Search Engine Optimisation – Myths, Risks and Pitfalls

by: Nicholas C Smith

From my experience, people who try to increase the flow of organic traffic to their website's domain will at some point attempt a whole bunch of “optimisation techniques” without knowing if any of it really has had, or is having, any effect at all.

Some of the SEO techniques I have seen people attempt are, whilst quite useless, based on a good idea. Other methods continually amaze me. Perhaps people who try such things have heard spurious rumours of how to get their site into Google’s top ten listings from certain forums. Incidentally they are probably at such a point of desperation that they are willing to try anything to gain just ten more visits.

I am regularly inundated with the same questions such as: Is it worth submitting my site to 300 search engines? Will I get penalised for cross linking my sites? Should I pay to have high ranking sites link to mine? And what exactly does Google page rank do, if anything!?

Questions such as these have driven me into despair and consequently writing this article during which i will attempt to explain definitively the more common SEO myths, risks and pitfalls. In this article we will examine some of the more common beliefs.

Before we get to the list it is worth noting that I have not written it in a particular order and at times I have explained the topic the myth concerns, before answering the question.

". . . there is no replacement for hard work and unique content and regular updates."

About The Author

Nicholas C Smith is project manager at Breakfrom Limited, who specialise in affordable ecommerce solutions and general web design knowledge and advice. For more information and advice visit www.breakfrom.com.

Link Building

Q) Will more links pointing to my website increase my site's placement in search engines?
It will help your website as far as the major search engines are concerned. The most popular search engines use the number of links aimed towards a website as an important factor in determining the site's placement. They look for your link to be coming from sites with: high traffic, quality content, and a high page rank, amongst other things. Do not cross link, do not spam your address in forums and on social networks and do not put it on irrelevant sites, or even those that seem slightly dodgy. Take your time, aim for directories that are related to your website, aim for directories with page rank 3+ or aim for blogs or similar sites that are relevant to your content.

Q) Is it worth me buying a place on a high ranking directory?
The idea with this is that, say, a directory has a Google page rank of 7 and is very popular. Any site on it will be getting a big rub off via a higher spot on search engine rankings. However the catch is the directory charges £50 a month for your listing. Is it worth it when there are so many free directories out there?

Personally I think it is worth it, as long as the site holds its high rank and doesn't have thousands of listings competing with yours on it. The added bonus with pay for listings is that they usually review and include your site very quickly (24hours), which by itself may be worth paying for. And if you could buy 10 spots on decent directories your site will most likely become highly ranked on search engine results.

There are problems with this though. Firstly, it is said to be against Google’s terms of service – paying to get a higher listing on Google’s organic results. (Google want their results to show the best and most relevant websites, not those with the most money behind them.) They are however, unlikely to be too bothered even if they do find out.

The next problem is the cost. For a small company or personal website it is too expensive to pay monthly for many directories to list them, and possibly not worth it. Lastly, it is not guaranteed to help your website. It should, but does not always. I have paid for listings before and noticed very little difference, whilst other times it has made a huge contribution to my site's ranking. So it may be a risk, but it can pay off extremely well.

Q) Will submitting a video about my site or product to places such as Youtube be of benefit to me?
A recent link building trend has been to submit a short video describing the webmaster's site or the service it provides, to as many video submission sites as possible. The theory behind this is that search engines give more weight in their results to pages with videos. So if your site or product has a video on Youtube, when that product is searched for on the web that video will often come up in the top ten results. If this video has a link to your site in it, under it or as nearby as you can put it, it should be good news for you and your site. People find the video as it is ranked so highly in the results, watch the video, like what they see and then visit your site to perhaps purchase what they saw.

Does it work? At the time of writing, yes it does and it is probably worth doing. Make a video, even if it is just text, sound or a power point presentation, and then submit it to as many video and social networking sites as possible. People will find it and it will hopefully persuade them to visit your site. The only real problem with this is that the search engines will not like all of the “video spam” now being posted on the internet and are likely to change (lower) the priority of videos in their results.

Google Page Rank

Q) Will having a higher Google page rank increase the number of visitors to my site?
Before we can answer that we will have to look at what exactly Google page rank is. Google page rank is a spurious form of measurement for site popularity that the company introduced fairly recently. It is unknown to everyone, except possibly Google, how exactly it ranks sites. It is assumed however that its ranks depend upon on a mixture of traffic a site receives, external links pointing towards it and the content it contains. New websites may not have a page rank for many months. It is also possible to have a very successful website with thousands of visitors and sales and still not be ranked highly, if at all. This is because Google only ranks pages once every few months, probably around once every four or five months. So if you start your website and straight off advertise heavily you might receive a high volume of traffic but it may still take months for Google to look at your site and rank it accordingly. Also, as a site's rank is dependent on more than just traffic levels, in that scenario your site may still be ranked low once it is eventually seen.

To see a website's Google page rank you can download the Google toolbar and then once it is installed right click on it and select show page rank.

So back to the myth – Does having a higher Google page rank mean more visits to your site? Well, yes and no. No, because it alone doesn't actually have any effect on search placement, and as such won’t increase traffic. Yes, because indirectly it will benefit your site. If you have a high page rank Google will prioritise your site and check back often to see if anything has changed, such as content, giving you a good chance to increase your standing with the search engine. Another benefit is that both people and sites are more willing to trust websites that have a high Google rank. For example, if you are submitting your site to directories you will want to submit it to a high Google rank directory as Google will check them more regularly and take more notice of them and their content (which will be your link). So indirectly, a high Google rank should mean more visits for your site.