Search Engine Optimization

I frequently get asked by clients about “search engine optimization” and whether I can help them with that. The answer is “yes” and “no”.

Where your website appears on search engines like Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc. is obviously important to your business. It is only natural for a business owner to want his/her website to appear near the top of the results for a given set of search words/phrases. However, most of the “search engine optimization” pitches that you see/hear are a waste of time.


HTML Meta Keywords

Search engines have caught on to the “quick and easy” methods of enhancing rankings like the use of meta keyword tags. None of the current search engines use meta keywords in their rankings because of abuse by SEO “optimization” companies. In fact, during a recent redesign of a website, I was browsing through the HTML of the old website and noticed the following:

That’s over 6,000 meta keywords (click the image for a full resolution version if you care to read it all)! It’s this kind of abuse of standard HTML to “optimize” search result rankings that led search engines to ignore certain aspects of HTML content for search indexing purposes.

Visible vs. Meta Content

The major issue with meta keywords is that they aren’t displayed by the web browser making them a perfect target for abuse by companies in the business of “search engine optimization”. SEO companies can “optimize” a site by placing a huge list of meta keywords in the site’s HTML which site visitors won’t ever see but search engines used to use for indexing purposes. For that reason, today’s search engines generally only index the visible content of website pages (if you don’t see it via your web browser, search engines generally won’t use it for indexing purposes either).

What does that mean for “search engine optimization”?

The basic take-away is that the way to optimize your site content for search engines is to simply create content. The more content you have containing whatever search words/phrases you want to “optimize”, then the more likely it will be for your website to appear in the search results for those words/phrases. Note that you should create reasonable content as opposed to a page containing 6,000 words you hope to generate search results for on Google. You want readable content, not gibberish.

At the end of the day, it is your visible website content that is responsible for your search engine rankings. Hence, the way to “optimize” your search engine rankings is to “optimize” (within reason) your visible content to include whatever words/phrases you are targeting.

There is no “magic bullet” to put your website at the top of search engine rankings for a given set of search words/phrases. You, as the website owner, accomplish that via careful and considered editing of your content.