When we’re first planning a new website with our clients and we’re discussing their objectives for their website, one of the things they invariably say to us is “I want to be number one on Google.”  Thus, whether they know it or not, what they are looking for is search engine optimization (SEO): gaining high search result rankings in the keywords that their target audience is searching for.  Now, search engine optimization is a big subject — way more than just one article can cover.  So let’s start off by debunking some of the big myths and misconceptions about SEO out there.

It’s all about your pages’ meta tags.

What’s a meta tag?  It’s a series of optional descriptive tags that you can put in your website’s code.  Two commonly used meta tags are a “description” meta tag, and a “keywords” meta tag.  Stuffing your meta tags with your target keywords is often thrown around as good SEO advice. However, this is completely useless. Years ago, Google and the other search engines used web page’s meta tags to help them rank their search results.  However, people caught onto this and began stuffing their meta tags with huge lists of keywords to try and boost their rankings.  Because of this abuse, the search engine companies eventually stopped paying attention to anything put inside a website’s meta tags at all.

You should submit your site to 500+ search engines in order to boost your rankings.

Some SEO companies will say something like this in their sales pitch to you.  It sounds great, right?  It’s also completely unnecessary.  Why?  Nowadays there’s only 3 big search engines out there: Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Google is the 800-pound gorilla of the search engine industry, with 70% market share.  Yahoo and Bing fight over the remaining 30% of market share. (Ask.com is a distant runner-up, with about 1–2% market share.)  Any other search engine out there either licenses the technology from one of the companies above, or gets so little traffic that it’s statistically insignificant.

“We can guarantee you a #1 ranking in Google.”

This is perhaps the most insidious SEO myth out there.  It sounds great, doesn’t it?  The only problem is that no one can guarantee anything when it comes to search engine rankings.  The search engine companies keep their ranking algorithms secret (and are constantly shifting them as well), in order to keep people and companies from “gaming the system” to manipulate the search results in their favor. So while you can build your website following best practices to increase your chances of favorable search result rankings, there is no magic potion to “guarantee #1 results.”  If a company brags that they can guarantee you a certain ranking, they are lying.  Stay away from these folks as most professionals in the field know that this is untrue and would never promise you top ranking on search engines.

Content writing tactics are not measurable.

If you hire a company to do SEO and content writing for your website, they should be able to tell you how they are improving your ranking from month to month. SEO is not invisible. You should be able to see an improvement and the company should be able to tell you what they are doing to earn their fee. If they tell you they have a “secret recipe,” hire another company because there is no secret formula to it.

Content writing takes time to improve your ranking. Any content writing company that tells you they can get you in the top 10 or even top 20 results within a few days is probably being dishonest. These efforts take time to improve your ranking and if you are involved in a competitive business, it will take even longer. Patience is the key as the website owner and lots of hard work is key for the SEO company that you hire.

Tricks don’t work. Some companies that sell content will try tricks and loopholes when creating the content for your website. Methods like spamming, hidden links, keyword stuffing and others are just a few ways that people try to get fast results in search engine rankings. But these methods will just get your website penalized by Google and it may not even be indexed at all as a result.

With these common SEO myths debunked, you may be wondering if there’s anything you can do to improve your chances of high search rankings.  Actually, there is quite a bit!  Join us next month as we talk about some of the foundational principles of optimizing your website for the search engines.  In the meantime, if you have any additional questions about search engine optimization, contact us and we’ll be glad to help optimize your website for the search engines.