Media Morph: Google Death Penalty

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What it is: When a company is "blacklisted"-removed from Google's index so that user searches do not yield links to the company's Web site-as punishment for manipulating search results in a way inconsistent with Google's rules.

Who's been blacklisted: The German Web sites of Ricoh and BMW.

What they did: Ricoh and BMW violated Google's Web master quality guidelines by presenting different content to search engines than they displayed to users. The German Web sites used search-engine-optimization techniques that are verboten by Google.

The Web sites enhanced their ranking in search results using unethical search-engine optimization techniques such as "doorway" pages crammed with hidden keywords that misrepresent a Web page's content, or JavaScript redirection that shuttled users to a different URL than the search had identified.

Is it permanent? No. Owners of blacklisted sites can submit requests to Google to be reinstated after removing the offending pages and scripts. Both Ricoh and BMW's sites have been restored to the search-engine index.

What Google says: "We cannot tolerate Web sites trying to manipulate search results as we aim to provide users with relevant and objective search results," a spokesperson said.

Why should you care? The consequences of blacklisting are apparent-you need your clients to be able to find you through Google. Unfortunately, you might not even know that your Web site is at risk. A Web site's owner is responsible for any nefarious manipulations of search-engine results undertaken by a search-engine optimizer. Be wary of any SEO that guarantees a No. 1 ranking or does not reveal its methodology.

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