One of my mentors used to say, â€œNever take advice about money from someone whoâ€™s never had any.â€ Equally, I believe you should never take SEO advice from those who havenâ€™t implemented and proved the tactics themselves.
If youâ€™re asking, â€œWhat is SEO?â€ hereâ€™s a brief definition. Search engine optimization is the process of sculpting your websiteâ€™s pages to have more topical relevance and authority than other pages in your niche, therefore outranking them for your targeted search queries in engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. Having been involved with search engine marketing for years, I want to share with you some common misconceptions and some basic principles regarding SEO.
SEO Myth 1: The most popular myth is that SEO is mostly about putting targeted keywords on a page. This is whatâ€™s referred to as â€œon-page optimization.â€ You might have read before that all you have to do for good rankings is load (or stuff) all your keywords, even misspelled variants, into the keywords tag field. While on-page factors matter, the majority of SEO factors have to do with external links to your site. More on this below.
SEO Myth 2: Aiming to rank on Page 1 of Google for a keyword phrase is a worthy business objective. If SEO efforts donâ€™t land you in the top 5, then thereâ€™s little traffic value in it. According to a study done by AOL, the lionâ€™s share of organic traffic goes to the top 5 organic listings. The main reason that anyone ever explores beyond the top 5 is that they didnâ€™t immediately find what they needed, and this is rare in my experience.
Now, the truth.
SEO Truth 1: You donâ€™t have to buy your SEO tricks at the magic store. One of the biggest secrets in search engine optimization is there are hardly any secrets. There is a lot of insider information and terminology, but itâ€™s all accessible online in blogs, books and videos. Regardless of the source, itâ€™s tough to fully grasp what works by just reading about it. You have to implement it and see it work.
SEO Truth 2: When the SEO industry was young and people believed the world was flat, there was an ongoing debate about keyword density, or how many times a keyword should be on the page to be perfectly optimized. Thankfully, the search algorithms have matured, and shallow, easily manipulated indicators of topical authority such as keyword density have much less value.
Overstuffing the pageâ€™s copy and the meta tags is a waste of time, and it could result in a ranking penalty. Title tags are the most important factor on a page and should include your most important keywords. Body copy should include your target keywords and variations of them sprinkled naturally throughout. Itâ€™s also a good idea to include them in meta descriptions, image alt tags and headline tags.
SEO Truth 3: Once your site is optimized internally, getting links from other sites is of paramount importance. The search algorithms are largely based on the quality and quantity of links pointing to your site and what text the links contain. Most SEO professionals believe as much as 80 percent of achieving ranks is driven by external linking factors.
SEO Truth 4: Locally modified search phrases are much less competitive. If you offer concrete-staining services in Columbia, and youâ€™re trying to optimize your site to rank for â€œstained concrete,â€ itâ€™s going to be tough. However, thereâ€™s a great chance you could rank for â€œstained concrete Columbia MOâ€ with relative ease. Additionally, the geo-modified phrase is most likely a potential customer, and the non-geo phrase could be anyone in the country searching for information on stained concrete.
When doing keyword research for local businesses, itâ€™s good to look at non-geo phrases in the keyword tools because you can get a better feel for popularity of phrases. Also, city-specific search demand in many locations is so low that the keyword tools report little to no data. Just be sure to tack on your city to keyword phrases when optimizing on-page factors. Otherwise, youâ€™ll be swimming with the â€œSEO sharks.â€ Sharks eat people. Itâ€™s not good, and itâ€™s messy.
Travis Smith is president of Lift Division, a Columbia-based search marketing company. He is author of â€œLift: Discover How Your Local Business Will Grow With Googleâ€ and teaches search engine marketing at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
Copyright 2011 Columbia Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.