Answer: Major search engines penalize or even ban Web sites that use deceptive techniques to artificially drive search results. Here are five practices you should avoid:
Shadow domains. Many search engine optimization companies will create multiple Web sites by using several different domain names to artificially boost search results for one Web site. These represent one of the most common tricks out there.
Doorway pages. Creating doorway pages, or duplicating similar content on several pages to expand keywords and drive traffic, is inefficient and can hold significant penalties. Instead, focus on altering and optimizing the actual page.
Invisible text. Using text that is the same color as the background of the Web page used to be one of the most abused approaches to drive traffic to Web sites, until the search engines cracked down on this method. The more effective alternative is to make the content on the site as descriptive as possible for users.
Link farms. "Link farms" are used to create links to your site from other irrelevant or illegitimate Web sites. There are natural ways to build your link popularity, but as a general rule of thumb you never should link to a site that you don't know.
Cloaking. This technology shows a Web surfer one version of a page and the search engines a completely different page. Check your site by searching your Web address and clicking on the "cached" page. This will show you what the search engines are seeing and indexing.
Anthony Muller is director of search optimization at Range Online Media, a search marketing company with offices in Fort Worth, Texas, and New York.
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.