This was a comment that was made to us by a new client recently who was in third position in Google for a phrase that was important to them.
It seems that the client had looked at the pages that were above him and had then looked at the source code for those pages and had seen lots of keywords in the meta tag. He then decided to combine both keyword meta tags (working on the principle that if each only had 50% of the words by having them all it would mean that his site covered 100%) and wanted us to “add the meta tag to each and every page on the site” along with the comment that “SEO is easy”.
We had to tell him that sadly SEO is not a case of just plugging keywords into a meta tag (that option stopped back in 2005). If you don’t believe us then have a look at some of this background reading :-
http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/google-does-not-use-keywords-meta-tag.html (Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking – comment at the bottom of the page : Google has ignored the keywords meta tag for years and currently we see no need to change that policy.)
http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=79812 (a list of meta tags that Google knows – comment at the bottom of the page : remember that Google will ignore meta tags it doesn’t know.)
Or, from a non-Google source http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2067564/How-To-Use-HTML-Meta-Tags “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the “keywords” meta tag was a critical element for early search engines. Much like the dinosaurs, this tag is a fossil from ancient search engine times.The only search engine that looks at the keywords anymore is Microsoft’s Bing – and they use it to help detect spam.”
It was also pointed out that it’s believed that there are over 200 factors that Google uses to rank pages (it doesn’t rank sites) – these include :-
- Is the phrase on the page (for example if you want the page to feature for payroll services you should at least mention payroll on the page)
- How often is the phrase (and synonyms) repeated – this doesn’t mean that you need to stuff the page with the phrase though
- Where the phrase appears on the page (is it at the top of the page or only at the bottom of the page)
- How often the page is updated (there needs to be a certain amount of trust that the searchers will find what Google found)
- Age of the page
Links to the page (external)
- Number of links
- Wording of links (do they all use the phrase you are targeting or do some of them say things like “click here” or your business name).
- Relevancy of links (does the page the link is on talk about the service/product you provide or is it just a list of random links).
- Age of links
- How quickly the links to the page are increasing
- The “importance” of the page/domain that the link is on
- Can the page that the link is on be reached by normal navigation or only by a search
- Is there evidence that the link has been paid for (this is a no-no in the eyes of Google unless it is marked as such so they can discount any value that the link might pass)
- The type of link (follow / no-follow / redirect via a counter script)
Internal links to the page
- Wording of the links
- How easy the navigation is for the search engines to follow (the general rule is that the search engines [and human visitors] need to be able to reach any page of the site within 3 clicks of any other page of the site)
- Age of the domain
- Where the domain is hosted (country)
- Where the firm is based (the latest Google update emphasises the location of the site even more than it used to do)
- How quickly the page loads
- Social Media (a recent addition)
- Are there any tweets pointing to the site/page
- Are tweets retweeted by other people
- Are other social media venues (eg Facebook) lining to the site/page and are the links from other people
- Is there a blog and if so how frequently is it updated.
- If there is a blog does it link to other pages on the site
- Are there any errors (page not found for example) on the site.
There are many other factors at play and each of these can vary from day-to-day (Google makes over 500 tweaks to the importance of the factors in the course of a year).
We then carried out a very basic analysis of the number of links both to the clients page and also to the page in the first place of the results. This showed that the client’s page had 51 back links from 49 different domains while the page in 1st place had over 900 back links. If you think of a link as being a “vote” for a page then you can see that could be one reason why the top page was where it was.
Of course, we are not saying that links are the only reason that the client’s competitor was at the top of the search results, but we are saying that SEO is not easy.
If you run SEO campaigns for clients, or even work on SEO on your own site, what do you think – is it easy?