Published: Friday, January 6, 2006
By Jill Whalen, CEO High Rankingsdel.icio.us
Wouldn't it be great if we could simply edit Meta tags and get high rankings?
Many years ago I read Stephen R. Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People." One thing Covey discusses is the glitter of the "Personality Ethic." He mentions how some people try to find some "quick and easy way to achieve quality of life ... without going through the natural process of work and growth that makes it possible." Then he goes on to say, "The Personality Ethic is illusory and deceptive. And trying to get high quality results with its techniques and quick fixes is just about as effective as trying to get to some place in Chicago using a map of Detroit."
What Covey says is nearly identical to what I've been saying for years regarding search engine optimization: There are simply no quick fixes.
I wish I had a dime for every potential client who came to me and said, "We just need you to fix our Meta tags so our site will rank highly with search engines." These people don't realize that if it were simply a matter of fixing Meta tags, they could probably do it themselves!
Why Not Meta Tags?
Search engines don't have a whole lot to work with when trying to figure out which sites to show in their list of results for any given keyword search. Considering this, it's actually quite amazing how relevant most search results tend to be, given the sheer number of pages on the Internet these days.
For an internal search engine that just searches through pages or products on your site, the information provided in the Meta keyword tag can really help to narrow down the most relevant pages that one of your site users might be searching for.
Unfortunately, the differences between an internal search engine and a public one such as Google are many. For instance, with an internal engine, there are only a relatively small number of pages or products to search through to find a relevant page. Plus, the content and Meta tags on the site are trustworthy, since your goal and that of your internal search engine is to help people find exactly what they're looking for on your site.
On the other hand, with major search engines, their database contains basically every page on the web that they know about. They can't necessarily trust the Meta tags they find since a site owner's goals may not necessarily be the same as the major search engines' goal (i.e., you would like your site to show up in the search results as much as possible for as many keyword phrases as possible, but the search engine would like to show the most relevant pages, whether those are yours or someone else's).
This makes changing or adding Meta tags on your site neither a quick fix nor a slow fix. It won't fix anything and it won't have any effect on your search engine traffic.
What About Content?
Sure, you can add all kinds of content to your site and hope that will be a quick fix, but writing lots of good content cannot be done quickly. It will generally take years of writing a little bit every day or every week, to eventually end up with a genuine archive of truly useful information. It's highly doubtful that if you're somehow generating 100 pages a week, you're actually creating good content. You're either stealing from elsewhere, auto-generating it from some sort of icky software program, or you're some kind of robot with too much time on your hands!
How About Links?
It is true that links are very important to helping your site gain visibility and search engine traffic. But quick-fix link schemes are not going to result in long-term high rankings for your site. Everyone knows to avoid "link farms," but nobody seems to quite know what they are. No worry, because it doesn't matter whether something is a link farm or a link scheme or a link popularity bonanza software extravaganza. If you set out to get links for the sole purpose of increasing your search engine rankings, you're already thinking backwards.
Forget about link popularity and instead think about your target audience and how you can let them know your site exists. It's really just marketing, plain and simple. You have a website and a business that presumably is [better] [more unique] [cheaper] [friendlier] than the others out there and it needs to be marketed. You may even have to <gasp> spend a little money to publicize your site. Good, old-fashioned newspaper, magazine, and even TV ads that mention your website can really get your site noticed. The more visible your site is, the more it will be talked about in the right circles, and the more links it will obtain just because. Even PPC ads can help, because they put your site in front of people looking for what you offer. The point is that people have got to find your site one way or another while you're waiting for your SEO campaign to kick in. It's your job to figure out how to get it in front of them as often as you can.
Regardless of how you market your site, don't count on becoming an overnight sensation.
This brings us back to Covey's Personality Ethic. Sure, someone can edit your Meta tags quickly and submit to 50 billion search engines and trade links with 90 million useless sites. However, if you haven't invested the time up front to create a website with great content that speaks to the reader in plain language that real people use (in other words, without technology buzzwords), you will not see good long-term results.
How To Achieve Long-term Results
You may achieve high rankings very quickly for words that nobody is searching for, but as Covey so aptly put it, these will be illusory and deceptive results at best. If no one uses those words in the engine's search box, all the #1 rankings in the world won't keep your business afloat.
It's imperative to think of the search engine optimization process as a long-term investment for your site, so here are 5 tips to help you invest in your future success:
Remember, you are working toward the future. Good placement achieved by doing things the right way will have staying power over time with very little additional effort. Like everything in life, if you spend the time and money to do it right to begin with, the long-term results will always be impressive.
Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a Boston SEO Consulting Agency.
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