Bad SEO Advice
I come across bad SEO advice all the time. Much of it may seem obvious to those of us who have been involved in search for any length of time, but for people who haven’t, it can be difficult to know what’s concrete advice, what’s speculation, and what’s just plain terrible. For that matter, it can be difficult for those outside of SEO to know what’s smart and what’s considered search engine manipulation.
I was in a meeting a few days ago and someone asked if it was true that for SEO purposes, a page should have as few outbound links as possible. I said outbound links were fine, great even! And then talked a bit about how it’s a bad idea to build pages for nuances in the search engine algorithms anyway, as hundreds of signals exist and they’re changing all the time. Oh, he said. We’ve been talking about implementing the canonical tag. We probably shouldn’t do that then. And I realized, how would a developer know that the canonical tag is awesome and the meta keywords tag isn’t? That you shouldn’t worry about keyword density but you should put important keywords in your title tag?
Recently, someone sent me an “SEO optimization report” for their site that came from automated software that guaranteed top ten rankings in 90 days. Some of the advice was good (use unique title tags), some was harmless (improve your Flesch readability ease score), and some was just crazy talk. Below is a bit of the crazy.
“You should increase your keyword density. You can do this by removing some text.”
This whole notion of keyword density has been around forever, but here’s what it really boils down to. How is your potential audience looking for this content? Put those words in your title tag, H1, and somewhere on the page. And use those words as anchor text in internal links to that page. If other sites link to the page using that anchor text, even better! It’s bad enough when people try to get the “right” keyword density by nonsensically repeating the same words over and over on a page, but removing other text? That’s just sad.
“Keywords in the HTML comment tags help a good ranking in Google.”
Um. Not really.
“Some search engines penalize sites if the terms from the meta keywords tag don’t appear in the body of the page.”
Well, first, search engines (in particular, Google) ignore the meta keywords tag. And also, this statement isn’t true.
“Your page includes the meta Google-Site-Verification tag twice. Search engines could regard it as a spamming attempt and might decide not to index your web site.”
Wow. I assume this is simply a case of automation going awry and whoever wrote this software doesn’t actually think that having two verified Google Webmaster Tools accounts will cause Google to remove the site from the index. But even so, having duplicate meta tags of any kind doesn’t cause Google or Bing to flag the site for spam. I mentioned this was all about the crazy, right?
“Some search engines don’t accept submissions with capitalized letters in titles or meta tags.”
Maybe someone more familiar with old school directories can weigh in on where this comes from. But recommending that your title tags not contain capital letters? This may be automated software, but someone manually wrote that message.
“Some search engines rank sites lower that are hosted at free hosting providers.”
PS – Creative use of bold won’t actually help. And question marks in URLs are just fine.