Strategies for ranking well in “natural,” or “organic,” search engine listings are quite different from those used in paid search engine advertising. Search engine optimization (SEO) specifically concerns natural search results.
Plenty of unethical search engine marketers will take your money by making false promises without a moment’s hesitation. Unfortunately, the snake-oil sales pitches may tell you exactly what you want to hear. Don’t fall for it!
What exactly is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? It is the art and science of getting a website noticed on search engines such as Google, Yahoo, MSN, LookSmart, etc. It is often a complicated, timely, and manually intensive process that is somewhat akin to working with a moving target.
Remember the fundamental principles of optimization:
• Keyword-focused text. Use the words and phrases that your target audience types into search queries.
• Information architecture and page layout. Give both search engines and searchers easy access to content while providing a sense of place and clear scents of information.
• Link development. Increase the number and quality of objective, third-party links pointing to a Web page.
Myth 1: Submitting your site to thousands of engines is the way to get web traffic.
Unfortunately, there aren’t even a thousand engines to submit to. Whether you decide to do it or pay someone to do it for you, all you will get is you website listed on “Free for All” (FFA) sites that are not really search engines. All they really do is list links to the last 50 or so URLs that were submitted. These sites are rarely used since search engines make up 90% of the searches on the web. And that means that these programs or services will not even get you listed in many of the top engines.
Myth 2: It’s all about Meta tags.
The general reasoning behind people or companies still wanting or attempting to use meta tags is: “Meta tags will make all the difference for our web site” or “We have heard or read of companies that their web sites were placed way on top because of meta tags”. My response–five years ago, it could have been true.
At the beginning of the Internet, meta tags were originally incorporated in a site as an attempt to better assist webmasters. They were also included to help search engines discover what their site was all about. Well, it didn’t take long for people to find a way to abuse the system.
Some actually tried and successfully got around in abusing this technique by writing useless keywords into their meta tags in hopes to trick the search engines to rank them higher. Today, and because of all this abuse, most major search engines, especially Google, are placing less and less importance in the presence or absence of meta tags and their content.
Myth 3: Resubmit your website often to engines
Contrary to popular opinion, submitting a website every week or every month to the major search engines will not help your rankings, in fact it might do just the opposite. Once a website is in a search engine’s database, it usually won’t go away with time.
For all intents and purposes, once a website has been professionally optimized for all its major keywords & key phrases, normally the site should consistently yield excellent, positive results and will drive targeted visitors into your business. You should be careful of any company or individual that claims otherwise.
Many businesses and large companies are flooded daily with useless spam and emails that claim to offer a monthly submittal service for a small fee. The majority of the search engines that these services plan to submit your site are, for the most part, totally unknown to the search engine community.
Myth 4: SEO experts are too costly
Search Engine Positioning and optimization (SEO) is generally much less expensive than certain PPC (Pay-for-Click) programs and less costly than any other marketing campaign you can conduct, both online or offline. It usually costs much less than traditional offline advertising such as radio, TV, direct mail, print ads, booths at trade fairs, etc.
A professional SEO program can bring you a high ROI (Return on Investment) if done correctly. That means a fairly smaller investment could significantly raise your targeted site traffic by anywhere from 45% to 85% or sometimes even higher.
Myth 5: We can optimize ourselves in house looking to outsource it is a waste of money.
SEO isn’t rocket science, but it also isn’t something that can be learned overnight. This is an SEO myth we get to hear a lot. As with so many things today, from the outset, it sure looks simple. Some think that a bit of “tweaking” with a few meta tags and inserting a keyword or a key phrase in the title tag amounts to great SEO optimization. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
To be really successful, a company that wishes to do “in house” optimization needs to get prepared to constantly adjust or make important changes to their search algorithm, and keep up with the daily changes in the world of search engines for the latest changes. Effective search engine optimization is demanding, complex, and precise. A competent SEO professional wields a wide array of technical as well as verbal skills, and deep experience is absolutely key to doing effective SEO.
To give a sense of the challenges involved, anyone who expects to make a go at doing SEO must be able to answer all of the following questions:
What percentage of popular single words vs. targeted multi-word phrases should you weave into your text, and in what frequency, density, and distribution?
