Don't use ranking "tricks"

> Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings

Updated: November 6th 2015

'Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel comfortable explaining what you've done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, "Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?"'

- from the Google webmaster guidelines 1

What are tricks?

  • Tricks are attempts to manipulate search engine results.
  • The more time you spend attempting to manipulate search engine results, the less time you have spent on creating quality content that helps your users.
  • Google has identified that, as a trend, websites that exhibit indications of search engine manipulation attempts are in general less relevant than websites that spend time on their users.
  • To determine if some thing you are doing is a trick, ask yourself "would I do this if search engines did not exist?"

Googlebot is getting hard to trick.

The Google guidelines

The best place to get information about how to rank well in Google is from Google itself.

The information Google has provided is the Google webmaster guidelines.

Every thing else is opinion and conjecture.

Google has given you a map of how to rank well. That map is the Google guidelines.

This site you are reading explains each of those guidelines, but if you have a website and you have not read the full Google guidelines (it is only one page), then you are risking your ranking in some manner.

Many things that are considered "tricks" by Google are things that are currently considered normal operating procedures by new webmasters. Unfortunately many people have been told ways to improve their rankings by SEO consultants, friends or articles on the web that used to work for people but now have stopped working. Because of this "collected wisdom" of how to improve your ranking, many people are now using "tricks" without even knowing it.

The goal of this website is to help people find ways to follow the Google webmaster guidelines and when I first made it is 2006, I couldn't wait to make a good, clean website that was following the guidelines and see what happened.

I avoided "tricks" when making this website. I avoided everything Google recommends to avoid. I followed the Google webmaster guidelines. I almost expected that this website wouldn't do well in Google because in my attempt to "be clean" I did not do many things that are considered by SEO "experts" as good ideas.

On Google this site has ranked on the first page for "Google webmaster guidelines" for several years

Here are a couple of things I did that were specifically against what most SEO "experts" are saying, but are recommended by the guidelines. These things are "tricks of the trade", but in the case of this website, I did not follow SEO experts, I followed the guidelines.

Domain name

Most people say keywords should be in your domain name.

My domain name is "" - It has no keywords in it at all.

I owned "" but chose not to use it because it would violate the trademark of Google. I owned "" and chose not to use it because it is long and cumbersome. I thought of a shorter memorable name and decided upon "Varvy".

  • When choosing my domain name I thought of users. Is it memorable to people? I did not think of search engines.

Word Usage

Most people say to have certain keywords in certain positions or certain percentages or to repeat your keywords a whole bunch of times within your content.

As I wrote my web pages, I did not write it or change one word of it for what search engines "want" I wrote all my pages in the same way I writing this one right now, with users in mind.

If me explaining how to follow a guideline does not require me using keywords then I will not add them just because search engines "want" them. It is more important that I explain the guidelines well then it is to rank for various terms in Google or any other search engine.

I want users (like you) to find this site useful. If they do, they will tell their friends, or recommend it to others. (By the way, if you find this site useful - please share it with others)

A website - ON ANY SUBJECT - that is useful and recommended by people to each other will become more successful than a "perfectly optimized for search engines" website.

  • When writing my web pages my goal is to useful to people reading it, not to search engines.

Are those "tricks"?

Choosing your domain name wisely and the way you use words within your website are common examples of where virtually everyone (including myself sometimes) thinks of search engines over users.

If you think about search engines first when creating content you likely aren't ranking as well as you could be.

In the opinion of Google, a website that is concentrating on quality content for their users is better than a website that is concentrating on search engine results and trickery.

There may seem to be some fundamental problems with the above sentence. For example, what if someone who is concentrating on quality content creates a bad or inaccurate website that sucks, and another person creates a great website that is better but also concentrates on search engines? Wouldn't the better website be, er.. better?

Yes the better website is still better but...

In general, websites that take shortcuts or that use "tricks" are less likely to be relevant. Google has identified this trend and uses that information to rank websites.

If the website is "better" than it can be identified as "better" through the other factors that Google uses. No one Google guideline is a complete picture. Google uses hundreds of different factors in "judging" a websites relevance.

Why tricks stop working

Every technique that has ever been used to manipulate Google search engine results has gone through the following process...

  1. Someone discovers an action that increases their rankings in the Google index
  2. Other people notice and start using that action on their websites
  3. Google notices and devalues that action rendering it useless
  4. Google applies filters and penalties to websites using that action - THOSE WEBSITES ARE NOW IDENTIFIED AS USERS OF TRICKS
  5. Someone discovers another action....

This circle of events will occur every time a manipulative technique is introduced to the web (some work longer than others but they all get identified eventually).

Make your site more useful for users

The main way to ensure you are doing everything you can is to follow the Google webmaster guidelines.

The main way to rank better in Google is make your site better for users.

Patrick Sexton by Patrick Sexton