Meta Tag Myths
Many web optimisation companies talk of how they can optimise the Meta Tags on your website (i.e. HTML tags imbedded in your website page’s code) to improve your ranking on search engines. However, Meta Tags now play a fairly small role in ranking results.
It is true that way back before the advent of Google Meta Tags could dramatically affect how your website was indexed by search engines and therefore where it ranked in any keyword search.
Web developers had a huge influence over how your website was seen and ranked by search engines. Or put another way, web developers to some extent controlled the results that search engines returned, which meant the search engine companies had a hard time ensuring that the results of any search were relevant to the searcher.
Google and other major search engines now only use Meta Tags to judge the relevance of a page in the website. They look at the first 20-50 keywords in the Meta Tags and see if they line up with the content on the page. If they do, then this page is not just rubbish and gets a further look in.
They then look at the keywords in the Meta Tags for this page and see if they relate to the subject matter of the entire website. If so, then the page gains a positive score, but this is only the beginning point the real work is done elsewhere.
The Woogloo system automatically aligns the keywords in the Meta Tags to the content of the page by taking the first 20-50 words form the content and putting them into the Meta Tag keywords.
Google recognised this problem with Meta Tag manipulation and developed a new way for search engines to rank websites. They measured the number of backward links a website had (i.e. how many websites are linked to your website – not how many websites you link to) and the relevance of those links.
For example, if you have a website development business and a number of web developer’s websites have links to your website, then you are seen as being relevant to the web development industry. Also if any of those websites linking to your website are already ranked highly by Google, then your website will gain extra ‘votes’.
Obviously it is much harder to fool Google when the main measuring rod is completely out of your control – i.e. other people’s websites.
Now web optimisation companies have to some degree managed to get around this by creating a number of dummy websites that have links pointing back to your website. This is called a Google Bomb.
Google knows about these Google Bombs and does not like them, because they falsify their results. So they attempt to nullify them by blocking the web address seen as responsible for them – i.e. your domain name.
The optimisation companies get around this by swapping IP addresses around every month before Google indexes the websites, but this only works as long as you keep paying them money for this service. When you stop paying them, Google catches up with what you are doing and black lists your domain name!
I have had many companies come to me and ask me to help them out of this predicament. They had been paying up to $15,000 per month to one of these web optimisation companies and when they stopped, their brand disappeared from sight.
The sad thing is that once the damage is done, there is no way to reverse it.
Another way of getting backward links to your website is by using link exchanges. These are websites that have business listings on them with links back to your website. You link to them and they will link to you.
The problem with this is that many of these link exchanges are simply fronts for spammers wanting your details so they can add you to their spam lists.
We have been burnt by this in the past and have had to completely shut down a domain name because of the flood of spam emails it was receiving.
Search Engine Registration
We have also seen companies charge clients for registering their domain name with search engines. In fact this is completely unnecessary as search engines need to know about your website to remain relevant themselves.
Search engines run automated programs called Search Bots that will very quickly find your website once a domain name is pointed at it. However, they only update their indexes once a month. Therefore, it may take a couple of months for your domain name to appear in their listings.
Moreover, just because you are now registered with a search engine – i.e. when you search on your domain name, it will come up – does not mean you will be ranked in any keyword search.
This leads us back to where we began, asking: ‘how do we get ranked under certain keywords?’
As we have seen you have little to no control over this, other than to build a good business that people want to be associated with.
Doesn’t the truth always sound like such hard work? Surely there must be an easier way?
No web optimisation company owns Google – sounds obvious, but if you listen to the boasting of most web optimisation companies you would swear that they had a controlling stack in Google. However, Google does own Google, and they have created a way for you to get your website to be visible when certain keywords are searched on – it is called AdWords.
This is where you pay Google to run an advertisement next to the search results for the keywords you nominate. It is neither hard to do, or expensive. Most of my clients run campaigns for only $50-$100 per month and get all the exposure they need.
To keep your budget low, you have to be more targeted in your promotions. For example, promote only to a few countries at a time. We once priced up a campaign for ourselves covering all the countries we currently have clients in and it would have cost us $1.8 million per month. We narrowed this to just New Zealand and Australia and it cost us only $100 per month – with very pleasing results.
Meta Tags are no longer as important as they were, but still play a role in ensuring that your website is not seen by Google as being simply a rubbish site with no relevance to your industry.
Google’s new system relies on backward links – i.e. links on websites that are typically out of your control that point back to your website.
Web developers and website optimisation companies do not own Google and therefore can at best only influence them for a short period of time. At worst they can get your domain name black listed when they try and trick Google by using ‘Google Bombs’.
AdWords are a way of you paying Google to give your company exposure, which basically gets you the same results as ranking on searches for relevant keywords. They are not expensive and are relatively easy to use. They do require a bit of common sense and good targeting so that you get the most out of them.
One last question to ask is: ‘How important is search engine marketing to my business?’ As many companies put way to much time, effort and money into search engine marketing when their clients do not live on the internet, but in the real world – where most of your marketing should be done.