site to ONLY have links to the homepage, and none of the other content? Over time, I think something like that would raise some eyebrows if its strictly being done by manipulation.

Another Blogger on July 16th, 2009

I agree with Google. Sometime people love to much to grow instant. A new blogger always asking around for link exchange. I think better make a good content rather than asking around like that.
About the keywords, Google still smarter than us. Natural phrase is better than pushing up keyword on a paragraph.
Thanks Brother to remind us with this great article.

Gyutae Park on July 16th, 2009

SEO will always exist as long as Google and the other search engines remain an integral part of the web. However, Google is working to neutralize all optimization efforts so that results are a set of the best sites, not the most optimized sites.

SEOs will just have to adapt to Google’s changes.

Vin | NaturalBias.com on July 16th, 2009

Great article, Gyutae! When I first started blogging, I was initially highly motivated to do a lot of SEO, but the more I read about it, the less worth while it seems. I’ve since resorted to the strategy of relying on good content and trying to use relevant wording. I get reasonable search engine traffic and it continues to grow, so I can’t really complain. I’m not a fan of asking for links anyway!

Good point about nofollow. I think I’ll remove it from my site as well.

Gyutae Park on July 16th, 2009

Hey Vin,
I do understand your frustrations, but I wouldn’t recommend completely abandoning SEO. Keyword research is still very important (incorporating the most frequently searched keywords in highly visible areas) and so is obtaining links (doesn’t have to be exchanges and begging).

SEO is becoming more and more about marketing and less about manipulation though, so you can still focus on providing value to your readers and end up at the top of Google. I’m just saying that it helps if you know how SEO works and focus on improving your signals of quality (not necessarily manipulation).

Dean Saliba on July 16th, 2009

I don’t suffer from any of those that you listed, ah the wonders of being a noob at blogging. 😛

Gyutae Park on July 16th, 2009

They’re still good things to watch out for as you gain more experience with your blog. 🙂 Good luck.

Money Making Ideas on July 16th, 2009

JohnChow definitely did the wrong thing in SEO by asking others to link him in his way, Google did penalize him for years I guess. I can only say that link exchange doesn’t have the value and quality when it comes to SEO and ranking anymore, it doesn’t help at all in Web 2.0, but quality content does.
I believe that Google is human control when it comes to rank a site right now, so writing quality content might really helps in ranking.

Well said Gyutae and nice tips.


Gyutae Park on July 16th, 2009

John Chow has a high traffic blog, so anything that he does is scrutinized even more by Google. By being so loud about what he was doing to manipulate the rankings, it forced Google to smack him down and make an example of him. That’s John’s style, but it doesn’t help him in cases like this.

Link exchanges used to work 3-4 years ago, but definitely not so much anymore.

Money Making Ideas on July 16th, 2009

Absolutely, perhaps he should do it quietly without letting Google to know what he has done? But I think he doesn’t need better search engine ranking right now as he is well known in the blogopshere and he receive tons of traffic every day.

Anyway, link exchange doesn’t work anymore now. So better we concentrate on the content and article marketing to get more one-way backlinks.


(Comments wont nest below this level)
Dare on July 16th, 2009

If you think that the days or finishing manipulating Search engines is over then frankly you either have no idea of IM or you haven’t ever visited any decent black hat SEO community…

Gyutae Park on July 16th, 2009

I agree – the days of manipulation are not over, but I think the days of OBVIOUS manipulation are. For example, you can’t just engage in cloaking or buy tons of obvious links to rank anymore.

As long as obtaining high Google rankings remains profitable, there will always be smart people who find loopholes to get ahead. However, Google is making it harder and you really have to stay under the radar to make it work.

In this article, I outline the red flags that may draw attention to yourself as an SEO – and get smacked as a result. However, if you play it smart and stay natural, a lot of the more aggressive SEO tactics can still go unnoticed.

Pete Hollier on July 16th, 2009

Great Article

You know it all boils down to a truly Holistic approach to good SEO. Its not about tricks or over optimization its all about ensuring all the finer points have been evaluated and optimized.

If we all work towards the user in general SEO falls into place without any sneaky tricks

Good content good links and a site with good code will do well in the end

Gyutae Park on July 16th, 2009

Good point, Peter. As I mentioned before, SEO is becoming more about overall marketing strategy and less about manipulation. Of course, you still need to focus on important technical components like keyword research and site structure, but as long as you figure out a way to get links from your marketing and have a valuable site, SEO should fall into place like you said.

