Plenty of misconceptions and misinformation abound in SEO. Plenty of myths and snake-oil are spread about by those who have an agenda other than properly applying SEO techniques to a website. Some are just plain wrong. There is none more egregiously offensive than the spreading of the often mis-touted alternate text attribute of the image tag. I have noticed a number of people (even the professor at the college where I was taking web design courses) have talked about alt text being “alt tags”. There are a number of debatable reasons as to why one would make such an obvious mistake time and time again, but brace yourself – all are completely and utterly wrong and should not be used for the sake of convenience, because there IS no significant convenience towards doing so. Let me explain.
The W3C states that the definition and usage of the <img> alt attribute (notice how they do not refer to it as a tag) is that: “The required alt attribute specifies an alternate text for an image, if the image cannot be displayed.” And so, the image itself is loaded by writing the following code (according to XHTML syntax):
<img src=”image source URL” width=”pixels” height=”pixels” border=”pixels” ALT=”Alternate Text” />
Therefore, considering its context and placement within the code, along with its purpose, there is absolutely no way that anyone should refer to it as a tag when discussing something like this in technical terms. As one person brought up during a lengthy discussion I was having with them yesterday, even stating it as “tagging” an image is wrong, because although you’re adding a specific attribute, you’re not really “tagging” an image per se, as you would tag a fish for testing. Nor are you using an actual “tag”. You’re adding a required attribute that’s part of the main image tag. You are not “tagging” an image with attributes.
So, an alt tag does NOT EXIST. While I understand the argument for utilizing language bastardization, adaptation and conventions, and I understand the argument for using a more understandable easier-to-type term vs. a more complex technical term, the fact of the matter is that there IS a correct way to state it in a shorthand way that IS conventional by default. You can simply call it “Alt Text.” There is absolutely no reason to use the term “Alt Tag”. Now, it may be different in certain industry circles where completely different languages are used as the technical term for specific parts, but that is not the case here.
All utilizing the term “alt tag” instead of “alt text” does is it makes you look like an idiot for not discussing tech terms in their correct context and use. Of course there is the argument of using watered down terms at the expense of correctness for a wider, more varied audience, but that argument breaks down when you consider that: there is only a 1 character difference between Alt Text and Alt Tag. AND, there is no language barrier that you have to consider. Remember this in your next article or presentation when you decide to discuss image alt text: There is no such thing as an Alt Tag. Alt TEXT is an attribute of the IMAGE tag.
And that concludes today’s long overdue new blog post, a.k.a. today’s edition of “The Soapbox.”
Google made a major announcement yesterday. They have announced the new addition of Google Instant: a faster, more interactive way to search Google’s organic results. Of course, just like when real time search and personalized search made headlines, everyone (mostly the internet marketing community) was up in arms about the end of the necessity for SEO. Many of these declarations are pure linkbait, and as such I disagree with their assertions. In fact, I believe that SEO just became that much more necessary to remain competitive in specific industries. It has changed the playing field to be sure, so let’s take a look at a hypothetical playing field of SEO a year from now.
September 2011: The Future of Search
After another 2-3 Algorithm updates, user searches have become much more refined, weeding out black hat spammers and instead making room for more competition and for people to become solid, well rounded SEOs.
Another Google technology is on the horizon. In fact, Google Instant could pave the way for a new technology that learns from searches and applies algorithm updates automatically – completely eliminating the need for spam and manual search spam updates. In fact, I like to think of it as a neural net algorithm, a learning search algorithm with artificial intelligence that adjusts results automatically, favoring the real results and dismissing the spam results. Such programming could be made to develop into a significant, decision processing algorithm that can process and deduce over 200 SEO factors on a web page almost instantly, eliminating the need for manual manipulation of spam results. Perhaps even Matt Cutts will be called upon to spearhead this project?
Increased Regulation and Even Higher Risks & Rewards
SEO has become about 100 times more competitive, with SEOs being required to stay glued to their desks upwards of 15+ hours per day. However, with the additional competition comes increased competitive risk – in fact, the rewards have just increased substantially for internet marketers. I believe we’ll be seeing those who are not able to keep up with the competition fall by the wayside and instead we’ll see more established, experienced SEOs being able to reap the benefits of such change. With increased regulation, industry practices will become more standardized while still allowing for additional creativity. With this change, there will be the usual posts and linkbait heralding the end of SEO yet again.
In addition to the above changes, Google may end up introducing an entirely new technology by the middle of 2012, which will level the playing field once and for all for all SEOs.
