The following is an old article originally published Monday August 1, 2005. It was about being realistic about the quality of your content. The “hand check” in the title is a reference to having a banned site manually evaluated by a human at Google or Bing.  It’s written an informal style that I don’t use anymore. I am publishing this article as an artifact of the state of SEO in 2005.

So I’ve spoken with a number of webmasters lately who have decent sites that were banned from one search engine or another. They said they had content rich websites. I thought, HEY! That’s not fair! Content rich websites aren’t supposed to get banned!

I pored over the websites and I have to admit they were right. Those were content rich websites, and I too would be upset to have those sites banned.

Adventures of a Content Writer in Search Engine Land
But what is good content? I don’t purport to know exactly what a search engine considers quality content, but I have ideas.

If your content has a strong smell of being primarily a vehicle for lead generation, then I think it might have a harder time passing a hand check. The thing with articles, you can’t lie to yourself. They can’t be pages of stuff talking about the benefits of a second mortgage, with a link to ez-loans at the bottom of the page, you know what I mean? Many webmasters consider that legitimate content, but is it really?

I’m not saying it’s worthless content, but I am saying… Wait one cotton picking minute! Is labeling that content useful the same as calling a negotiation with a car salesman a delightful afternoon of witty repartee?

Comparisons with Top Sites
So how does your content compare to content you might find on a consumer review site featuring well researched reports on the latest mortgage rates and housing prices? Or a detailed review of digital camcorders with statistics and comparisons to other camcorders, complete with little graphs and a non-affiliate link to the manufacturers website?

In terms of getting un-banned, I think that the more stuff you have on it that shows it’s aimed at being useful, the better. Not sure what your site is about, but stuff like a forum with an active community would help promote the idea that your site is actively trying to be useful to users, instead of actively trying to convert them… even if you are trying to convert them. I guess that’s the rub, eh?

The Manny Ribera Syndrome
You remember that movie Scarface? There was a scene where Tony Montana’s sidekick, Manny Ribera, makes inappropriate comments at some random women who promptly turn away in disgust. Manny’s response was to sneer, “Lesbians…”

Well, if a banned site can’t conform to being heart achingly useful, it might maybe, just maybe might be time to throw in the towel on ever getting it un-banned. Of course, you can either start over, do it in a different manner, or even try both approaches. The least progressive use of your time, however, is allowing the idea to form in your mind that the search engines must be the ones with the problem because they don’t like your “Manny Ribera” style site.

Be honest, because when the hand checkers pull out their pencils, the devil is in those damned details.

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