By Sharon Hassler—We’ve been providing information on how to improve your search results position in Google, so I thought a few tips on what NOT to do were in order. You don’t want to get banned by Google and dropped from their index. If that happens, you will have to clean up your website and submit a request to google for reconsideration. It could take weeks before you show up in search results!

I was recently reminded of a “black hat” technique when reviewing a friend’s new notary website. Along with the website’s content, the meta tags (title, description and keywords) are important, so I selected Page Source under View in the browser menu to see if these meta tag elements were complete. What I found in the home page code was a surprise: a paragraph that had the color of the background and the color of the font set to the same code, i.e., white on white, blue on blue, black on black. That means the text would be hidden from a site visitor but would be recognized by search engine “spiders” for robots (Spiders are robotit programs that crawl websites to collect info for their databases.) Hidden text is an old trick—and a deadly one—that search engine companies caught onto a long time ago. Their spiders still pick up the hidden text but the site may be blacklisted for using it which means that site won’t show up in any searches. Imagine working hard to get your site on page one or two of Google, then waking up one day to find you’re not in Google at all, anywhere—you’ve been banned! If your webmaster is recommending hidden text, just say “no.” If you thought hidden text was a clever trick, think again and remove it.

Another potential problem is using a service to submit information about your web site to thousands of so-called “top directories and search engines” to build backlinks to your site. Beware this tempting offer because you may find your information has been submitted to sites that are loaded with keywords repeated over and over again or jammed full of links of unrelated sites. These free-for-all (FFA) sites with no real content often get blacklisted, and your site could get caught up in the ban. In 2012, Google’s Penguin update hammered sites that had links from spammy directories and some of those sites that had been on page one of Google search results weren’t in any search results. They had to clean up and disavow all those backlinks and ask for reconsideration before they could show up again in search results.

Don’t fall into the trap of stuffing keywords on your site either. You’ve seen that done. You land on a home page and at the top or bottom are lines of keywords. This rambling list of words is there to appeal to spiders but it’s a red flag and can get your position in search engine results bumped so far back no one will ever dig deep enough to find you. This is true for your GoGetNotary profile website, too. List the counties you cover and no more than 15 or 20 cities and zips. Remember, if it looks spammy to humans, it looks spammy to spiders, too. Since the Penguin update in 2012 and Hummingbird in 2014, meta tags (titles, keywords, and descriptions) and keyword domain names have less importance. Searches are more intuitive now, even recognizing how words relate to each other. It’s all about content and social media now.

If your site does get into trouble from black-hat techniques, all is not lost. You can make the corrections needed, email the search engines and beg them to reconsider. But why take the risk and put yourself in that position? After all, Google, Bing and Yahoo are just asking you to play fair. For instance, let’s say your competition has had a website online for a few years, provided good content for visitors and has slowly, consistently developed quality back links through valid related link exchanges, directories, press releases and articles. The search engine gods don’t think it’s fair for a newcomer to cheat and jump in front of that established site. Anyone who’s ever waited patiently in line knows what “no cuts” means, and when it comes to the Internet, using unethical techniques to cut in line can result in the search engines moving you to the back of a very, very long line or completely ignoring your existence.

Instead of black hat tricks, put your effort into moving ahead legitimately by determining how your competition is using search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and social media and then doing it better. Stick to your ethical principles and you’ll avoid being banned by Google.