SEO TrapsSEO Tricks and Traps

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

How many offers have you received by e-mail that guarantee first page rankings? Not only can these scams part you from your hard-earned money, but they can also result in Google de-listing your site.

Read on.

Common SEO Traps to Avoid

Promises of first place rankings

Search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN and others do not release their source code to the public - the details of the programming their servers use to evaluate websites. To do so would be to defeat their goal of providing searchers (their customers) with unbiased results. To ensure a level playing field of sorts, search engines never reveal their secrets, instead providing broad guidelines for web sites to follow.

These guidelines are so vague, in fact, that a mini industry of sorts has sprung up attempting to evaluate the search engine's internal programming through the use of dummy sites which attempt to gauge the effectiveness of various design techniques and search engine strategies. Using the product of these tests is how we go about optimizing your website for the search engines. There are no guarantees of instant success, only a tested and proven strategy for raising your website's overall rankings with the search engines.

Because the search engines do not publish their internal criteria, guarantees of first place rankings are empty promises. No one can guarantee a site will achieve a first position ranking on a highly competitive keyword, and companies that make this promise can only deliver by purchasing the ranking or by achieving a high ranking on relatively obscure search phrases that actual searchers on the web rarely, if ever, use.

Promises to list your company with hundreds of search engines

There are simply not that many legitimate search engines out there. These promises include many small directories, multiple-language versions of US-based search engines and other sites which receive little or no traffic. Four search engines account for almost all searches conducted: Google, Yahoo, MSN and AOL. Another handful of smaller search engines such as Lycos, About, Excite, Netscape and others account for the bulk of the remaining searches conducted online. Baidu, the Chinese search engine, can be included in the first category along with Google and Yahoo as one of the top engines for sites directed towards China.

A promise to link your site with hundreds of search engines, therefore, is either largely redundant - in the case of the various foreign-language versions of Google, for instance - or is largely irrelevant, since all but a handful of top search engines receive virtually no traffic at all. Your time is better spent ensuring that your site is listed with the top ten search engines, and that your site's content is designed to attract top rankings with top engines.

Reciprocal Links, mirror sites, doorway pages and other content

Often you will see claims made by companies that your rankings can be raised by establishing reciprocal links to thousands of sites, or that having the same website on separate domain names will improve your rankings, or that special pages or hidden pages are the answer. All of these techniques are highly risky, and could easily result in having your website removed from the search engines' databases altogether - they violate the rules the search engines have for inclusion into their indexes by artificially inflating the value of your content. Once your site has been dropped by a search engine such as Google, getting it re-included can take months.

The Bottom Line

There are no shortcuts to a successful search engine strategy. Search engine optimization requires time, patience, and a thorough understanding of how content and structure work together to provide you with a web site which ranks well for the keywords and phrases that you value.

Choosing the Right Keywords and Phrases

To ensure that your website is reaching the right target audience, it is important to carefully select the words and phrases that you want the search engines to most closely associate with your website. Avoid the trap of using words or terms that you feel best describe you, and instead concentrate on selecting terms and phrases that your customers would use to find you or similar businesses on the internet.

Put yourself in your visitors' shoes.  Use language and keywords you feel people will use in conducting searches for your business.  Avoid highly technical jargon unless you feel your potential clients will be conducting their searches using these words.  Try conducting a few searches yourself using Yahoo, Google, MSN  or other search engines.  Pay attention to your competitors' descriptions and order of appearance in the search results.  To view THEIR Meta Tags, simply visit their site, and select "View" | "Source" from your browser's menu ("View" | "Page Source" in Firefox) to pull up their source code.  Look for lines near the top of the form beginning with the words "META NAME=DESCRIPTION" or "META NAME=KEYWORDS" and see what they are using to draw attention - especially if their company placed highly in your test searches.

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