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Tiscali defends its search engine service

Tiscali SA has defended its Internet traffic management service, saying it is an honest way to maximise clients` Web site traffic.

At the centre of the controversy is a press statement issued by Tiscali earlier this month stating that its new “E-traffic” service includes the rewriting of an organisation`s home page using meta tags and hidden words.

It says this service will help clients to obtain optimum results on local and overseas search engines such as Google, Ananzi, AltaVista, Excite, Aardvark and Gauteng.com.

“Doorway pages are created that target specific search engines to improve search engine rankings,” the statement says.

However, local search engine optimisation (SEO) companies Quirk, Incubeta and Seoza have reacted strongly, labelling the service as being “against search engine ethics” and placing the local search engine community in a bad light.

Local search engine Ananzi has also issued a note of caution, with MD Mark Buwalda saying: “While we encourage people to add relevant meta tags and titles to their pages in order to get them noticed, manipulation and playing games does not help one`s clients.”

“What Tiscali is doing will give the local search engine industry a bad name internationally,” says Vinny Langham, Incubeta chief strategy officer. “It borders on criminal activity within the search engine industry.”

“I am surprised that a company of Tiscali`s reputation would promote a service like this,” says William Kelly, MD of Seoza. “Search engines hate doorways and hidden text and blacklist those sites that use them.”

In another statement in response to ITWeb`s questions, Tiscali says “doorway pages" can be named to "information pages" or "sub-pages" of the Web site, written specifically with lots of text to help search engines index the site.

“These sub-pages of the Web site are completely and totally part of the Web site, describing the business and products that are being sold in a professional and honourable way, in no way endangering search engine rankings,” Tiscali says.

It also denies using hidden text, or “cloaking”, in its service, saying this is dishonest.

“By steering clear of dishonest black hat search engine optimisation, Tiscali ensures hidden text, keyword stuffing and the likes are avoided. I think perhaps the term ‘doorway pages` in the Tiscali context has been misunderstood, and would be better understood if it were called ‘sub-pages`,” says Julie-Anne Doyle, Tiscali`s head of consumer products.

However, the search engine optimisation companies remain unconvinced.

“My experience tells me that no one can offer an effective low-cost SEO solution without spam techniques,” says Rob Stokes, Quirk MD. “The bottom line is that good search engine optimisation is a largely manual and time-consuming process and I have yet to find a piece of software that can do this.”

Ananzi specialist contractor Mark van Viggelen agrees with Stokes and says: “Good ‘white hat` SEO techniques should be used. This includes well-crafted copy with relevant content.”

Tiscali is now owned by M-Web, which has effectively taken over since 1 February.

“We are still busy taking product decisions and working out what will stay and what will go,” says Russell Dreisenstock, GM of M-Web`s home division.


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