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Search Engine Penalties at Yahoo & MSN

Marcela De Vivo
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In the second of a two-part article, we look at search engine penalties applied by Yahoo and MSN, and how webmasters can avoid them, or get them removed once sites are in the penalty box.

Yahoo's search engine penalties

Yahoo has many penalties, but their systems are much more enigmatic than Google's. Some penalties are fair, while many people complain in the forums about receiving unfair penalties with Yahoo. I personally have witnessed both.

Yahoo has a very strict spam control department, thus they have many penalties that are applied automatically and many others that are manual.

The main difference between Yahoo and Google is that penalties in Google are automatically removed, while removing penalties in Yahoo is very difficult and can only be accomplished manually, by requesting that Yahoo remove the penalty via email.

In Yahoo's guidelines pages for webmasters, the following is considered spam:

  • Pages that harm accuracy, diversity or relevance of search results
  • Pages dedicated to directing the user to another page
  • Pages that have substantially the same content as other pages
  • Sites with numerous, unnecessary virtual hostnames
  • Lots of pages that were automatically generated or of little value
  • Pages using methods to artificially inflate search engine ranking
  • The use of text that is hidden from the user
  • Pages that give the search engine different content than what the end-user sees
  • Excessively cross-linking sites to inflate a site's apparent popularity
  • Pages built primarily for the search engines
  • Misuse of competitor names
  • Multiple sites offering the same content
  • Pages that use excessive pop-ups, interfering with user navigation
  • Pages that seem deceptive, fraudulent or provide a poor user experience

Other Yahoo penalties that I have encountered as an SEO:

  • Acquiring too many inbound links too quickly
  • Setting up sites especially to boost link popularity for other sites
  • Multiple domains owned and promoted by one company
  • Linking to other sites using a 302 redirect
  • cgi scripted links that pointed from other sites to your site, fooling Yahoo's robot's into believing your site has duplicate content
  • High anchor density due to scraper sites using similar anchor text, which is the title of the site found in the engines

How do you determine if Yahoo has penalized your site?

Yahoo's penalties are implemented automatically but function differently from Google penalties. Instead of demoting sites, Yahoo removes all of the pages for that website from their database, leaving only the home page.
Yahoo lists the home page of every website they have crawled so that users can still find a specific website by name. However if they search for keywords relating to that website, it won't be found.

To determine if this is the case, do a site search on yahoo.com for the domain in question (site:www.site.com) and, if only the home page appears, the site has a penalty.

How to remove Yahoo penalties

Penalties in Yahoo tend to be permanent and can only be manually removed. Therefore, if your site is penalized, I recommend the following:

1. Based on the information given above from Yahoo's guidelines, try to determine what caused the penalty
2. Fix the problem
3. Write to Yahoo at [email protected] and explain the steps you've taken to fix the problem

Recently, a few people have reported that they have written to Yahoo and gotten their site re-included very quickly.
Another method is to pay for Yahoo's site match program and ask them specifically to review your site for penalties. The disadvantage of this is that, thereafter, you would have to pay for every click sent from Yahoo's search engine.

If you're having no luck getting your site listed into Yahoo and would prefer not to pay the site match fees, you could also consider creating another site specifically for Yahoo. You could use similar content as your other site. However, to avoid duplicate content problems with Google, I would suggest using robots.txt files to block Google from crawling the new site Yahoo from crawling the old one.

The disadvantage of this method is that you have to acquire links to two sites, thus splitting your efforts. The advantage is that you can get another site into Yahoo's index without paying for site match or hoping they will some day list your site. Additionally, you can engage in optimization techniques specific to each engine.

MSN search engine penalties

MSN has the fewest penalties of any search engine. Currently, they are applying only basic spam checking filters and consequently, penalties are few and spam abundant.

MSN describes the following as undesirable:

The following items and techniques are not appropriate uses of the index:

  • Use of these items and techniques may affect how your site is ranked within MSN Search and may result in the removal of your site from the MSN Search index.
  • Loading pages with irrelevant words in an attempt to increase a page's keyword density. This includes stuffing ALT tags that users are unlikely to view
  • Using hidden text or links. You should use only text and links that are visible to users
  • Using techniques to artificially increase the number of links to your page, such as link farms

Conclusion

To ensure that your site performs well and ranks consistently, consider the brick and mortar analogy. Treat your site like your store. Study what works, and build on it. Announce your site without engaging in "illegal" practices. As you're working on your site, think "If Sergey Brin reviewed my site, would he approve of it?" This will help you to establish and maintain a successful site.

Marcela De Vivo is a search engine optimization consultant and the owner of SEOmind.com.


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