SEOs Will Need to Step Up Their Game
The picture certainly doesn’t look bleak. While in the short term I can understand the reality of such assertions that the end of SEO is here, I think in the long term that SEO has just become the most necessary of all custom website services out there. SEOs are going to have to step up their game to become the most competitive and deliver the results their clients are expecting. With the prediction model of Google Instant, this will change search behavior and lean searches in the direction of those who are prepared to be there to receive the immense rewards of traffic that SEO can bring.
Is it truly the end of SEO as some others claim? I don’t think so. It’s possible that it is the beginning of a new era of search – quite honestly it could be the best thing that has ever happened to search. Google Instant has the potential to attract even more people to Google (as if Google’s market share wasn’t already high), and it will increase the visibility of the search markets and reach out to those who have never thought that using a search engine could be so simple. I think all of us will start to see very positive results and repercussions as time goes on. I do believe, however, that search has just changed for the better. It may just take many of us internet marketers awhile to realize the more tangible benefits of this change.
So what say you? Are you ready for the future of search?
Once in awhile, there comes an E-Mail with a number of baffling recommendations that warp even the most experienced SEO’s mind. I was dealing with one such client yesterday. As SEOs, it’s in our best interests to develop common methods of increasing rankings, while at the same time not limiting our practices in such a way that limits website versatility and website performance. It’s also in our best interests to ensure that myths and half truths like the below do not continue to manifest themselves as website improvements to help improve website performance in the SERPs.
Let’s get into some of these additional myths and downright fallacies shall we?
Multiple Domains = the incredibly amazing highly ranking website!
Recommendations: One of the best ways to boost SEO is to tie multiple keyword domains to one set of content. You have one main site and other do what is called a 301 redirect to that main site.
Wrong! This is not going to do much unless the 301 redirected domain name is already an authority site that will pass link juice to the main site. If you have domain names that have no value, and haven’t been worked on ever in terms of building an authoritative website presence in the first place, 301 redirecting them isn’t going to do jack for your rankings.
Changing the Meta Keywords tag helps increase rankings!!!
Recommendations: The individual proceeded to then provide recommendations on modifying the Meta Keywords tag and adding more keywords to an already comprehensive Meta Keywords tag anyway.
How does this myth continue to perpetuate when Google has officially confirmed its invalidity? Complete bunk. Google not only doesn’t put much weight on the Meta Keywords tag, they don’t count this tag at all. View the video by the leader of the Google search spam team, Matt Cutts, on this link: Google doesn’t use the keywords meta tag in web search at all, ever, zip, zilch, nada: http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/keywords-meta-tag-in-web-search/
Oh, man, I love this one…
Atten-hut! Google can’t index images!!!
All the items above WERE text and have been text on this particular client’s website since the beginning. A recently-revamped layout even provided the client’s contact information in a much easier to view spot for better access! Shows how much they were paying attention! Regarding the scripts while that kind of modification will lead to some improvement, it’s not necessary to improve rankings. Where this will help is in reducing the size of the html file to nearly nothing, since how fast a page loads is a website ranking factor. With the company’s websites, though, we cannot modify code that was part of the initial building of the templates anyway. There has still been no problem getting them ranked high on Google.
And, if Google can’t index images then I wonder how all the images on images.google.com came about? Here are some tips on how to get Google to index images: http://webtalks.blogspot.com/2007/04/google-image-indexing.html
The correct terminology to use is that Google doesn’t recognize images while crawling the page, and they simply tend to show up as a blank space. This is where alternate text comes in – to help Google identify what is actually in the space where the image is supposed to be. The image file name in the referenced URL is really all that Google is going to see and keywords in the file name is what it uses to index the image (that and the alt text for the image).
BTW, one final aside: there is no such thing as an alt tag. It’s supposed to be referred to as the alternate text attribute of the image tag, since alternate text is an image tag attribute. But, then again we’re simply getting into semantics here.
Careful! A lump of coal in your stocking is in your future if you use white links!
Recommendation: The links use the color value #FFFFFF (white) this is very bad SEO wise as Google sees that value as trying to trick users so they do not index them. There is overuse of the (strong) (Bold) attribute within the body text. If you make these a CSS class of keyword it will serve you better.
There is nothing wrong with using white as the link color so long as the link color maintains appropriate contrast with the page background. The problem with using white comes into play when you use a white background as well, which constitutes invisible text, which can then be construed as tricking the user or raise a red flag as Google spam.
