When I started working with the parent company of the search engine optimization company I currently manage, I spent a lot of time on the phone with prospects and clients. I was always amazed by misconceptions given to so many people about how to get a top listing in a search engine. Often times, I felt as though people were educating them with literature written in the early nineties.
Unfortunately, the penalty for some of these techniques is not just a bad ranking but rather permanent delisting or banning. Nobody wants to be banned! I have organized a list of concepts that people confuse or as I like to call them "Frequently Confused Concepts".
The most frequently confused concept of search engine optimization is the value of meta tags. Way back before search engines were sophisticated enough to scan and save the content of your web site, they would simply review your meta tags. A meta tag gives the title of your site, a description of what you do, and a list of five to ten keyword and keyphrases that are relevant to your web site. The problem with relying on these tags is that many people spoke on to the unfortunate truth that pornographic keywords would generate more traffic than the terms related to their web site. Now, this is not traffic you want since the person looking for his favorite centerfold does not want what you have to offer. Also, this makes the search engines quality of results very poor for the searching public.
All the major (and most minor) search engines index your entire site and use the meta tag as a minimally valuable map of what your web site has to offer. You content is the most important. If you have "dogs, girls, basketball, superbowl" in your keywords list in your meta tag and your web site pertains to "pet care" then you are spamming with your meta tags and they will not be positively received by the search engines robots . At the same time, piling a whole encyclopedia of keywords and keyphrases into your meta tag and not mentioning these words in your general word of your site will also not help you. Your meta tags should have descriptive, relevant, descriptions and keywords referring to your sites content.
This brings me to the second frequently confused concept of search engine optimization which is keyword lists. You have all of your literature and content in tacked on your web site. Then at the bottom of your web site, you put a long list of keywords such as:
Since these words are not in anyway (other than a list) part of your wordage, the search engines will disregard this as low quality content. You do NOT want to have low quality content as it is high quality content the search engines are looking for. After all, you will be in much better shape if you are holding hands with Google and Yahoo as apposed to thumb wrestling them. So avoid long lists of keywords and use that time to include your keywords and keyphrases frequently in your wordage. For example:
"Animal care is the earliest part of our goal at XYZ Pet Company. We are here to help you with your pet care needs.When you are looking for pet medicines or pet bathing products, we are your one stop shop. Pets by checking out our Cat Toys (link to cat toys page) and Dog Toys (link to dog toys page) products. XYZ Pet Company currently has a sale on Dog Leashes (link to dog leashes page). "
The above paragraph will be welcomed as quality content whereas a list of unused words will simply look like garbage.
I have had the unfortunate task of waving warning flags at prospects that come to us after working with a black hat search engine optimization specialist or misguided web designer about hidden keywords. This is my next frequent confused concept. Hidden keywords are lists of keywords in the header or footer that are the same color as the background. This makes them only viewable to search engine spiders. Do not do this! This is an indemnity that is punishable by black listings, banning, and overall delisting of your web site. Once again, use this time to creatively mention your keywords in your wordage.
Now that you have a quality web site, you need a few relevant web sites to link to you. Not all links are created equal. A much used (and still very popular though useless) technique is submitting to free for all link pages. These are pages that accept links to everyone's web site. The search engines hate these as they are just lists of links. Aside from that, these sites are NOT relevant to your web site so the link you wasting your time posting will not benefit you. The best way to add your link to other web sites is by searching for relevant directories and web sites then offering link exchanges. Our friends at XYZ Pet Company could add their link to pet related directories, forums, and blogs. Another valuable technique is simply writing informational articles and include your link in the footer of the article. Then submit these articles to places like ArticleCity.com who will post your article for others to use. They use your article with the understanding that your link and footer stay in their original context.
Last but not least in my list of frequently confused concepts of search engine optimization is "hocus pocus". Yes, we still get calls from people that believe the key to optimization is by the use of magic tags and invisible mojo. The truth is, search engine optimization is based on the three pillows of Relevant Content, Fresh Content (update your information frequently), and Relevant Link Population. If all of your techniques are centered on ethically doing those three things, you will have a better ranking and sleep better knowing that the search engines will not kick your site off their index.