Davis on July 16th, 2009

Very informative post. Google definitely feels like big brother in terms of what they know about people.

Raza Imam on July 16th, 2009

So if SEO is getting harder and Google is profiling SEO’s, is social media a better way to generate traffic? Especially given the fact that sites like Facebook (not crawlable by Google) are trying to capture more and more of the web away from Google?

SEO is fascinating stuff, but it looks like it’s not really worth it, or at least won’t be in the near future.


Gyutae Park on July 16th, 2009

Hi Raza,
When I said that SEO is getting harder, I meant that it’s getting harder for common webmasters to “trick” the engines into giving them better rankings. In other words, things like link exchanges and on-page SEO – while important for a solid SEO foundation – won’t easily give your site top rankings like in the past.

SEO is becoming more about overall marketing and less about tricks and manipulation and this trend will continue as the engines get more advanced.

SEO is definitely worth it – it offers a steady stream of super targeted traffic. You definitely don’t want to give up on it. What I’m saying is that rather than focus on building links solely for SEO, build your business and the SEO will come with it over time.

Yes, optimizing your site structure, and strategically obtaining links is important too – but as I said, these efforts should support the quality of your site and match up.

Mark on July 16th, 2009

I wouldn’t bother, not even that many people use Google anymore 8)

Gyutae Park on July 16th, 2009

Haha, in case you can’t tell, he’s being sarcastic.

Dare on July 16th, 2009

Raze Iman man you’re kinda late 😉 Can’t you see what all big sites are doing now…creating content for social media. viral content that gets links. Better see what people are DOING instead of what they’re saying, my friend.

Raza Imam on July 16th, 2009

@Mark: so what about the Google Keyword Tool that says 400,000 people searched for “pet supplies” last month? Is that data inaccurate?

If people aren’t searching on Google, where should marketers position themselves? Last I heard Google had amazing financial results last quarter, so can you please explain what you mean when you say not that many people search on Google?


Gyutae Park on July 16th, 2009

He was being sarcastic. 😛

Raza Imam on July 16th, 2009


Point taken… yes, I am SUPER LATE on the social media bandwagon. I’m too lazy to Twitter. Not interested in sharing pics on Facebook. I never got into MySpace (thank God 😉

Thanks for enlightening an “old soul” like me that just doesn’t get the commercial viability of social media. I mean you can get traffic, but how many people are ready to spend money? Or is that not the point with social media. Is the point to create a relationship and then eventually sell them?


Gyutae Park on July 16th, 2009

I think the main point here is that social media and SEO work TOGETHER to promote your site. Driving traffic through social media also builds links and having high Google rankings may give you more mentions on social sites.

You shouldn’t necessarily pick one over the other, but should use both as a part of a holistic online marketing campaign.

Dare on July 16th, 2009

Lol Raza not that I think that is BS…or maybe isn’t for some niches.

I was thinking of using social media for getting links from sites you would otherwise not get.

If you ever heard about SEOMoz they have great beginner video and that guy Randy which is the founder I think mentions one concept of ‘reaching the influencers’ – people that give links to other sites or people that make other people to link (Techcrunch, Mashable etc etc…) He talks about MAKING CONTENT FOR THE INFLUENCERS FOR GETTING LINKS. That was my point. I use social media for getting links and I’m pretty successful at it…like very few guys who also know what they’re doing.

Since I’ll guess you’re in IM I’m gonna share one successful viral post I made:

http://webupon.com/money-making/seven-powerful-money-making-websites-t hat-will-blow-your-mind/

It got 40.000 visitors from Stumble Upon (That time I’ve used Stumble Upon to get traffic.) Let’s see now about the LINKS…I remind you all I did was create this post and submit it to stumbleupon (ok maybe I gave it to 2-3 people to give it a ‘thumbs up’ and leave a review also.)

http://www.google.com/#hl=en&q=%22Seven+Powerful+Money-making+Websites +That+Will+Blow+Your+Mind%22&aq=f&oq=&aqi=&fp=KxYPMM6r3XA

Woo hoo! 7500 mentions on the web! Over 3000 links!

Now here’s the thing…WHY did it get so many links? Because over 40.000 people saw it…and guess what some of them were “influencers” people that have websites/blogs (and these days powerful twitter profiles and big number of facebook friends)…

even someone from about.com saw it and linked to it 😉

That’s my point. You need to learn how to make this type of content. If you’re into Internet marketing actively we can talk about this if you want to.

