In a singles bar, patrons typically have the same sorts of insecurities running through their heads:
“I’ve been hurt before.”
“Should I trust her?”
“Can I let my walls down and let him in?”
These insecurities really get in the way of finding a happy, lasting relationship.
Search Engines have a lot in common with singles. They’ve been hurt, and they aren’t so quick to trust any more.
What You Need To Know About The Search Engines’ Pasts
Search engines have had a difficult relationship history. They’ve tried to be open-hearted and trusting. But unethical website owners, spammers, and other cheaters have used their trusting ways against them and worked their way into the top of the rankings with lies.
And search engines get hurt by that. Their job, above all else, is to help the people using them to search for information. When spammers rather than valid websites get to the top, the search engines can’t do their jobs well. That frustrates searchers, and the search engines don’t help them find what they need.
So how can you get the search engines to trust your website enough to list it? The answer is to know what they are looking for when you start a relationship with them.
Don’t just give them another line (of code)
The search engines no longer use the META Keyword tag when ranking your site. This tag is hidden at the top of your website’s HTML. It used to be one of the major areas the search engines looked at when determining what your site was all about.
The intent of this tag was for site owners to list words and phrases explaining what their sites were about. But it was rarely used in ethical ways. People would list terms they thought would help their sites come up in popular searches—”free,” “money,” and “sex” were all popular back in the early days of the Internet.
After a while, this practice was so widespread that the search engines decided to do something about it. They stopped looking at this tag at all.
These days, the most common use of the META Keyword tag is your competitors researching your optimization strategy. If you already use a META Keyword tag, consider having it removed. If you’re coding or optimizing your website, leave it off and concentrate on putting your keywords in the body text of your website instead—where they belong.
They want you to put all your cards on the table.
A while ago, some website owners decided they wanted to have very little copy on their sites. They still wanted to come up strong on the search engines. The search engines were no longer really looking at the META tags. The problem was how to have a site that looked as though it had very little text but still had enough information for the search engines to give it a good ranking.
Some of these website owners came up with what they thought was a brilliant solution. They’d add more text to the site at the bottom of the page below the copyright. And they’d make this text the same color as the background—which basically meant that it was invisible to human website visitors. But the search engines would still see it in the code, read it, and count it toward their ranking.
The search engines caught on to this little trick pretty quickly. If they catch you at it, they’ll blacklist your site, which means that they’ll kick it out of their results listing. And it will be really difficult to get back in! So make sure our site isn’t using any invisible text—and that all the text on the site is visible to humans and the search engines.
They hate doors and mirrors.
Have you ever searched for something online and clicked on what you thought was the perfect match, only to come to what was little more than a full-page advertisement or a bunch of links? Disappointing, isn’t it? And then there’s a link at the bottom of the page pointing to the site you originally thought you were originally going to? By this point, you already have a sour taste in your mouth.
Or you’re looking for a piece of information and you click a couple of links that look like exactly the same site with slightly different words. You get a sense of déjà vu and start to feel a bit like you’re losing your mind, right?
This tactic is called doorway and mirror sites. The search engines feel exactly the same way that you do about them—because, again, the search engines want searchers to be happy with the results they get from their queries, not disgruntled or confused.
When you start your relationship with the search engines, make sure that your site optimization strategy focuses on ethical ways of getting their attention—like being content-rich, having links with other high-quality sites (not link farms!), and updating your site on a regular basis. Those tactics will ensure that you start a love affair with the search engines instead of just heading for a bad breakup.