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You want your website to reach the top of search engines results but by cutting corners or using techniques that search engines do not approve of, your site could be classified as SEO spam and be pushed down the listings of even removed form the listings completely.
SEO spam is where a site is pushed to the top of search engine results pages that has little or no relevance to the terms being searched for. In the long run this helps no-one, the searcher doesn't want to end up on an unrelated page, the site owner doesn't usually want visitors that then disappear off as the site is unrelated to their sarch term and the search engine doesn't want to appear to fail at doing it's main job - finding what you are looking for.
Only search truly know the answer to this question, and the answers can change, and often do. Techniques once regarded as legitimate do sometimes get banned as people learn how to take advantage of these. There are some clear-cut SEO techniques that are known as "black-hat" techniques such as keyword stuffing (putting keywords in your meta tags that do not relate to your pages), and some techniques are less obvious and may or may not be regarded as SEO spam. These are known as "grey-hat" techniques. This only makes it more difficult to identify which techniques are wrong and may get you penalised by search engines.
This can be difficult to define as the list is extensive and being added to regularly as unscrupulous people try to fake their way to the top of search engine results, but here is the list of the most common things to avoid:
Avoiding these easy to abuse techniques, and unethical SEO experts that use will help your site avoid the pitfalls of search engine spam.