5 Sure-Fire Ways to Not Rank in the Search Engines

Following the Bizarro SEO theme that kicked off in August, I was thinking to myself – “Self, what’s more, bizarre than not wanting to RANK?”   Here are five sure-fire ways to not rank in Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and the thousands of other search engines:

1.  Robots.txt

The robots.txt file is the first file that a spider looks for when crawling a site.  This file provides the robots with a specific set of instructions to follow.  If you don’t want to rank, this is the fastest and most effective way to block a whole site (or just a directory) from the search engines.


Life Example: To put this into a real-life context: For this Sunday’s barbecue, I’m going to shut the door to my junky spare bedroom (disallow), but leave the front door, bathroom door, family room, and dining room entrances open (allow).  I’m indicating to guests which areas of my home are ok to enter. Similarly, a robots.txt instructs the search engines on which areas of a site are available for ranking. To see an elaborate example of a site that has a lot that they don’t want ranking in the search engines, check out: https://www.whitehouse.gov/robots.txt

How To:
Whether you don’t want your entire site to rank or just a directory (such as /cgi-bin/), this file can easily be created in Notepad.  To block a complete website, type the following text into a Notepad file and save it in the root directory:

User-Agent: *
Disallow: /

This is the equivalent of dead-bolting my front door during the barbecue (not very welcoming, but it gets the message across).

2.  No Index, No Follow

So, you don’t believe that #1 will get the job done?  Let’s take it a step further.

On each page of your website, place the “No Index, No Follow” META.  That will make sure that the search engines don’t index individual pages and won’t follow any outgoing links from each page.  While we are at it, let’s add Google’s very own tag to make sure that Google doesn’t find us.

Life Example:
Following the previous example, instead of shutting doors, closing drawers, and closing cabinets during this Sunday’s barbecue, I’m going to plaster CAUTION: DO NOT ENTER tape all over the junky spare bedroom doorway and every drawer and cabinet throughout my home (disallow).  I’m leaving no room for confusion about which areas are ok to enter, but there is room for error.  What if I miss a drawer or cabinet?!  Similar to managing a website, if you implement this on a page by page basis, make sure you add this code to every page of your website or else a page may rank in the search engines.

How to:

Add the following META code to the head section of each web page:


3. Flash

Maybe, you would rather leave all of the work to a web designer?  Your sure-fire bet is to create a beautiful website all in Flash.  The key here is that every page is in flash.  We don’t want to provide any content for the search engines to crawl.

Make sure your web designer doesn’t use any of those fancy new techniques for SEO friendly flash.  We don’t want your site getting ranked accidentally.


Life Example: From the street, my home looks beautiful, you see the landscaped yard, white picket fence, a wrap-around front porch with a porch swing, and a front door painted red. However, when you try to walk up the porch steps, you fall on your face.   You try to turn the front doorknob, and your hand goes through the front door.  It’s all in your imagination – it’s just a hologram.  Just like the hologram, a flash website is beautiful from the outside, but when a search engine tries to crawl it, nothing is there.

How To:
A quick right-click of the mouse and a look at the Source Code (aka Page Source) will confirm whether you have successfully hidden your site using flash.  While viewing the source code, if you don’t see any of the text that appears on the website, you are on your way to not ranking in the search engines.

4. Text in Images

If you don’t have a site built in flash, don’t despair.  There is still hope for your web designer to keep you out of the search engine rankings. Just request that they place all of the text (spiderable content of your website) into image files.  Make sure your web designer doesn’t format the text in CSS though.  If your web designer formats the text in CSS over a background image, the search engines will still be able to crawl the content.

Life Example: Similar to the hologram example, you see my beautiful home with the perfect front yard full of tulips and grass like a golf course, the white picket fence that practically jumps out at you, and the ideal pitcher of lemonade sitting next to the porch swing.  You step forward to walk through my white picket fence, and it feels like you’ve just walked into a large curtain.  Sure enough, what you thought was my home is just a sizeable 3-D photo of my house.   You’ve stepped into a picture screen like something you would see on a movie set in Los Angeles.  Just like the images on a website, this 3-D picture has no real texture (no content for the search engines to crawl).

How To:
To confirm that all of the content on your site is hidden within the image files, follow the Source Code instructions in #4.  If you find any of your written text in the source code (aka page source), it’s time to hire a new web designer!  This one is making mistakes that might allow your site to get ranked in the search engines.

5. Dynamic URLs

Let’s go out with a bang for #5.  Have your 3-year-old (a cat or dog will work too) walk all over your keyboard.  We will turn this gibberish into URLs for your site.  Something like the URL below will work.  We don’t want the search engines to get through.  So, make sure to throw in a session ID and a ton of parameters.  That should do the trick.


Don’t make the mistake of doing a URL rewrite to make the URL pretty.
We don’t want a pretty URL like:

That would be too easy for the search engines to crawl!

Life Example: You open the front door of my home, and all you see is junk piled to the ceiling. Dishes, clothes, pet supplies, birthday balloons, broken glasses, you name it, and it is piled 10 feet high.  There’s no way to climb over it.  So, you shut the door and go to a different house.  What you don’t know is that the junk is only one foot deep.  If you had only climbed over that 10-foot wall of rubbish, you would have found a relaxing living room that looks like a picture out of a Pottery Barn catalog.   Just like my doorway full of junk, if you provide messy doorways (URLs) to your web pages, the search engines will struggle to find all the spiderable content on your site.

How To:
Look at the address bar.  If you see more symbols and gibberish than you thought your keyboard could make, then that URL is right on track for not ranking in the search engines!

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