Random thoughts from the week
Posted : Sat April 10th
SEO and the magic beans
Posted : Mon April 5th
I really think
Posted : Sat March 27th
Posted : Sat March 6th
Right way, wrong way
Posted : Thu February 11th
An update for December
Posted : Thu December 31st
MySQL, JDBC, Unicode and You
Posted : Sun November 29th
Whatever doesn't kill me will make me stronger
Posted : Thu November 5th
Somewhat random thoughts
Posted : Sat October 17th
Strange SSL woes
Posted : Wed October 14th
Because everybody has a Mom
Posted : Sat October 3rd
Sometimes I wonder
Posted : Tue September 29th
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Max in Whose blog is it anyway?
on Mon May 10th
Rob in Whose blog is it anyway?
on Fri May 7th
Anonymous in SEO and the magic beans
on Thu April 8th
Max in SEO and the magic beans
on Thu April 8th
n.o. in SEO and the magic beans
on Thu April 8th
silky in Right way, wrong way
on Fri February 19th
SEO and the magic beans
It seems like not a week goes by without someone, somewhere asking me a question about using "keywords" on a page. It seems there are still people, apparently stuck in 1997, who just know, or at least heard from a friend-of-a-friend or some spam (whichever comes first) that adding a few keywords (META tag keywords for those of you scoring at home) is all that stands between their site and billions of untold riches.
Posted : Monday April 5th, 2010
Let me answer that question succinctly.
NO! IT DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY!
And now for the longer version.
I want to start this off by discussing the actual term, "SEO". Let's face some facts here. SEO is an obsolete term because really there is only one search engine that matters to any site and that's Google. Yes, I am aware of Bing and Yahoo, but the fact is that if your site has a strong ranking (high listing) on Google it will have a strong ranking on those as well. And any other search engine that actually matters.
So aren't keywords the magic beans that will grow your site like an overreaching beanstalk to the city in the clouds?
No. The fact is that Google places no relevance on any content in keywords tags. And for good reason! Google is popular because it produces useful results and it doesn't produce useful results by relying on the "optimized" keywords that some scam artist produces. I mean, think about it. If Google was just a summary of the garbage that "SEO" companies produced it would be useless. And nobody would actually use it. (As an aside this was a popular way to do things in 1997. And it's why you haven't heard the terms "AltaVista" or "Northern Light" in about 10 years).
If at this point you are 100% sure that I have totally lost the plot read over a few excerpts from the Wikipedia entry on Meta-elements (and the keywords specifically).
"With respect to Google, thirty-seven leaders in search engine optimization concluded in April 2007 that the relevance of having your keywords in the meta-attribute keywords is little to none"
Little to none... but wait, it gets worse
"in September 2009 Matt Cutts of Google announced that they are no longer taking keywords into account whatsoever."
And if you want to disbelieve Wikipedia check out this page on the Google webmaster central blog.
"Google doesn't use the "keywords" meta tag in our web search ranking."
I honestly am not sure I can make it any clearer. Keywords will not help your Google page ranking. In fact what evidence there is suggests it can only make it worse. Putting misleading or fraudulent keywords on your pages in an attempt to increase traffic can actually hurt your page because Google may decide your site is just a scam and lower its page rank score.
So what can you do to increase your Google rank? Before I answer this question let me ask you a couple. What is the purpose of your website? Do you expect to actually have online sales? Will that be a major part of your business? Are your answers to any of the preceding questions realistic?
Before you can determine the ultimate strategy for increasing your sites Google rank you need to figure out what you want to do with your site. Too many people start "optimization" projects with nebulous goals. To paraphrase the Cheshire cat, if you don't know where you want to go what path you take is entirely irrelevant. You need to start by defining actual goals for your business and your site. Define how your site actually fits into your business goals. Anything else is a waste of your time.
And more than anything else time is what you'll need to invest to increase your Google ranking. Real links from respected sites is what will increase your Google ranking. Establishing those relationships and spreading awareness of your brand takes time and effort and there is no magic bean shortcut to that.
Having said all that I will share some code tips to help make your site as Google-friendly as possible. Again, these actions won't be themselves skyrocket your site to the top of search results but if you are making the effort to grow your presence organically they will help.
- Make sure the terms you want to be found by are actually in the content of your pages. It seems simple and yet... If you want people to be able to find your site by searching for "apple" then you need to actually use the word "apple" in your site content and not just "fruit". Just because your personal opinion is that "fruit" is a more inclusive term than "apple" won't help you in your Google ranking. Use the terms you want to be found by. Use them in the context of your content. And use them often.
- Use descriptive titles and add useful description (meta tags). These steps may or may not help your results move up in Google rank but they will help your content be categorized by both Google and your users.
- When possible use unique URLs for content. Either through URL re-writing or the magic that is enterprise platforms like J2EE giving unique (not entirely querystring based) URLs can help your site getting all it's content indexed. (To translate if you have links that look like http://yoursite.com/index.php?page=1 and http://yoursite.com/index.php?page=2 or you can have links that look like http://yoursite.com/AboutMyCompany and http://yoursite.com/ContactMyCompany the latter form is better.)
- If you have content that is frequently updated do add the cache and expiry META tags to your content to appropriate values. This will let Google know that the page should be checked at regular intervals and updated appropriately. Don't abuse these tags if your content is largely static because that can penalize you, but do take the time to add it if your content often changes.
Most of these steps are in my mind just common sense. At the end of the day your site will only get the Google rank you need because you invest the time and effort needed to grow your ranking organically. But since it's 2010 and it still comes up let me be totally clear, meta keywords are not the magic beans of e-commerce riches. And if you are sure you know different, I would urge you to consider the source of your information. SEO "Advice" that comes in spam emails isn't worth any more than the advice on increasing your manhood or your stock portfolio that you also got through spam.
n.o. - Apr 8th 2010 1:57 AM
I think google actually ignores the meta description tag as well... it only uses it as the description when your site comes up in the searches. ie. it serves a purpose, but doesn't help your ranking.
You can also add the title attribute to your links and bold/italicize things to tell google that they are important.
Just a couple of thoughts off the top of my tired head. I think there may be a bit more to it than you let on, but in the end who _really_ cares, right? :)
Max - Apr 8th 2010 7:33 AM
You are right, there is more too it, like anything in tech there is a shallow quick explanation and then the long more complex one. For example I do know that Google does index flash, but there are complications. And you're right the description tag doesn't have much or any index value but I still think for usability reasons it's a good thing to have.
Where I do care is that people should know that there isn't a magic bullet solution for this or their site in general. No amount of any optimization on your site is going to improve your page rank or your bottom line if your content is vague and poor and no other sites link to yours.
Anonymous - Apr 8th 2010 10:52 AM
I wholeheartedly agree with you. I also think that you can go that extra step in the building process to push it up even further. Especially if your site is currently _not_ on google.
Its definitely not a magic bullet, its strategic and takes time. Link building and great content are definitely a _huge_ part of it. But will that _alone_ get you out of the google basement? My initial reaction is no, but maybe it would just take a little longer.