There was no overuse of the (strong) tag in the specific website that we’re discussing. In fact, there is no conclusive evidence whatsoever that using CSS over the (strong) tag is better for SEO. It’s strictly a preference. Using CSS over markup to style text is a W3C valid method of coding. While it is a good idea and can be a fantastic thing for a website (I used to preach the gospel of the W3C myself for SEO purposes – just ask my co-workers!!), it is, at its simplest, a method of coding. Google doesn’t currently implement any kind of coding standards within its algorithm, and there is no conclusive evidence that utilizing W3C valid code increases rankings. In addition, Matt Cutts himself (again) provides his own viewpoint, that, while validation can be a good thing, currently the Google algorithm does not give any preference for any site that has valid code (only those who have a smaller file size – where this clean code can also come into play) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPBACTS-tyg
Quite honestly I am appalled that some of these recommendations have been made without researching them a bit further. It’s not rocket science – all the answers are on Google and doing a little digging can make your life a whole lot easier. If you’re going to go up against a professional SEO, at least make sure that 1. you’re also a professional, or 2. you are somewhat aware of the material that you’re discussing and how it will impact the specific website that will implement the recommendations, 3. you are familiar with basic terminology and how search engine ranking algorithms work.
It really doesn’t help clients to continue spreading false information and information without enough detail to help them make the appropriate, correct modifications that will result in better SERP performance. It continues to amaze me that even further information is provided to move the client into such a direction that will, at the very least, not even do anything for rankings. It’s important for any SEO to be diligent and understand everything that they are going to make a recommendation on so that they provide the appropriate recommendation and provide accurate information that will help the client accomplish their end goal: to help make money with their website.
As an SEO, I have often run into scams that perpetuate themselves throughout the real estate industry. Oftentimes there are those who have no idea they are scams and end up paying through the nose for them. Unfortunately, if you’re not experienced enough to understand what is fact and what is fallacy, then how can you protect yourself when you receive the eventual sales call that you’ll inevitably receive? By paying attention to some of the most common scams and claims that you’ll run into of course!
The “We Can Get You To The Top Of Google in 24 Hours” myth.
Well, that’s only partially true. Great organic results, REAL results that are going to affect your bottom line take time. They take a long term, disciplined approach that builds your authority and trust with Google. There are some SEO methods that can achieve something close to this, but what you’ll most likely end up doing in the long run is getting your site banned from Google forever by the use of such techniques. Then, you have to start over completely.
The “We have a special contact at Google” myth.
There is a public help line that Google provides to all webmasters. There is nothing special about this line. No third party is ever going to have a special relationship with Google. Unless they work for the company. Then they wouldn’t necessarily be a third party now would they? Some individuals tend to utilize this line as a way of sounding exclusive to get you to buy into their services. Don’t fall for it – realize that every webmaster who knows what they’re doing can find this number.
The “You must have a 25% keyword density to get high rankings” myth.
No matter how many time I peruse the blog posts and discussions on SEO boards, I am amazed that this myth still exists. There is no such THING as keyword density people. Let’s say we have 2 sites where everything is equal except keyword density. That is, around 7 paragraphs of text on the home page, navigation menus, and other graphical elements are all the same. The only thing different in the second site is that it has a 35% population of keywords within each paragraph. Which do you think is going to rank higher? The one that appears more natural to users. There are possibilities of the other one ranking higher, but it’s likely to be filtered out of the search results as spam. The main thing is to ensure that you have content that’s written as naturally as possible, to avoid raising red flags to google that your content may possibly be spam.
The “Meta keyword tag” myth.
Matt Cutts (head of the anti-spam team at Google) himself has talked about the Meta Keyword tag no longer being used. I cringe whenever I see Meta keyword tags on websites approaching 200-500-1000 keywords in their Meta Keywords tags. First of all, go light on the keywords people! You probably only need about 10 of your keywords in there for the search engines that still care. In fact, you probably don’t even need that because spending time on this is going to be counterproductive in your traffic building efforts. Just pepper the Meta keywords tag with about 10 of your top keywords to keep the lesser search engines happy and move on.
The “Invisible Text” myth.
I still run across sites that have 100s – 1000s of keywords on the home page that are hidden with colors the exact same color as the home page background. If the site hasn’t yet been banned/sandboxed/penalized by Google as a result of this practice then you’re likely to be banned soon. This is a form of spamming and Google will hang your site out to dry if they find out about this practice. If your site is one of the offending sites with this method in place then you’re just asking for penalization. Get rid of the invisible keywords, and instead concentrate on blending keywords in naturally with your content. You’ll end up getting better results that way.
