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The Truth About Search Engine Optimization

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Author: Julie Batten

Search engine optimization - or SEO - has been around for pretty much as long as search engines have. Over the years, it has gained both proponents and opponents - many for good reason. The prevalence of sneaky, underhanded tactics, increasing spam in the search engine indexes, and publicized cases of websites being banned from the listings have given SEO a bad rap.

"SEO is just about tricking the search engines," some claim.

In an effort to de-bunk this and other wayward SEO beliefs, we have developed a list of 'top 5 myths about SEO'.

#1 - SEO is all about tricking the search engines

In actuality, good, honest SEO is not about tricking, but analyzing search engine algorithms in an effort to develop websites in a way that consciously supports search engines in doing their job - that is providing the most relevant content to their users. "White hat" SEOers understand that what's good for users is also typically good for search engines, and they strive to not 'trick' search engines, but be forthright in giving them exactly what they want.

#2 - SEO is all about the meta-tags

In a previous life, webmasters would stuff the meta-keyword tag with their desired terms, and voila!, a top spot in the rankings. SEO was about the meta-tags and not much else. Whether this approach worked then or not, it most certainly does not today. In addition to the multitude of other 'on page' ranking factors that now seem to matter (such as keyword-rich copy, anchor text, and file names), sites now more than ever have to look 'off site' - most importantly, at the volume and quality of their inbound links.

#3 - You only have to do SEO once

A recipe for SEO failure: optimize your pages once, obtain great rankings, and let simmer forever. On the contrary, successful SEO requires on-going evaluation and tweaking of strategies in order maintain and enhance positioning. With search engine algorithms changing by the hour, searcher behaviour maturing, and the competitive environment constantly shifting, does it stand to reason that your rankings today will remain the same 6 months - or weeks - from now? Without an on-going commitment to SEO, probably not.

#4 - Anyone can do SEO right

You read an e-book on SEO. You attended an SES conference. You're now a seasoned SEO expert, right? Wrong. Although SEO is definitely NOT rocket science, it does take a level of knowledge, and most importantly, experience, to really succeed. The knowledge that comes from testing out various techniques and working with a wide variety of websites over time is invaluable. Knowing how and why to select the right keywords is crucial, and understanding the impact of the site's design and coding on SEO is just as important. The bottom line: Yes, anyone can 'do' SEO, but it's much more difficult to really do it right.

#5 - SEO is purely the webmaster's job

Your webmaster is responsible to make sure that the front and back end of the site performs as it should. They are typically a technical person; a programmer. They are definitely not marketers. They might implement the SEO changes to the site, but actually determining what should be changed should be in the hands of the content authors and marketing/comm people in your organization. Hoisting the full responsibility for SEO on the webmaster's shoulders can produce less than desirable results as these 'techies' struggle to imagine what a customer would type into a search engine, and then attempt to massage these words into your agency-perfected copy. Instead, make optimization a collective initiative - ideally with the guidance of an SEO expert - and give your webmaster a break.

About the author: As the manager of the SEM Solutions Group at non-linear creations, Julie Batten manages the search engine marketing team to deliver exceptional client results by means of organic search engine optimization and pay-per-click search engine marketing campaigns. Julie has extensive experience in web marketing and has worked with key clients, including TD Canada Trust, TSX, and Mattamy Homes.

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