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Monday, July 4, 2011

Common Sense SEO

I get this all the time, in phone calls and email.  "We can use SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to put your site at #1 in the Google rankings..."
So, while it sounds good to optimize your search rankings, what exactly are we talking about here?  As it turns out, there are 2 kinds of SEO.
There is organic SEO, where the Google and other crawlers read the text on your page and index your site accordingly, and there is the kind that the "SEO Marketing" companies are trying to sell (at least the ones that call me), that are in essence trying to game the Google search bot into giving your site a higher ranking.


Things that do not work.
  • Adding a million words to your META tags.
Reliable sources tell me that Google doesn't even read the meta tags anymore.  So any company that offers you hits by adding stuff like this:

  <meta name="Keywords" content="Lindsay Lohan Naked, boobies, naked people, free porn, free money, firefox sucks, IE sucks, Safari sucks, free stuff, make money in your spare time, free drugs, free pharma, free overstock, cancel your credit card debt, no interest loans, low interest loans, free medical care">


...to your site header is trying to rob you.  They may make your hits go up for a time, but they will not drive the kind of traffic you want to your site.  Now it won't hurt your site per se, as Google completely ignores them, but some other search engines may pick them up and decide how full of crap you are :)

  • Paying for links
This cropped up many years ago.  You pay some guy $50 a month and he maintains about 90 web pages.  These web pages have no content, all they have is a long list of link tags - sometimes not even formatted so a human can read them.   These may help a little, but the search engines are wise to this game.  What you really want is people who will legitimately link to your page (in blogs, twitter, facebook), not these con men.
  • Constant site updates
Changing your site once a week, day, hour, minute might help your crawler traffic, but not your rankings, and certainly not your visitors.  So anyone offering to add some dynamic gizmo that adds a comma to your site every hour is trying to rip you off.
  • Hiding text
Some SEO Experts recommend that you add white-on-white or black-on-black or 1pt text to your pages to help get you hits.  Since Google no longer reads the meta tags, they figure it's easy to fool the crawler by making it invisible to the human eye like this (I made it "nearly-white" so you can see it):

[
Linsday Lohan Naked, boobies, naked people, free porn, free money, firefox sucks, IE sucks, Safari sucks, free stuff, make money in your spare time, free drugs, free pharma, free overstock, cancel your credit card debt, no interest loans, low interest loans, free medical care,Linsday Lohan Naked, boobies, naked people, free porn, free money, firefox sucks, IE sucks, Safari sucks, free stuff, make money in your spare time, free drugs, free pharma, free overstock, cancel your credit card debt, no interest loans, low interest loans, free medical care,Linsday Lohan Naked, boobies, naked people, free porn, free money, firefox sucks, IE sucks, Safari sucks, free stuff, make money in your spare time, free drugs, free pharma, free overstock, cancel your credit card debt, no interest loans, low interest loans, free medical care,Sarah Palin Naked
]
I understand that the web crawlers are getting wise to this tactic as well, but even if they didn't, it still drives traffic you don't want to your pages!

Things that do work.
  • Building a reputation.
  • Getting recommendations from real people and other businesses.
  • Good spelling and punctuation on your pages. (if you're selling mousetraps, and your site says "muosetrap", you're probably not going to get seen.)
  • Being connected to social media - is there a twitter/digg/facebook linkamabob on your website? Do you blog about stuff your company does - about your industry - and include links to your site?



Bryan Valencia is a contributing editor and founder of Visual Studio Journey.  He owns and operates Software Services, a web design and hosting company in Manteca, California.

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