The “Add Content And They Will Come” myth
Well, this one has to be one of the top ones I see. SEO isn’t just about content writing or writing correct metas. SEO is about integrating various methods to achieve higher rankings on the search engines. So, content writing plays a major role. Link building plays a major role. On site updates play a major role. All three categories of work work together in a complex stew of technologically enhanced goodness to develop higher rankings and higher lead conversions. Just adding content to your site won’t do it unless you’re targeting a non competitive key term.
We can get you to the top of Google for $80/mo.
Not bloody likely. What these guys are likely talking about is targeting keywords via pay per click campaigns. The $80/mo. is spread out over keywords that are not likely to bring very many clicks but will likely get you to the top of Google quickly. Unfortunately, what they don’t tell you is that these keywords are very often worthless and probably only bring in a few clicks, if any at all. If you want to pay for a serious SEO package, look to spend quite a bit more than that to get your money’s worth.
The “Immediate Results” myth
There are certain individuals in the SEO sales space that promise the world for a measely few dollars a month and you will “immediately” see results. The immediacy of these acertations tend to range from the small 24 hours to 2 months. While 2 mos. Is more realistic, what results typically mean is that someone is going to expect leads to start converting like wildfire around that time. It’s possible if a. you have a non competitive keyword, b. the keyword has high traffic volume, and c. you have conversions up the wazoo as a result of those keywords. More often than not, however, it’s more likely that you’ll end up disappionted. Real results take time and effort to achieve – they don’t come over night. Whenever you pursue an SEO endeavor, it’s important to exercise patience.
The “Financial Panacea” myth
I have seen this expectation time and time again. SEO is not a cure-all for financial situations. Picture this scenario. Client signs up for SEO services. After a month or two they start wondering about results. Then I’ve always seen the following: 1. The client will claim that we promised to cure all their financial troubles and 2. They expect money to start rolling in immediately as a result. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. SEO done the white hat way, without BS schemes and black hat methods involved, is a disciplined, long term approach that is designed to achieve and keep high rankings stable for years to come. They don’t come easy or even overnight. It’s important to keep your expectations and emotions in check and realize that, even while a lot of hard work is going to be going into your website, it’s not a financial panacea.
The “Copy and Paste Content For Higher Rankings” Myth
The largest and perhaps most prevalent myth I have run into in my career as an SEO is the fact that many people believe that plagiarism is purely acceptable. There are those who will do nothing to copied content. They’ll go to wikipedia or another website and copy the content that’s there word for word. They’ll typically sprinkle some repetitions of keywords in the content, but they won’t re-write it. This is the single biggest mistaken myth that you can fall into the trap of. The reality is that Google (and all the other major search engines) frown on plagiarism. There is not really a penalty per se, but rather it’s how the search engines actually work. They will filter out content they believe to be duplicate and return only the most authoritative, unique content they can find for the keyword that’s being searched for.
The reality is that higher rankings and solid SEO foundations take time. There is no single quick fix or magic pill that’s going to fix your performance in the SERPs overnight. However, through hard work, effort, and the consistent execution of a long term plan, it is possible to achieve a competitive edge in the search space. Eventually, you’ll be able to get to the top where you’re competitors are and develop a strategy to destroy them. In the meantime however, happy SEOing and continue to work hard on your site while keeping these myths in mind. They may save you one day from making a mistake that can cost you your entire search engine existence.
This year has brought about quite a few challenges, and plenty of surprises. One of these fun challenges is learning how to capture and edit video for video blog posts. I learned quite a few things when doing this first video blog post so there will be significant improvements in the next posts.
1. Work on the Audio.
2. Work on the Lighting – either get stronger lights or film outdoors.
Anyway, here’s the video!!! It’s a brief, basic introduction to SEO for those who may not know much about what’s involved. Hopefully those who know about SEO will take away something from this as well. If not, well – don’t say I didn’t warn you. :)
Continuing on our tangent of SEO services yesterday, I wanted to discuss the various components of a good SEO strategy, and how they will help your site achieve top rankings. This is also a good opportunity to look into the mind of an SEO, and find out what goes through our minds as we begin to build a solid SEO campaign.
So, you’ve decided to market your web site to the search engines. You have a viable web site, it’s online, and you’re ready to start converting a steady stream of potential clients into sales. Perhaps you’re considering investing in a Search Engine Optimization campaign. Maybe you would like to perform the optimization techniques yourself. Even if you’re a long ways off from starting to think about jumping into an SEO company and giving them the reigns for your web site, here is a list of the essential components of any search engine optimization campaign. This should help you further understand the complexities that are involved in any such endeavor, and why it isn’t a viable short term strategy.
