Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is an important part of building a web business. While advertising and social networking are important parts of growing your online presence, the majority of people still come across new websites by using search engines. Search engine traffic is also far more likely to be looking for something to buy than social traffic is.
But SEO has changed quite a bit over the years. In the past it was easier to try to outsmart the search engines by using questionable tactics that filled the web with sites that were little more than spam, packed with repetitive keywords and useless to the visitor. Unfortunately, some of these tactics are still taught by people claiming to have knowledge in the field of SEO. It is important to avoid these pitfalls that in the best case do nothing for your search engine rankings, and at worst can get your site knocked down to the bottom of the listings, or banned altogether. The following is a list of five outdated SEO tips, complete with alternatives.
By far the most irritating SEO tactic of years past, keyword stuffing was the practice of repeating a keyword over and over again in the text of a website. This was done because, back in the 1990s, search engines lacked the sophisticated algorithms of today. Search engines at the time may have simply looked for the number of times that a keyword appeared within a block of text, and listed that site at the top of the listings. The result was a huge number of websites that offered very little content and a lot of the same word over and over again. Don't try doing this now, though. Today's search engines can spot a useless website. Sites like those won't be getting anywhere near the top of the SERPs.
Today, keyword stuffed websites will be immediately recognized by Google. Today's search engines look for evidence that people actually like your site and hold it in high regard. Writing your site for a search engine is the worst way to demonstrate this. Instead you should create content that is useful for the people who visit it, which encouranges linking. The keywords you are trying to get ranked for should only be used where they make sense in context, as well as in the headers, tags, and meta descriptions. And don't forget that it's crucial for your keywords to be highly relevant and targeted to your niche. Don't just go for keywords that drive a lot of traffic in general, as that traffic may be of no use to you.
This is when you leave an out of context, noncontributing, promotional comment in a blog or forum and link it back to your site. People did this to increase the number of links to their site, which once upon a time helped them rise up in the search engines. Today, Google has introduced the "nofollow" tag, which allows web owners to prevent links in their site's comments from contributing anything to search rankings. The vast majority of comment sections contribute nothing to search engines.
By creating high-quality, unique, interesting content on your website, people will link to it naturally, giving you links that are actually useful for your search engine rankings. (Of course, you will need to do some promotional link-building work to speed up this process.) Links from the owners of other blogs and news sources contribute wonderfully to your search engine rankings.
Submitting Your Site to a Search Engine
A large number of companies out there still try to sell you on the idea of having them submit your website to the search engines for you. Unfortunately, many people still take the bait. Google's ability to discover and index new web pages is so advanced that submitting your site to a search engine, even through the Google submission tool, only slows the process down.
Google discovers new web pages through links. The fastest way to let Google discover your website is by linking to it from a popular site such as Twitter. If you have more than one website, linking to it from another website that is already in Google's directory can also be helpful, especially if the content of the website is related.
Meta Keyword Tag Optimization
Meta tags are descriptive pieces of information that are hidden from people who visit the site but are visible to search engines. These used to be used to provide search engines with information about what the website was about. Search engines no longer use this information to rank sites based on the keywords that people search for. This is because people abused the meta tags, filling them with information that was not necessarily related to the information on the site, in the hopes that they could get ranked for keywords they knew nothing about and had nothing to offer for.
Today, Google has outright stated that rankings are no longer influenced by the meta keywords tag. Stuffing keywords in to the meta tags of your website will get you nowhere. (Google does still use the meta description tag in its snippets, so carefully written meta descriptions can be useful for searchers and encourange click-through.) You can still try to let the search engines know what each section of your website is used for by using categories and tags to organize your website in a way that is easy for both your visitors and search engines to navigate. If you want Google to know that a page on your site is about "aardvarks," for example, than it should be easy to reach that page by clicking on a tag or category link about "aardvarks."
When two website owners decide to link with one another in order to increase their traffic, this is called a link exchange. Exchanging links with a few other sites is not really a bad thing, and it can help you get noticed. There was a time, however, when people embarked on massive link exchange campaigns, soliciting website owners to link to them in exchange for a link back to improve their rankings in Google. This practice is now looked down upon by Google, because it often ends up with websites linking to one another that are completely unrelated. While it is still possible to influence your site's rankings by being a part of a link exchange network, the risk website owners face is the removal of your website from Google's search engine.
Instead of doing this, you can write testimonials to website owners. They can put up your testimonial with a link to your site. You can also guest blog on somebody else's blog, providing them with useful content and linking back to your site.