Beware the Mathematician’s Answer

Jun 15, 2012   //   by Helen   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Internet Marketing Doesn’t Work in Straight Lines

Why we need to start overlooking the “obvious” and start with the basics is covered in this guest post by David Quaid of Primary Position, one of Ireland’s leading Search Engine Optimisation, (SEO), consultancy firms.

It always starts with a question. The most common question I’ve ever been asked is this “If I do this, this, that and that, will I rank on Google?” It’s also the one question I’m least likely to be able to answer with anything else but “How would I know? You haven’t told me what you want be found for….”

It’s also the question to be most likely answered by that SEO Blog or Free SEO Advice page you came across. You did everything but it just didn’t seem to help. Well, not yet anyway. Or those tips you got from the Magic Marketing guy on twitter, who is super passionate about internet marketing but doesn’t do very well at it. You know what I mean, the list of top ten twenty fifty things you need to do to rank well.

“People just want checklist SEO. 
Well, it just isn’t there. It’s a system.”

They’re always things you have to do onsite and surprisingly, many of them are wrong. They gain credibility because they’re repeated so often. The more you hear it, the more it must be true. It just builds up and up like a noise. Keywords, Page Titles, Keyword Density, Reciprocal links – like a mantra for an obsessed list builder. Just yesterday some chap from the UK was telling me how important outbound linking is now – just another checklist item to game the system.

And they’re easy to do / understand. The best advice – given by the people who work at Google and the people who work at the top SEO agencies is even simpler. But it takes a lot more work: Write and create content for the end User, not the search engine. Even though much of the checklist SEO we read about have rammed down our throats is just nonsense, we seem to want to lap it all up.

You see, people are so keen to get the so called secrets that everybody and anybody who wants to make free money will sell it to them at any possible price. These checklists are a half-hearted attempt to reverse engineer successful sites, opinions that are often no better than a summary analysis of “well, that website has keywords – that must work!”

You’ve probably heard them all anyway – but here goes – if you read or hear any of this, you’re about to be hoodwinked:

• Hits – probably the most inaccurate and irrelevant term on the web, dreamt up by advertising sales moguls to extract more money for thin air. 
Hits are meaningless – deal with visitors
• Online Marketing is cheap or even free. It’s not. It’s certainly very cost effective but its far from free
• Fresh content is good for SEO. Except, that it’s not really
• Video is great for SEO. Except it isn’t
• Keywords – tags and density. Except it doesn’t make sense and so, it doesn’t work. Not like that. Just stuffing
• Flash is bad for SEO. Flash is ambivalent to SEO. Flash on a webpage is mostly very good. Putting a website into flash almost certainly isn’t

Internet marketing, and SEO as the biggest single driver of people, doesn’t work in straight lines. To get from A to Z, you may need to drive through C, D and F. If getting from A to B is too simple, it’s probably because it is.

Make it easy for your customer. Actually Eoghan Jennings, from Xing.com, sums it up far better than me – “Fall in love with your product”.

So what’s the difference between a checklist and a system?

Search Engines don’t read pages, (we need to be careful of personalisation or even Anthropomorphism), they filter them. This is where only certain objects are read and dealt with in different ways. Most of the tags or elements we hear about aren’t dealt with in any special way. In fact, on page, there are probably 10 or less. And most of these are quite technical.

Search Engines are a system – like a car engine – therefore putting in more pages suits some websites and may not work on others. Some pages need ten page titles, others just need two. It’s a system. Don’t look for do’s and don’ts but instead for “parameters”

How to build a strong web page – parameters

A good page should be laid out like a good document. Firstly give it a topic. And stick to it. If you go off topic, prepare a new page. Give your new page a name, a header and sub-headings, use the basic words common to most people and always explain complex words. Link out to good descriptive sites for further explanation. If you are using too many complex words or feel that there are too many topics, then sub-divide.

“Divide and conquer”

The worst myth is the number of words per page. A good few years ago, upon being pressed, an up and coming SEO suggested 250 words as a good number of words to have on a page. This became a minimum number in the List tent and has come up time and time again in forums, blogs and on twitter. If you are taking too long to explore a point – divide it up and move on to the next page. The number of words and pages is unique to your own point of view.

There is no such limit or threshold. Some pages don’t need text. Some have tens of thousands of words (like PDF documents).

Start with the Page Name. Then give it a short description. A description must fit a snippet. Limit the scope of your page to the page name and description, not the other way. Too many people “stuff” too much into a page. Too long a snippet and your page will appear spammy or broken.

Use images. Use flash too. Always give your images an Alt-tag that describes them.

Any good site should consider the following parameters
• Fantastic content!
• A clean and professional design
• A good and descriptive/appropriate name
• A decent 404-error page
• A good, user friendly sitemap (which can be used to make your XML Sitemap) 

David Quaid

is an SEO and online business consultant in Ireland
He is the tallest SEO working in Ireland and sometimes can be found enjoying short breaks in Antartica and Iraq

Post Script

I think the best bio for David is to Google the hugely competitive phrase “SEO Ireland” or “SEO Blog Ireland”, and the results will speak for themselves.
David, when not enjoying short breaks elsewhere, can be found on twitter as @primaryposition
~ Helen

What do you think? What SEO myths have you encountered? Please let us know in the comments below!

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