No web site is complete without good content. Search engines want to return the most unique, relevant content for specific keyword searches. That means NO PLAGIARISM, people! The whole point of coming up with great, unique content is that great content is content that people will link to naturally, thereby building your links almost automatically. But, as I said before, no plagiarism is allowed. If you copy and paste content directly from another web site, then your site will get penalized, many times resulting in large drops of your site on the SERPs.
2. On Site Optimization
On site optimization is one of several parts of a good search engine optimization campaign. On site optimization includes: cleaning up the code on your pages, ensuring that pages are interlinked with each other, optimizing your site structure, optimizing link anchor text, ensuring that you have the appropriate H1 tags on your pages, adding site maps, optimizing your Meta Tags, and more. Depending on the complexities of your site, you may end up with a monster of an optimization project on your hand. Keep in mind though, that the above is by no means a comprehensive look at everything involved in on site optimization.
3. Off Site Optimization
Off site optimization consists of searching for quality, authoritative web sites to link back to your own. In essence, a link from another site is that other site vetting you as a worthwhile resource. These links can range from free links to links that you pay for. The primary goal of most search engines is to return web sites that are trusted, valuable resources, and have unique, excellent content that’s relevant to specific keyword searches. If you write excellent content, people are going to link back to it on their own. But, what if the natural link building isn’t enough? What if you want to embark on building links back to your site? There are several methods that you can use to accomplish this.
a. You can copy your competition’s linking strategy. To do this, search Google for your primary key term, and use the links: operator to determine the sites that are linking back to the top sites in the top positions of the SERPs. The sites that show up here are usually sites that Google considers valuable, and if you can get a link back to your client’s site from them, that will help your site rank higher. Repeat this systematically for each site that shows up this way and sooner or later you’ll have the links necessary to propel your client’s site to the top.
b. Create great, unique, compelling content that other people will want to link to. Of course, that’s easier said than done. You’re the one that knows your industry, so perform research. Who are you top industry specific competitors on the SERPs? What kind of content do they have? Why would someone looking to purchase your service/product buy from them? Then, once you have a point of reference to start with, you can copy their content strategy. Notice I said strategy, NOT copying the content itself. Instead, re-write the content in your own words if you absolutely cannot come up with an idea for content on your own.
4. Social Media
Utilizing social media is another leg of the foundation of a good SEO strategy. You need traffic, and you also need to be able to uphold your own reputation management strategy. Sites like Twitter and Plurk allow you to promote your brand and talk about your products/services in a micro-blogging format. Also, it helps to give your company an online presence, thereby increasing consumer confidence and a willingness to do online business with you. Plus, if complaints arise on Twitter, for example, it’s a great way to put the fires out quickly and resolve your clients’ issues.
While the above is not a comprehensive examination of the methods necessary to achieve higher rankings, it should be enough for you to see that SEO is not a short term, get rich quick scheme. SEO is a good, long-term strategy to participate in if you wish to promote your site, gain higher rankings, and increase traffic. It will help you develop a solid foundation of potential clients that may keep your business prospering year after year.
Let’s face it: we’ve all been there. We all see the tempting allure of the dull green piece of paper and want to invest in the best that marketing can give us to increase more of that delicious green. But hark! What is this I hear? I don’t see results 2 days after I purchased your marketing program! Why are you not doing any work on my site? I was told I would get #1 guaranteed placement within 24 hours! Why aren’t you doing your job? I want to cancel! You SUCK!!
While the above is an exaggerated example of a real life situation, there are certainly scams that have a certain knack of perpetuating themselves throughout our industry. Many of them still exist because people don’t know the difference between what puffery is, what is real, what can be guaranteed, and what cannot be guaranteed. Unfortunately, there are individuals who tend to take advantage of this. As a result, many people are so disappointed in SEO that they will not even consider purchasing that kind of a service on their site again. So, in an attempt to help alleviate the danger of others falling for these kinds of scams, here is a list of the top scams in SEO today.
1. Guaranteed #1 Spot in 24 hours, 30 days, or other absurdly short amount of time.
First of all, this is impossible. No one but Google, Yahoo, or MSN (and others) can guarantee what position a site will rank in their respective search engine and when. If someone that is working for XYZ Corporation is attempting to convince you of SEO services, and they use this statement, it’s puffery. Be aware of this and curb your expectations back significantly. Real SEO takes a lot longer than 24 hours or 30 days. In fact, it can take up to 8-9 months to begin to achieve the kind of results you’re looking for. Depending on who you talk to, there are two schools of thought on this topic: Black Hat and White Hat.