The thing that I should be loving (and I hate this) is that not many people know about what I told you about before…so they optimize pages for keyword optimization and focus almost 80% of their efforts on article directories (ha ha)…yeah on-page SEO should be OPTIONAL…don’t think it will get you traffic lol I just treat it as the bare ‘essentials.’


Gyutae Park on July 16th, 2009

Thanks for sharing that great example! Social media is definitely a great way to not only drive traffic, but to reach the “linkerati” (i.e. the influencers who have the power to drive links).

It’s my belief that SEO will be more about exposure and engagement in the future – and not so much about building links everywhere. The closer you are to providing real people with value on your sites, the better your chances of long term SEO success.

George Velez on July 16th, 2009

Hi. Found this article via, you guessed it, a google search for “google seo”! Now on to check out the rest of your site. Thanks, George.

PalmPreReviewer on July 16th, 2009

@Dare: Thanks for the example. You are obviously a marketing expert and I can learn a lot from you. How do you monetize all of this traffic? Do you find social media traffic to be fickle, or do they end up buying from you?


Dare on July 16th, 2009

PalmPreReviewer I’m not exactly an expert man nobody is today really…depends on what you mean by ‘expert.’ I don’t have constant success in this area I have some successes and some failures like everyone else. The thing is that social media traffic is kinda optional for me…I usually make a list of ‘top bla bla things/sites/ to bla bla bla’ – make it interesting (see cracked.com for examples they’re the only site worth watching for ‘lists’ these days they really perfectized them). And I put in that list on the 2nd thing I mention for example 3 things to bla bla…1) the BEST resource this is very important but your best stuff you have at the beginning 2) your aff CPA link 🙂 social traffic don’t buy but they convert (although very badly) on CPA offers. That’s the thing I do I am now experiencing some problems since lists became a bit of cliche everyone’s using them (duh!) so I am trying to find a way to make them better. Constant improvement man, constant improvement.

Dare on July 16th, 2009

Gyutae Park I had a big insight that I give credits to Randy from SEOMoz

What converts best?

No it’s not the most optimized sites in SEO

No it’s not the sites that offer best content!

It’s the sites that offer most LINK WORTHY CONTENT!!! Even Matt Cutts in one video said when one guy asked him he has a site in a big niche and wanna promote him…Matt told him to make it unique so it stands out and other link to it (in other words, make LINK WORTHY CONTENT.) Lists are one link worthy type of content…although they’re becoming cliche…so we’ll have to find some good alternatives.

Okay I hate to share this..I am not really used to giving people this kind of stuff but…take a look at this guy’s site he’s making lists but like drawings and they almost always go crazy on SU/Digg/Twitter:

Also quizzes help a lot…they go wild on Facebook and Twitter I’ve noticed since everyone wants to post their ‘scores’ there

The important thing is to try to make it as much as more to have GENERAL APPEAL…not niche. You can make any niche general appeal btw…

For example even obscure niche like insurance…you can make a headline like:

7 Things in your everyday life you don’t need insured (and make some funny post…)

Dare on July 16th, 2009

By the way I meant not convert best but what are the MOST SUCCESSFUL sites (in terms of SEO) at the beginning of my previous comment.

Raza Imam on July 16th, 2009


You’re a sharp guy man. Thanks for sharing 0at.org. Do you have a website? Is there a way you and I can get in touch?

I’m starting to see your point. Creating this type of linkbait is important for getting links… and lots of them very fast. I do see the SEO value in that as well as the viral traffic value.

As an example, Google “bunk beds”. The first result is BunkBeds.net They have a quiz about how long you could survive chained to a bunk bed with a velociraptor. They sell bunk beds for kids, but this viral quiz helped them shoot up to the top of Google. So yes, I am finally seeing the value of this stuff.

By the way, I accidentally logged in as “PalmPreReviewer” so that was me. Like I said, you have a ton of great insight and I’d like to chat with you sometime. You can contact me via http://www.IsometricExerciseSite.com


Aurélien on July 17th, 2009

And what about managing all of your websites in a same google webmaster tools account ? isn’t a way to reveal to google that all this websites (with different IP, no links between them) are depending of a SEO criminal? or the number of websites managed ?

Liane YoungBlogger on July 17th, 2009

Fantastic! This is the very post I’ve been looking forward to read on someone’s blog for ages. 😀

Nick Stamoulis on July 17th, 2009

I think if you approach your SEO efforts like a business looking to proactively brand themselves on you will build your links much more naturally avoiding the prying eyes of any Google engineer.

