googlealgo1Everybody knows that search engines no longer care about meta descriptions. Everybody knows that header tags don’t matter. Everybody knows that there has to be a 5.6% keyword density in written content. What else does everybody know? And who the heck is “Everybody”?

Most people visiting this blog are looking for a “how-to”. They’re trying to answer questions like “how do I get my site to rank” or “what am I doing wrong”. In fact, about 90% of our clients come to us because they don’t know what SEO is or how to do it. However, what they’ve also probably done is searched for SEO information elsewhere. (No worries, I don’t hold it against you. Research is a positive thing!)

As someone who does their best to keep up with emerging SEO techniques, believe me, I know what searchers are reading. I know it can get confusing. For me, at times, it can get really irritating. Here’s why.

Yesterday, I came across some link bait. For those that don’t know, “link bait” is a title designed to shock people into clicking. This particular title said Terrible Advice: Focus on Users, Not Search Engines.

I thought, “really…”, because I have often told our clients that we focus more on the users than the search engines. After all, bringing in users is the ultimate goal. Now, I don’t hold it against the guys at SEOmoz for the article. It was a good article; I’m not bashing it. The author irons it out in the end that what he’s saying is, “Yes, focus on the users, but don’t only focus on the users. Focus on the search engines too, or you’re not giving your clients the full benefit of optimization.” I completely agree.

However, in one of the comments, a gentleman said “Assuming that it is already widely known that the engines don’t use them [meta descriptions] for keywords.” My initial reaction was, “What??” My following reaction was this blog.

What you need to get out of this…

Look – you need to know that you’re going to come across conflicting information. For every ten optimizers that say, “Search engines don’t care about keywords in the meta tag”, you’ll come across ten others that say they do and vice versa. Why? Why is there so much conflicting SEO advice from optimizers? If you’re asking the same thing, I’m going to let the cat out of the bag for you.

Most optimization techniques are based on hypothesis, conjecture, opinion and the individual experience of the optimizer.

That’s not to say optimizers don’t know anything. We do know some things that are set in stone (for now):

  • Strong keyword research
  • Competition analysis
  • Website optimization
  • Testing
  • Landing pages
  • Relevant (and updated) content
  • Relevant links
  • Title tags

The above are a few of the important ones. The rest begins with “You know, I bet if I…”

Does this mean SEO is a scam?

Absolutely not. Like I said, some things we know for a fact work, such as those listed above. Level343 has provided several clients with high listings using the techniques we know work and testing others until their rankings are where they need to be.

However, Google and the other search engines have not walked up to any optimizer – anywhere – and said, “Here. Take this information on how our algorithms work, manipulate the system and put your clients on top.” In fact, the likelihood of that happening is … well, you know the saying about pigs and flying.

Have you ever seen a pig fly without being catapulted? I haven’t – and if you have, take a picture and I’ll remove the blog. No doctoring allowed.

So – while you’re searching the web for comprehensive SEO information, take what you read with a grain of salt. When giving out advice, most optimizers forget to add “in my opinion” or “this is what I’ve seen work”, because, in their opinion and experience, what they say is what works.

If you can’t make heads or tails of the information you’re getting, spend a little bit of time on the Google Webmasters website or a little bit of money on an SEO consultant you feel comfortable with. Most companies offer hourly consultations to give you a boost if you want to do your own SEO.

Most importantly, don’t freak out if you’ve paid attention to one particular optimizer, followed what they’ve said and then found someone else that said, “Don’t do that.” If your rankings are going up, then what you’re doing is working. Keep it up and don’t panic!