Black Hat is focused more on achieving quick results using tactics that are designed to manipulate the search results into giving higher rankings quickly. However, once Google finds out about the techniques being used on the site, depending on the nature and severity of the techniques involved, your site will get banned. White hat techniques are a way of working WITH the search engines, not manipulating them. In fact, white hat techniques are the only sure fire way to obtain long term, top position results. In short, don’t believe that you’ll get top rankings in 24 hours from a brand-new web site or even an older, more established web site. That’s not going to happen.
2. We’ll get you to the top of Google if you buy this key term for $80 per month.
There are certain companies that will sell you services that sound like SEO, but are actually pay per click advertising campaigns. One such company is Netbiz. While they may say they’ll get you to the top of Google, what you’re really paying for is a flat rate for a key term that’s probably: a long tail key term, doesn’t have much advertising competition, doesn’t get much traffic (and a very low CTR) and is a term that you really can get away with paying an $80/mo flat rate to get to the “top” of the pay per click results. Don’t fall for these types of scams, because all they’ll really do is give you an empty wallet. Real Pay per Click advertising campaigns require much more, including maintenance, advertisement adjustments, and ensuring the campaign doesn’t burn a hole in your wallet.
3. If you buy x number of links for thousands of dollars, you’ll get top rankings.
While you may get top rankings for this one, if it’s one thing that will get your site banned is excessive paid links. When it comes to obtaining long-term rankings for any specific keyword, it’s far better to have a mixed link profile with a variety of quality inbound links that match the relevance for the key term that you’re attempting to rank for. Don’t get 1,000s of paid links to link back to your site. It will only be an exercise in futility.
4. Social Media (or whatever is the latest SEO fad) will net you big bucks and gobs of traffic to your site.
Yes, social media is a phenomenon. Yes, it can help you get traffic. But, it’s never a good idea to depend on a single aspect of SEO for your overall marketing strategy. If you want to participate in social media to gain an edge over your competition, you certainly can do so. Let it become an integral part of your marketing strategy. However, don’t let targeting social media be your only marketing strategy. You want to build your online presence so that it’s successful in the long term. And such a presence deserves a strong foundation encompassing a variety of SEO methods that will bring you traffic from multiple sources.
5. “We have a special relationship with Google that will help you get top rankings!”
Sorry. No one on the planet that operates as a third party company separate from Google has a special relationship with them. Every company has a support number they can use to reach Google for support issues, but that’s it. There’s no special relationship with Google or any of the other search engines.
Search Engine Optimization is not rocket science. It is, however, a scientific, analytical approach to obtaining traffic, search engine rankings, and a bigger online presence for your web site. Unfortunately, there are those in the industry that give SEOs a bad name by perpetuating these myths. For those with little knowledge of search engine optimization, it’s easy to fall prey to many of the above mis-representations. To protect yourself, use your common sense and investigate these claims before spending your money. And, ask questions to be sure that you understand everything involved in the search engine optimization services you’re purchasing. Your due diligence will pay off in the end, and you’ll be able to make a sound decision with plenty of evidence to back it up.
If there is one thing that gets my goat, is someone commenting on something they seem to know nothing about. And, I hate it when someone spreads supposed SEO knowledge and doesn’t get the big picture of things and why some small modification doesn’t work. And, what’s even worse is attacking an entire industry based on a small incident without educating themselves or performing research about what SEO is all about. Or, if they did, the article certainly doesn’t show it. The fact is, that there are on page optimization factors and off page optimization factors. It’s a mix of both that will get you high rankings on Google. The latest violator of all of the above is this article on PCmag.com written by Mr. John C. Dvorak: here’s the ignorant article.
In this article, the author talks about an incident where someone advised him over IM about using long URLs as links to the pages on his blog to help increase his rankings and gain the attention of Google. Well, this is only partially true. What it comes down to is using actual keywords in the URL, which produces some of the lengthy monsters you see on wordpress blogs that utilize this technique.
What happens is that Google will read the keywords on the URL and if you have some integration of the keywords in the content, then that will add value to the page as well as helping your rankings. He’s also claiming it does nothing. Well, sir – when did you check it? Did you check the page immediately after making the change? Or, did you wait for Google to crawl the page again to see if it had any positive impact on the rankings? It takes time for rankings to increase and if you check them immediately after making the change, you’re not always going to see an increase in such a short amount of time!
Also, just making a single change like that, while it will work well for keywords with little to no competition, it won’t work for keywords with a high market competition and saturation. For this, you need to build links to the page in order to compete with the pages that have a higher rankings already! You’ll hardly stand a chance for the more competitive keyword terms if you don’t get this basic fact!!