Rob Woods on July 17th, 2009

Not sure I agree with point 7. I’m in a mainstream commercial industry and I see lots of spammy, “money” sites with very spammy link profiles in the top 5 results for high volume keywords and they’ve been there for ages. I’m not sure Google checks nearly as much as they’d like everyone to think. Then again, almost all of those sites also have AdSense ads on them, hmmmmm…..

Noah on July 17th, 2009

I’m with you, Rob. There’s just no way they could be checking very many top ranking sites very often, what with all the content that’s out there. Otherwise they wouldn’t need to rely so much on other people to report spammy sites.

Darrin J. Ward on July 17th, 2009

I’m surprised that links from within signatures on SEO forums isn’t down as a red flag. That’s where active and aggressive SEO’s promote their services.

BTW… the tab index on this comment form is odd. Clicking tab after the name field brings my cursor to the name field of “the winning way” promotion in the top right, rather than the email field in this form (using Safari on Mac).

Timothy Carter on July 17th, 2009

Great post Gyutae.

I’ve worked hard in the two months I’ve had my new social media networking blog up to go from a PR rank of zero to three by avoiding all the “SEO Criminal” tactics that Google seems to look for.

I think the best response I saw you make Gyutae, is that if you are creating quality content and value, making it into the top 5 Google ranks for the keywords you’re striving for will come naturally.

Cade Lee on July 17th, 2009

I sincerely appreciate the post, I think it is extremely useful. I wonder a couple of things. Don’t you think that Google is starting with massive operations, meaning that smaller SEO firms probably don’t matter as much to Google. I just can’t see Google really focusing too much on small operations. I am not suggesting that smaller SEO firms can go out and black hat or automate their operations, but I do think they might have some more flexibility with their techniques.

Funny thing is the mention you had made of SEO bragging about their techniques online. I never really thought about this, yet I see SEO professionals doing it frequently.

Yasir Khan on July 17th, 2009


Great post! There is so much stuff in the post which makes me smile.

But the criminal part I do not agree with. There are so many people who legally exploit the system! They are everywhere. I would not say they are criminals but I understand how Google looks at them.

But if all SEO consultants would stop performing these services, corporations competing for SERPS would be the first to fall, because their monthly budget for SEO falls at around $30,000 (to say the least).

Bottom line is that SEO is here to stay, no matter what Google does.

diarmuid ryan on July 18th, 2009

It seems to be getting harder to follow all of Google’s rules and avoid their penalties, especially when these rules and penalties are changed so often

SEPo on July 18th, 2009

Not much I can add to all those comments and views above – but a brilliant article and insight into the constant battle between us and Google. Kudos.

Ed on July 19th, 2009

It was a good read, but I’ve seen one common misconception about Google being mentioned.

Google doesn’t have access to ALL WHOIS information, there is only access to WHOIS information you and everybody else as well have access to.

When someone has a private domain registration with Registrar A then Registrar B can in no way determine who is the domain registrant, because that information isn’t made public.

Google can’t tap in to the customer databases of registrars, and when a private registration is being used the registrant details are unknown to any other party then the registrar offering the private registration service.

If a WHOIS look up is being done all that will be revealed is the private domain registration information. For you, for me, for everyone, including Google…

The registries don’t even have the registrant information when a private registration is being used…

You should correct that in the article.

Gokkast on July 20th, 2009

Great post although I have my doubts that pagerank sculpting is blackhat?

Mike Huang on July 22nd, 2009

I wonder when they will start cracking down on paid 125×125 ads 😀 Anyways, this whole list is still just an assumption. YOu could do ALL of those and still walk away with it. It all just comes down to who tattle tells and how big your site is.


Keller Hawthorne on July 23rd, 2009

I’ve been a web designer, SEO and Internet business owner for 4 years now. I recently launched my own Internet business blog (FresheVenture.com) on May 8, 2009. Within 7 weeks, I was able to gain a Google PageRank of 6 on my home page.

I am NOT afraid to talk about how I did this (I’ve even written an article and recorded a podcast for my visitors about how to do this) because I have NOT used ANY black-hat techniques.

SEO seems to have such a negative reputation these days when in fact the proper way of performing SEO falls directly in line with Google’s help center guidelines.

It’s all about CONTENT – quality content that is updated OFTEN and CONSISTENTLY.

Other less important factors include:

Meta Tags
Strong Internal Linking Structure
QUALITY Inbound Links

I must disagree with one point in particular that you made:

“Your sites are all tied together = easy target”

If your websites are related to one another, there is absolutely nothing wrong with linking them up. Google is in the business of providing relevant and quality content to search users. If you offer that on more than one site, why would Google punish you?

