Forbidden search terms and poison words

When you’re creating your keyword lists, it’s important to keep in mind that some search terms will result not in higher quality visitors, but instead in either a low ranking or even complete removal from search listings. These aren’t just ineffective keywords and phrases. These are what are called forbidden search terms or poison words. These words are known to decrease your pages’ rankings if a search engine finds them in your site’s title, description, or even in the URL. These words can either kill or lower your pages in rankings.

Here’s the problem with the forbidden or poison terms: there’s really no consistent or standard list of terms to which you can turn for guidance on the words you should not use. For example, vulgar words are usually considered to be forbidden or poison; however, you can do a search for one of these words and you’ll return a fair number of results. However, using the words in your site tagging as a means to rank high in a search will result in your site being buried or even omitted from search results.

So although there are no official lists of words that search engines use for filtering inappropriate keywords, you can figure out some guidelines for yourself. Two types of words have the potential to create issues for your site if you use them as keywords within the site or for PPC marketing purposes:

Vulgar words
Politically incorrect words (these words are especially dangerous in countries like China and North Korea where censorship is prominent).

Despite what seems like a simple list for types of words to avoid, it’s really not that simple. Many words can be excluded or even flagged by a search engine because those words are associated with search engine spam. When it becomes apparent that a word or term seems to be used strictly to rank highly, even when included on a page full of unrelated content or links, search engines will flag that word or phrase and will consider closely the relationship to other words and links on a page before making a ranking determination. The problem with that, however, is that as soon as search engines crack down on a word or phrase, another one pops up to take over.


Now, don’t confuse poison words with keyword poison. Keyword poison is actually the use of keywords on your site far too many times. When you’re including keywords on your site, you should use them only as often as necessary and not one time more than that. If you throw your keywords into the site randomly, you’re poisoning the search term ranks and run the risk of having your site knocked farther down in the ranking or even having it delisted completely as spam.

Finally, forbidden search terms and poison words are different from stop words. Stop words are those words that are so common on the Web that they are usually ignored by search engines and are completely useless in your PPC programs and other keyword marketing efforts.

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