The author also claims his page views declined when implementing this practice. Well, yes, they’re going to decline! You need to implement a 301 redirect in order to redirect traffic to the new URL! Otherwise, you’re sending your traffic to an empty page. Also, if you were ranking for keywords that were giving you some immense traffic, and you all of a sudden added different keywords to the URL without considering other optimization factors, you WILL lose your rankings and traffic! That should be common sense! That should have also been explained to you by the person who advised you of this over IM. Google does NOT redirect your traffic for you. That is YOUR responsibility.
He also asks “So why is everyone doing it, and why does everyone think it works?” It’s because people are targeting specific keyword phrases (if they have done things properly), and they have also included on page and off page optimization factors that will help the page rank on Google. Just because someone does something doesn’t mean that it’s going to work for your site. Why would you not ask which keywords they were targeting in the first place, and why would you not even consider the fact that it was a small part of a much larger SEO campaign? I can certainly see and understand your frustration with this. However, taking your anger out on an entire industry when it’s pretty apparent that it’s your own lack of knowledge and understanding of a subject is only going to make you look foolish.
Another unfortunate comment made includes “This brings me to another SEO gambit, this one promoted…” and “…in alliance with the ’semantic web is the future’ dingbats.” It’s not about the semantic web BEING the future. It’s about NOW. The W3C has been in existence for over 10 years. Writing semantically correct HTML and other code is just good coding practice. When code is written correctly according to standards and minimization, you get to the root of what helps higher rankings: the code to text ratio. With standardized coding practices, you will, many times, be able to obtain higher rankings because search engines have to sift through far less code in order to read your content! That’s the charm of the semantic web.
Not only is this article far off base when it comes to correct SEO methodology, it doesn’t even come close. As if my repeating this hasn’t been enough of a bore, I’ll repeat it again: on page optimization and off page optimization are required to gain significantly higher rankings on Google.
With off site optimization, you NEED to build links according to the keywords you wish the page to rank for if you ever hope to get to the top of Google. On page optimization efforts will only go so far, and when they don’t produce the results you want, you NEED off page optimization, or quality inbound links! It’s a combination of those two factors that will get you high rankings for more competitive keyword phrases. NOT just on page factors, and much less, long URLs without 301 redirects!
The fact is that search engine optimization is about promoting the web site/web page: with a mix of both optimization methodologies. You cannot expect to obtain top tier rankings for a specific keyword without good implementations of both. If you obtain higher rankings with some on page optimization, then you have gotten lucky with a keyword that has very little market competition. With higher saturation and competition, you’re going to need to double up on your off site optimization efforts and BUILD THOSE LINKS!!
I feel sorry for those people who are out there that, even though they’re brilliant people and are a lot of fun to read, they just don’t get anything about the big picture of a subject they’re talking about. What’s even worse is they don’t even bother to TRY to get the big picture or talk to a reputable source. They just give up, write articles like the above, and paint a negative picture of an industry that doesn’t even deserve it.
SEO is not just an art, it’s also a science. One of the great things about the field of SEO is that it requires both sides of the brain to work in tandem with one another – the analytical and the creative. The analytical side works with analyzing traffic reports, the most effective methods in converting leads, where to direct that traffic, site structures, and numerous other aspects. The creative side includes designing the site itself, working with layouts, writing content, adding photos, and other creative activities where applicable.
A major part of the analytical/creative facets of SEO include marketing elements and lead conversion elements on web site pages.
Include high positioning of your most valuable/popular products on your home page!
In order to convert leads, several essential items need to appear on the page. One, you need to at least have photos of your product to entice potential clients. If you sell one product, perhaps a blurb about the product including some basic information below, with a text link that goes directly TO the order form. If you sell many products, include your most popular products with a link directly to the order form, and perhaps some kind of informative blurb about the product.
Create informative content pages about all of your products!
If you want to rank for specific key terms for your products, it’s essential to have some informative content that’s done WELL. Bad content will not get you the links that are needed to get your site to the top of Google. Besides, who’s going to want to link to bad content? Good content can take the form of anything from impartial, lengthy reviews about the product, to informative articles about the products’ initial conception, development, and completion. You could even include interviews with the people that created the product. And, if you can obtain that exclusive content, then that will help you when it comes to garnering a more natural linking profile!
A starter page titled after the main keywords you’re targeting would be good enough, and you’ll want to start out with 6-8 paragraphs of content, and you can add to it as you move forward with your SEO campaign. It’s important to educate consumers about your product, and provide compelling enough content to get people in your industry linking back to you, which in turn helps your rankings in the search engines.
