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7/17/2009
03:18 PM
Fredric Paul
Fredric Paul
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Is SEO A Boondoggle?

C'mon, you always suspected that those fast talking guys promising to put your site on the first page of Google results were nothing more than snake-oil salesmen. And all that SEO spam didn't help create a sterling reputation either. According to Search Engine Land, even if SEO isn't entirely bogus, it definitely includes plenty of useless "parlor tricks."

C'mon, you always suspected that those fast talking guys promising to put your site on the first page of Google results were nothing more than snake-oil salesmen. And all that SEO spam didn't help create a sterling reputation either. According to Search Engine Land, even if SEO isn't entirely bogus, it definitely includes plenty of useless "parlor tricks."Jill Whalen at Search Engine Land lays out some of the things that SEO experts spend lots of time and money on that she says have little or no effect on search engine rankings:

  • PageRank Sculpting
  • nofollow links
  • "Fixing" the Meta keywords tag
  • Submitting URLs to search engines
  • XML sitemaps
  • H1 tags
  • Rewriting URLs to add keywords

You or I might disagree about the contents of Whalen's list, claiming that some of these techniques actually have value and perhaps adding others that we believe are a bigger waste of time. And these factors may well work together to create effects they might now show on their own.

But most everyone believes that SEO is a bit of a black art. While it is certainly possible to change a site's search engine rankings, exactly what changes have what effects is notoriously difficult to nail down. Even the experts don't agree. And that opens the door to both deceitful charlatans and incompetent nincompoops.

So what's a small or midsize business supposed to do about making the most of its Web presence?

If you're doing it yourself, don't worry so much about gaming the system. Just make sure your site is actually about what you want it to rank high on, and then following the general best practices as best you can understand them. Sure, you'll probably waste some effort, but you'll hit the basics.

If you're hiring someone to do it for you, beware of consultants who talk mumbo-jumbo and promise the moon. And don't pay too much upfront, look for results first.

Either way, be prepared for twists and turns and unexpected results. SEO is like that.

Good luck!

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