Search Engine Optimization or SEO is probably the single most important factor in determining the success or failure of a website. Yet the majority of web designers and web development companies know very little about SEO, and a lot of what they do know is inaccurate or outdated. There are several myths and misconceptions about SEO. If you are talking to a web designer about SEO, and they begin to talk about any of these popular misconceptions, walk away and find a real SEO expert.
- SEO is about optimizing your pages, titles, and meta-data, and keyword tags. If this is your Web Designer / SEO expert’s idea of SEO, it is a sure-fire sign that they are clueless. Sure you will want to make sure your page has the right words in all the right places, but that is not the first or most important part of SEO. Research is the most important factor in a good SEO campaign. You have to know what those “right” keywords are. Most designers will ask you, “What keywords do you want us to use in optimizing your site?” This is an extremely flawed approach. Figuring out what keywords are best for you should be the SEO expert’s job, not yours. An SEO expert should be able to analyze hundreds if not thousands of keywords related to your business, determine the traffic and strength of the competition for each one and give you a list of the best keywords for your site. Research and find the right keywords before you start making any changes to your website.
- Keyword stuffing. Every webpage has metadata, this is information about the page that is in the HTML source code, that search engines can read, but is not visible on the page. One of the meta-tags is called keywords. This is where you can place all the terms that your page that is relevant to. For example, if you are a Border Collie breeder then, “border collie breeder, border collie, border collie for sale” are relevant keywords. This tag has been so misused and abused that Google no longer uses it to determine the placement of a website.
- Having and using a Google AdWords account will help you rank higher. Don’t buy it. Using Google AdWords has absolutely no effect on your search engine results placement.
- Masking text will improve your SEO. This is an old technique where you add a ton of keywords to your site, but make them the same color as your background so that they are invisible. The logic here is that search engines (Google) reads the source code and sees the keyword “Border Collie breeders” (following our previous example) used many times on your page. Google then says to itself, this site must provide a lot of information on border collies and gives you a higher ranking. This is unfortunately a common technique. What Google really says is “wow, these guys think we are really stupid and are using cheap and misleading tricks, we should remove them from our index completely and spare our users waste of time it would be to visit this site.” The technical term for this is to be de-indexed or placed in the Google Sandbox.
- SEO is an ongoing effort. This one is partly true, and most SEO experts will say the exact opposite. As an SEO expert, I would certainly love to have customers contracted to me for SEO work every month. In some cases this is necessary. A real estate agent in a very competitive market would likely need to continually work on their SEO to maintain a steady amount of targeted traffic coming to their site. On the other hand, if you sell mail-order wheatgrass cookies, one strong SEO campaign may keep you at the top of the search engines for years, so why pay for ongoing SEO services.
- We will submit your site to over X number of search engines. This is a popular one. The truth is the three top search engines process 95% of search requests, Google alone accounts for more than 80%. You used to have to submit your site URL to search engines and directories to get indexed. That is not the case any longer, in my experience submitting a site to Google results in a longer wait time before it is indexed that using my SEO methods.
- Guaranteed SEO results. If your SEO expert owns Google or Yahoo, then a guarantee like that might mean something. I could accurately guarantee your site will be on the first page of Google, but what you won’t know is this;
- It will be for a keyword so obscure that it has little to no competition.
- I will use a Pay-Per-Click campaign to get your site placed on the first page of Google. In other words, we will buy you a place on the first page at a certain amount of money per click. This means either you as the customer must keep paying for each click, that by buying your way to the top, they met their guarantee and end the PPC campaign.
So how do you get real SEO results? The single best method is to get other websites to provide links back to your site. If these are quality sites, from several different IP addresses and ISPs then it will definitely improve your SEO rankings. Experienced SEO experts will employ various tactics and techniques to get this done ethically. They will have tools and services available to them to make this daunting task much easier. If you are willing to do much of the work yourself, you can do some cheap SEO work on your own and get some fairly good results. What are the best methods and tactics for getting these backlinks? Well, that’s a topic for another article.
I am the lead developer for GOBI Web Designs, a leading Atlanta Web Design company. After designing websites for several years, I have developed a unique approach to web development. With a Master’s in Computer Information Systems and a Bachelor’s in Business, my approach views web sites as business tools, not design projects. Emphasizing function over form and viewing websites in terms of traffic and return on investment. The only web award I really care about is a number 1 spot on Google’s search engine. I write extensively on Search Engine Optimization techniques, Internet Marketing, Web Design and Development, and occasionally on physical fitness.
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