SEO should be about ensuring that your website is PROPERLY indexed in search engines (rather than attempting to rank for something you truly have no business ranking for).

Great article with lots of ideas for discussion!

Rockstar Template Themes on July 25th, 2009

Nice Post !

Nice points that i have never heard before !

irtiza104 on July 25th, 2009

That was a really informative post. i better go and delete the links from my blogs to my other blogs. 🙁

Bikin blog on July 27th, 2009

Thanks for the warning, i learning here.

hidemypants on July 27th, 2009

It is a good info for me..
SEO is just a competitor for google ads

PLR Videos on July 29th, 2009

These are clear warning signs of course. Google is as always very secretive about guaranteed SEO tactics, otherwise, they will be paying off hefty checks in a month and it will be a great loss for them. Talking about monopoly! 🙂

Andrew on July 29th, 2009

I noticed that you still make it public on your about me box and page that you call yourself and SEO.

Will you be following your own advice and removing that or do you think that it’s not a very big concern for people to leave that sort of information on their about pages?

Andrew on July 29th, 2009

Gyutae you need to take a look at your ’email commenters’ plugin. I’ve just recieved 4 emails from it all spaced about 4 minutes apart. Just thought you should know.

4MIN on July 30th, 2009

It has long subscribed to your blog, many thanks for raising the important topics!

EarningStep on July 30th, 2009

this is really a great tips that make me learn more about seo . i really enjoy this post . especially for the number three tips

eCancerAwareness on July 31st, 2009

I am getting really sick of all the SEO spam I’ve been getting lately. It’s especially annoying when a site is already at the top of Google… of course they don’t tell you what keywords they’d have you at the top for.

Affordable Web Design on August 1st, 2009

I have the latest versions of Firefox 3 and Google Toolbar 5. I’ve entered 3 profiles multiple times, closed Firefox and rebooted my pc and each time I come back, my Autofill profiles are gone again. I also use the PageRank tool and every time I reboot, the PageRank is gone again too and I have to manually add it back.

Bob Hughes on August 2nd, 2009

As someone just getting started, what I take from all of this discussion is that if you focus on creating good quality content accompanied with good keyword research and the basic rules of building a blog or website, you should be good to go. It is when you push the boundaries trying to get that extra edge that google might take notice and penalize you. Is that right?

Keller Hawthorne on August 2nd, 2009

Bob – I would say you summed it up perfectly!

Igor Kheifets on August 2nd, 2009

I do not agree with the statement that
nofollow attribute makes you look like an SEO criminal.

It is being used by all the advanced SEO experts. Why does
it make you look like you’re cheating? Doesn’t make any sense.


Ann Marie Dennis on August 3rd, 2009

Wow, it’s scary what Google can find out. I can see where they’re coming from though, lets make things simple and have good quality content rich sites reach the top of Google. 🙂


Mortgage Modifications on August 3rd, 2009

If only Google knew how many website owners are cunningly doing these to circumvent it. It will definitely go ballistic! 🙂

preston web design on August 4th, 2009

A wonderful post, I find the whole SEO world a scary thing, its a risk. It has to be done, but knowing that google can take everything away with the click of its webby finger scares me. Google has too much power, I do hope Bing takes off to ease things off a bit

Peter Davies on August 4th, 2009

Thanks for the warning with this, I’m just getting off the start line with Internet Marketing and am keen to avoid falling into these traps if possible.

Quite scary to know that one organisation has us all over a barrel!

Cade Lee on August 4th, 2009

The last comment is driving me nuts (no offense Peter), I hear it all the time. “Google has so much power”, etc. Yes they do, and quite honestly, they have helped me build a pretty fantastic business. I don’t know if the post is completely accurate, but at the same time, we are in a non-regulated industry. Google is trying the best that they can to regulate and give guidelines. Without any guidelines, then where would we be? Still using GOPHER?

Keller Hawthorne on August 5th, 2009

Cade – I couldn’t agree with you more! It seems people who hate Google tend to be people who don’t understand the rules or procedures involved in ranking well. Of course I understand this frustration – when I first started online, I didn’t understand SEO.

A couple of my online businesses rely completely on Search Engine traffic (mainly Google). Google is in business to provide relevant and fresh content to its users. The point of SEO is to help Google determine your relevancy – not convince them you’re relevant to something you’re not.

