Search Engine Anti-Optimization

Here's a novel idea: What if you could tweak your web pages to *reduce* their search engine ranking for specific keywords and phrases? In other words, deliberately make them all but impossible to be found for your "anti top-ten" list of search terms?

Web analyst and information architect Nicholas Carroll thinks it's an excellent idea. I agree -- and I think most search engine optimization specialists will wholeheartedly embrace the idea as the next "big thing" that could, paradoxically, help their clients achieve even better results.

Here's what Carroll has to say:

"In the continual struggle between search engine administrators, index spammers, and the chaos that underlies knowledge classification, we have endless tools for 'increasing relevance' of search returns, ranging from much ballyhooed and misunderstood 'meta keywords,' to complex algorithms that are still far from perfecting artificial intelligence.

"Proposal: there should be a metadata standard allowing webmasters to manually decrease the relevance of their pages for specific search terms and phrases."

Why on earth would any sane webmaster want to deliberately cripple their rankings for some search terms and phrases?

Location, location, location.

Let's say you are a botanist, and have created the world's best site about asparagus. To your dismay, search engines are swamping your site with traffic from teeny boppers who have zero interest in your beloved vegetable. Why?

Because one of the most common queries is Britney Spears. Using Carroll's proposal, it would be a simple matter to emphasize "asparagus spears" and reduce to zero "Britney Spears" as your preferred keywords. It's almost like applying the Boolean NOT operator to a web page, rather than to a query.

Carroll's proposal is an interesting read. Whether anything comes of it is another matter, but it's certainly an idea worthy of considering by standards committees and search engines alike.

The Anti-Thesaurus:
A Proposal For Improving Internet Search While Reducing Unnecessary Traffic Loads

Search Headlines

NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication's search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.

The Google attack engine...
The Register Nov 28 2001 12:27PM GMT
ExciteAtHome Could Cease Service on Nov. 30... Nov 28 2001 8:11AM GMT
Wireless Portals Go Under...
allNetDevices Nov 28 2001 7:02AM GMT
Internet porn is still protected speech, justices should rule... Nov 28 2001 5:29AM GMT
Categorization Algorithms: The Efficiency of Technology...
Content-Wire Nov 28 2001 5:13AM GMT
Engage Adds AltaVista Search to Content Management Product...
Internet News Nov 27 2001 11:49PM GMT
Google may let surfers rank search results...
CNET Nov 27 2001 8:55PM GMT
State Loses Case Over Generic Domain...
Content-Wire Nov 27 2001 12:02PM GMT
Portal to the World... Nov 27 2001 10:20AM GMT
HALs Legacy examines state of artificial intelligence... Nov 27 2001 6:39AM GMT
Getting Your Site Listed in UK Search Engines...
Traffick Nov 27 2001 2:44AM GMT
Google PageRank Explained...
Rank Write Nov 26 2001 9:50PM GMT
Google, others dig deep--maybe too deep...
CNET Nov 26 2001 1:23PM GMT
powered by

About the author

Chris Sherman is a frequent contributor to several information industry journals. He's written several books, including The McGraw-Hill CD ROM Handbook and The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See, co-authored with Gary Price. Chris has written about search and search engines since 1994, when he developed online searching tutorials for several clients. From 1998 to 2001, he was's Web Search Guide.