Include call to action items on your content pages, and even on your home page where applicable.
If you don’t have call to action items, how are people going to want to move forward within your site or want to contact you about your products? You want to have some kind of form or call to action that entices someone to want to move forward with the purchasing process. This can be anything from a link that says “click here” to a complete, elaborate form that will send the client’s information to you when they submit it. This can also be a picture of the product that you want to sell in addition to your product (maybe an add-on product?) on that page, with descriptive text that says “Click here to buy” or “Click here to find out more”.
Without such strategically-placed call to action items on your page, you stand, at best, a very small chance of converting the leads that land on that page. They’ll just go elsewhere, and to a competitor that does provide an easy way for them to get a hold of you or to order their product.
Now why would you want to send people to a competitor when you know the best way to solve their problems in your industry? Include the appropriate items as discussed above, and you’ll be on your way to obtaining better conversions and better rankings.
Search Engine Optimization encompasses many different methods of obtaining higher rankings, from on-site optimization (code optimization, internal linking, inbound linking from other sites etc.) to off-site optimization (link building). What I want to do for this post is focus strictly on on page optimization elements.
1. Header tags
These tags are very important to establishing the theme or relevance of your page. They take the form of H1, H2, and H3 tags. So, if your theme or primary keyword is about Anaheim Real Estate, then you want that keyword to appear in the H1 tag of your page. Then, if you have supporting articles, you’ll want to title them with H2 tags, or even H3s if you have that many articles on your page. The whole point is to tell the search engines (and your readers) what the page is about. Here’s what typical, optimized Header tag code might look like in XHTML:
<h1 class=”style1″>Anaheim Real Estate</h1><br />
<h2 class=”style2″>Orange Real Estate</h2><br />
The class declaration is an inline style sheet declaration that, assuming the styles are called from a style sheet in the headers or an external style sheet, simply calls the styles for that class and applies them to the Header tags. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that you use minimal code. You do NOT want something as silly as 1,000 extra lines of code to drop your rankings.
2. Anchor text
Anchor text optimization is SOOO important. It helps the search engines find and rank the pages of your site based off of what is in the anchor text. So, you really need to make sure that the anchor text accurately describes the page the link is going to. If you have a page titled Fountain Valley Real Estate, then you want to have the anchor text accurately reflect that page. Let’s use the following example:
All of the real estate in Fountain Valley tends to be mid-end to higher end luxury homes. With the standards of quality rising, many home owners simply are not able to afford the most impressive Fountain Valley Real Estate.
The underlined text is known as the anchor text. This text goes to a page that’s titled Fountain Valley Real Estate, and has a ton of content about Fountain Valley. However, you can over optimize text and you don’t want to use Fountain Valley Real Estate repetitively throughout your document. You want to write your text as naturally as possible so that it’s not confusing for the user. In short, do NOT write your text strictly for search engines! You could cause your rankings to drop because of it.
3. Keyword usage
That being said, you still want to use your main keywords that you’re targeting throughout your text. Use them sparingly, though. And do NOT give in to the myth of keyword density. I have never really given much credence to the whole keyword density thing, simply because I’ve seen higher rankings achieved on sites barely any keyword density at ALL. However, keywords do matter when used within Anchor text and can help increase your rankings. But, don’t give in to over optimization. Use keywords naturally and sparingly. Don’t add 7,000 repetitions of your keywords to one paragraph. And, for Pete’s sake, do NOT make a paragraph of keywords and make them the same color of your page. That is spamming and a black hat method and Google will penalize you for it once they find out about it.
When setting up the home page for linking to your internal pages, you want to pay attention to how you link out to other pages. Internal linking from the home page to interior pages is important for search engine spiders to determine the kind of content that’s in your site, and how to rank those pages once they’re spidered. Link your anchor text containing your keywords to other pages that include relevant information about that text. Plus, it’s just good usability sense as well. You don’t want to use text links that are confusing and lead to pages that are not relevant to those text links. There is no need to confuse your visitor or confuse the search engines.
5. Bolding and emphasizing text
You also want to pick and choose the keywords in your text to bold and emphasize to help with relevance. Don’t go overboard, though. Do NOT bold entire paragraphs. Instead, bold keywords within anchor text, or bold keywords that are within the standard text.
That’s pretty much it for on page ranking factors. Remember to write your content to be as natural and relevant as possible, though. Write for your user, NOT the search engines, and THEN optimize your content keeping these on page elements in mind. People will naturally want to link to your content when it is really great content, which will make it that much easier to obtain those quality one way inbound links that are soooo essential for higher rankings!!