Google has the power it has because of the awesome job it does at providing relevant search results. If you follow Google’s guidelines and optimize your website properly, you can receive more traffic from Google than any other search engine – it is still the most popular.

preston web design – SEO is NOT a risk. It’s a fundamental aspect of developing a website. Using black hat techniques is a risk. SEO has nothing to do with cheating, lying or deceiving. It’s literally just following search engines’ guidelines for helping them understand what your website is about.

Theo on August 10th, 2009

Let’s say we’ve been kicked out of google, but we’re so new to SEO that we don’t know why, or know how to find out why. How do we go about fixing this problem? My site rent-time.com was on the front page of google, and now, I’m not even on the last page. I don’t know what I did, but I would really like to fix it. Who do I contact, or how do I go about doing this?

Also, I recently checked for errors on my site using the webmaster tools, and it showed up a bunch of 404 error pages that are going from my domain rent-time.com/blahblahblahblah. Links I never created. How the heck did those get there, and what can I do about those? Is that what’s effecting my ranking? Thanks for the article.

Vance on August 18th, 2009

Hi Gyutae,

I appreciate the fact that you provide this great information in your blog.

There seems to be a lot of fear about Google which is completely unfounded if you follow their guidelines. What they are after is providing web surfers with high quality content.

It is in their own interest of course but it is also for the overall benefit of web users.

The fact that manipulators of the system will always exist is obvious.

Your providing the warning flags will serve honest people online who may at times become victims of the so called experts who promise easy and quick money to anyone who will follow their tactics. Honest people may then want to find out what Google really wants.

Taking the time to study Google webmaster guidelines is a time well spent.

Chris Peterson on August 19th, 2009

I would like to say that its a fabulous post & does give a supportive ideas o work on SEO better. However thats somewhere bound to happen if the sole focus of website is around SEO & not where it should be: content. No matter how much search is needed, we reach our destination, once its known to have it for you.

chanel bags@voguehit on August 27th, 2009

I’m glad to be here and read your excellent article.It reminds us to avoid some common mistakes we meet.I want to know is it still not very proper to buy links from some othe high page rank sites?

catrosinfo on September 7th, 2009

It is a very good information for me, i learn here.

Frumusete on September 11th, 2009

nofollow – I am sure it isn’t a big red flad to google

moratmarit on September 12th, 2009

Thanks for information..:)

asteg on September 18th, 2009

On number two red flag, I am thinking about that too lately. Most of my account information are in Google Docs and Gmail, and I am using Adsense and Analytics all in one account. I am sure Google will be clever enough to find out any information about my sites through all of their products I am using. Too bad for me. I should take action now.

Ali Qayyum on October 15th, 2009

this is really awesome article through out my IT knowledge. best tips to avoid it. can u tell me? how should i add meta tag in each page of blogger.com , http://alisoft7.blogspot.com this is my blog
do u know?

John Glass on November 11th, 2009

Red Flag Number 3 really struck home for me.

Many people offer different advice when it comes to keyword density in the body of webpage. Some people suggest that it should be below 5% of all words while others recommend as much as 10%. Either way I believe it is much better to be safe than to be sorry. Thank you for the great tips.

SEO Link Company on December 16th, 2009

Good thing you made this post. I have now an idea of how to possibly avoid situations like this.

The Truth on March 5th, 2010

is #4 based on experience or belief? if this was true, competitors can easily sabotage each other.

Sushie on March 13th, 2010

An article very informative, thanks for sharing it, a must-read to avoid all those red flags!

Jan@Cake Airbrush on March 20th, 2010

Thanks for the red flag tips. I’ve recently had a couple of sites slapped down from top 5 positions to 480+ and I don’t know why. Looking at your list, maybe it’s #3 “Your site is over-optimized for certain keywords”. My question is .. if you are writing about on a laser targeted subject, say omega watches, how can you not mention omega or watch or watches in the article when writing naturally. Google is forcing us to write un-naturally to stay in its good books.

Mobile Website Bulder on May 11th, 2010

I’ve been using Market Samurai to ID quality sites with relevant content and drilling down to their internal pages where I find common keywords that I blog about. So far, this tactic has done OK for me.

What I’d like to know, is how the new crop of mobile marketers can use similar techniques to get our Mobile sites index and ranked for keyword phrases that will drive traffic to our mobile sites?

Sunny Martin on June 11th, 2010

I think these are really good points. I always suggest to do SEO as natural as possible. Even writing content should not be done with keyword density in mind. Instead, it should be from user point of view. In other words. Try to avoid google and you will be there in the rankings.

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