How can Flash be used while preserving SEO?
What usability and navigation principles ensure that the traffic you get will convert optimally?
Myth 6: In-House SEO Is Cheaper
The Truth: SEO professionals can get higher rankings faster because Search Engine Optimization and Marketing is complex, technical and has a steep learning curve. Professional organizations devoted to SEO also have a team available, including copywriters, developers and SEO specialists. Unless you have a room full of marketing staff dedicated to SEO it is hard to keep up. How much is 10, 15, 20 hours a month worth to you in a dollar amount? SEO professionals make you money by saving you that time and effort, at a cost you can afford.
Myth 7: Only go with a Guaranteed Search Engine Position company
SEO Myth: “Your top ten search engine ranking can be guaranteed”
The Truth: Some SEO firms will advertise a “guarantee” to have you listed in the top ten rankings. No one other than the search engines themselves can guarantee any ranking. Don’t believe it. Trust their results for other clients and make your decision from actual client successes, not empty promises and guarantees.
Credible, experienced, knowledgeable search engine optimizers can demonstrate results from past performance but cannot guarantee future results. In that sense, they’re just like stockbrokers. No broker knows how future markets will perform, and no optimizer knows what future search engine algorithms will be.
Except for pay-for-placement advertising, optimizers cannot guarantee top positions. Only one group has final control over what ranks and what doesn’t: the search engines themselves. All of the major search engines have some sort of disclaimer stating they ultimately decide which Web pages will be included in their indexes.
Unfortunately, a large number of the SEO firms that offer guaranteed search engine positions are spammers. To achieve top positions, thousands, even millions, of doorway pages are submitted to search engines. If one such doorway page gets a top position, even if only for a few days, the SEO firm fulfilled its end of the contract.
People like the comfort of a guarantee. Many believe a guarantee shows the firm’s confidence in their skills and expertise. Remember, a guarantee is only one part of a sales pitch. The same guarantee that convinces you to sign the contract may very well result in spam practices that will get your site penalized or banned altogether.
Myth 8: We can get you Instant Link Popularity
Anyone who promises link popularity right off the bat is spamming search engines. In all likelihood, SEO firms that promise instantaneous results build link farms to artificially inflate link popularity.
Quite often, these firms rely on expired domains on Yahoo and Open Directory. Many of the link farm sites aren’t even in the same industry. Why would a mortgage site link to a site that sells watches?
Results people see during the sales pitch that are generated by link farming are short-lived. Search engine software engineers discover the link farms and promptly remove their sites.
Quality link development takes time.
Myth 9: You Don’t Have to Change Your Web Site
A Web site is always a work in progress because the Internet is constantly evolving. Browsers are frequently updated to support improved HTML, Cascading Style Sheets, scripting, and multimedia files.
If you haven’t written your site using the keyword phrases your target audience types into search queries, your pages won’t rank well. And if you did use keyword phrases on your pages, were those phrases used prominently and frequently enough so the pages appear focused? This must hold true not only from a crawlers’ point of view but from your visitors’ point of view as well.
Be prepared to modify your content in places with the highest impact. That includes HTML title tags and visible (body) text: headings, paragraph tags, hyperlinks, table cells, ordered and unordered lists, and so forth. Modifying content in meta tags alone won’t make your site appear more focused.
If a site doesn’t contain at least one navigation scheme crawlers can follow and a URL structure they can easily index, participation in paid-inclusion programs should be part of your budget.
Myth 10: The goal is to be number one or on page one.
Not true. Your goal is to optimize your return on investment in SEO and SEM (Search Engine Marketing). You’ll miss the big picture if you focus myopically on obtaining page-one ranking for a few words that you think best describe your products or services. The goal of SEO and SEM is to engineer a diversified portfolio of hundreds or even thousands of targeted phrase combination’s of words that, together, achieve maximum ROI. Depending on the frequency of searches relevant to your offerings, a few targeted phrases could earn you enormous ROI. Or, conversely, you may need scores of synonymous phrases or single words to rank on page one in order to achieve maximum ROI.