Thursday, July 28, 2005

How Not To Rank Well On The Search Engines


Forget What You’ve Heard

The world of search engines has changed a lot over the years. In fact, I’ve seen a lot of changes in as little as the last 4 months.

But in spite of that rapid change, there are some things that, sadly, stay the same. How does that saying go? “The more things change, the more they stay the same…”? And one of the things that never changes, and never ceases to amaze me, is how long misinformation (and out-of-date information) lingers.

So, in an effort to stem the tide of old and inaccurate articles, I offer this up. I realize that in many ways, it’s like trying to stop a flood with a bailing pail, but here goes, nonetheless:

1. META Tag Keyword List – A long, long, time ago, the META keyword list was king. This was where the search engines found out what your site was all about, and discovered how to reference it for searches. Very quickly, it was abused. People began repeating the keywords here, and these lists quickly expanded to hundreds and hundreds of words. The search engines retaliated by limiting the number of repetitions that would be effective. Finally, the search engines stopped paying attention to it at all, preferring to pull keyword and key phrase matches from the visible text on the website itself.

2. Irrelevant Keywords –Again, back in the days when the META tag ruled, a lot of sites would include irrelevant keywords in the tag. The thought that if you came up on more searches, that’s more chances for people to find you, right? Wrong. Instead, you became more clutter that they weren’t searching for, and, while you might have gotten more initial click-ins, when those people arrived at your site, they were angry and confused. Those kind of customers rarely buy, or come back.

3. Visible Keyword Lists –Once it became clear that the search engines were paying more attention to the text in the page itself, then people began moving the keyword lists to the page. So, you started seeing these huge lists of keywords at the bottom of websites, usually with lots of repetition. The initial problem with this is obvious. Your customers will see this gibberish at the bottom of your site. Soon, the search engines began checking for sentence structure, and so the lists began fading in value.

4. Color Matching –In an attempt to make the big lists at the bottom of the page invisible, one trick for a while was to make the text color match the background color, rendering it invisible. Of course, you still had a huge blank space at the bottom of the page, because the text still took up space, but at least it was hidden. Of course, once the engines started checking for grammar and content, this strategy also faded.

5. Misspelling Keywords –While there may well be some circumstances where this might play still, as the META tag influence faded, so did the strategy of including misspelled keywords. The theory was that some people just don’t know how to spel. Oops, I mean “spell”. So, if you included some mistyped versions of your keywords, you would catch those people that would also mistype the word as they were searching. The problem is, now that the Keywords META tag is no longer used, you’d have to include the misspellings in the visible text of your site. That can make people question your credibility.

6. Doorway/Gateway/Magic Pages –This was an interesting approach. The idea was to create separate pages that would either redirect or link to your main page. You could make each of these pages uniquely optimized for the requirements of a particular search engine, then visitors would click through to the real site. Not only was this a lot of additional work, but the search engines started to kill these pretty soon after the strategy developed. These pages just end up cluttering the search engines’ databases, and cluttering up the search results. Still, there persist SEO companies to this day that will tout this method of search engine ranking, and will also sell you software that will autogenerate the doorway pages.

7. Link Farming –When Google, and later, Yahoo, began figuring inbound links into the equation, other things began changing in the SEO wars. The idea was that if lots of other sites link to you, your site must be more popular, and hence, deserves a better ranking. It makes some sense, and done right, it still carries a lot of weight. The problem is that a lot of webmasters think that ANY link is a good link, and that’s not really the case. They set up link exchange programs where hundreds or even thousands of irrelevant sites automatically link back and forth to each other. These are called link farms. They don’t help, and in some cases, they can actually hurt.

8. Automatic Submission Programs –These are programs that will submit your site to hundreds or even thousands of search engines in one shot. What a timesaver, right? And it is. However, the vast majority of those search engines are minor, and not that impactful. There are four main search engines that are valuable to be listed in, and those should be registered manually. By that I mean, you should go to their site, find the submission page, and sign up. Why four? Because other, smaller websites draw their results from these databases, so getting listed here will automatically get you listed in the others as well. The four are,,, and An autosubmit program won’t hurt you, and as long as the price is low, can get you in some of the minor search engines with little or no effort. Still, register with these big four by hand, and you’ll get where you need to be.

So, now that all of these old-school SEO gimmicks are faded and debunked, what do you do to get a good ranking?

1. Prepare a website with good, informational content, full of relevant and well-researched search term matches. Include those search terms in the text of the site in natural and grammatically correct ways. Optimize your sub pages the same way, choosing terms relevant to the content of those pages.
2. Find good, relevant sites to exchange links with. Quantity is good, but quality is also important. Don’t link with link farms. Remember that SEO is only a part of the reason to exchange links. Links can also bring targeted clickthroughs on their own.
3. Work to get others to link to your site without exchanging links. Post relevant comments on message boards and blogs with your web address in your signature. Provide content articles to relevant websites with a link back to your site.
4. Update and add to your site frequently.

In short, running a good website will get you good rankings. Playing the tricks is played out.

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