In the decade or so since the search engine was first invented, the field of Search Engine Optimization has evolved. Some obsolete information and old wives’ tales still persist, and these can damage your standings.
The myths and obsolete techniques fall into a few broad categories:
- Keyword density: There are many number of magic formulas touted on the internet, claiming that if you reach the perfect number of keyword instances per page, your rankings will go up. While you do need to have the keyword somewhere in your text in order to have your stated keywords considered relevant, artificially inflating the number of instances is a bad plan. First, it simply decreases the quality of your content. Second, the search engines may begin classifying your site as too spammy, and actually downgrade your rating.
- Tags and META: Loading keywords into your page headers and the meta data of your site is also an old trick that’s now likely to get you classified as spammy. Only keywords that are relevant to your content and specific to what your users are searching for should be included.
- Links: Some fraudulent SEO services, and some outdated pieces of advice, will associate your website with link exchange systems and link farms. Since the search engines keep track of these farms and exchanges, and using them is considered trickery, being part of them can actually significantly downgrade your rating.
- Submission to search engines: Once upon a time, submitting your site to search engines was a long and arduous process, which was nonetheless necessary to get a good place in the rankings. These days, search engine submission is generally not needed at all, since the engines automatically search for new sites. If they don’t find yours quickly, manual submission is quite easy and there are a few top search engines that have most of the market share.
Conversely, there are a few relevant and current strategies for climbing the ranks of search results. (It should come as no surprise that these are broader and more difficult or time-consuming to implement than the myths would suggest.)
- Unique content: Consistently offering high quality content that is valuable to your users, unique on the web, and from original sources is by far the best way to attract users – and search engines – to your site. If your site consists of copy, providing a unique value in information filtering, commentary and analysis, or other user-friendly services.
- Voice of authority: Along with unique content, offering an authoritative voice is a good way to increase your links and therefore your page ranking. Either become an authority yourself or offer interviews, quotes, or guest content by noted authorities in your field. If well-respected people and organizations recommend or reference your site, your popularity will rise.
- Professional networking for link sharing: As a web master, blogger, marketer, or business owner, professional contacts matter for a wide range of activities. Additionally, you may ask these people to link their sites with yours, or to provide expert and authoritative content for your site.
- Crawler files: Having a robots.txt file that is updated, accurate, and properly configured can make your site easier to catalogue correctly. Building the site’s architecture in a crawler-friendly manner can give your site a slight edge that may be worth pursuing. Do remember that search engine developers are concerned with their users and serving them appropriate content. They’re smart enough to outwit most technical tricks.