Search engine optimisation is big business. Ezines and websites litter the Internet with strategies to boost your search engine ranking. Search engine specialists charge large amounts of money to apply their strategies to your website and will go so far as to guarantee you top listings in the webs' major search engines.
And, in my opinion, they are all frauds.
Strategy is defined as a long-term plan. So, if these search engine specialists have the ideal strategy, why do the techniques and approach constantly change. Forgive me, but that isn't strategy. That is a last line of defence that is hastily patched up when the latest changes to the rules punch holes in it.
In "Alice through the Looking-Glass" the red queen said Alice had to run as fast as she could just to stay in one place. This impractical and short-sighted view is ludicrous, but is practiced by search engine optimists world-wide. These companies tweak and tweak and tweak, constantly changing their approach in a bid to keep those top spots. Google's latest dance showed that, at any point, your efforts can be reduced to nothing leaving you with no choice but to start again.
The reason for this rat race is that most, if not all, of these specialists neglect to tell us one simple fact.
Search engines are there for the searchers, not for the searched.
Google, Yahoo, MSN. These weren't set up to send you traffic. They were set up to help people find information on the terms they are searching for.
Search engines spend a fortune developing spidering techniques that will help them put the most useful and beneficial websites at the top of their listings only to forced into changing their approach when the search engine specialists hijack the listings.
Think I'm exaggerating? Are you really so arrogant that you believe your website should be in the top ten just because you spent the last twelve months building a thousand reciprocal links that no-one clicks on?
Ask yourself this question. If you do a search in Google, which website would you like to see at number one?
a) A website with genuinely useful and original information.
b) A website with perfectly optimised keyword density that doesn't answer your questions.
In truth, if you are a multi-million dollar company, then you need the search engine specialists, just so that you can keep up with all the other multi-million companies intent on damaging Search Engines for the rest of us. How else are you going to be able to afford that second porsche?
For the rest of you, give it up. Stop wasting your time tweaking your site EVERY time a new trick is circulated. Once the Search Engine cottons on to the trick, they will change their format and you'll be back to square one.
Reciprocal linking is a good case in point. Google ranked you high if you had plenty of sites pointing to you as this was a good indication of quality. Then it became a matter of, the more reciprocal links you had, the higher you ranked on Google. Everyone started linking with everyone. Software was released dedicated to helping you build page upon page of reciprocal links.
Somehow Google found out and started discounting reciprocal links. Months of work down the toilet? You'd better believe it.
Now people are starting from scratch.
"You link to my site A on your site B and I'll link to your site C on my site A."
How long before Google start dismissing links in their scoring process altogether?
And don't forget. Even if you were capable of following every scrap of advice perfectly, do you think you would be the only one? If a thousand people optimise their site perfectly, will they all get a top ten spot?
So here it is then. The ultimate search engine strategy that will never need to be changed, no matter how many times Google dances, Yahoo jiggles and MSN sits in the corner getting drunk.
Make sure your meta tags are properly formatted, contain ONLY the words pertinent to your content, and that your TITLE tag actually describes the page you've produced.
Ensure your homepage doesn't use frames and contains a brief description of what you do. It could just be a single line, but it needs to be on there.
Add, and keep adding, more and more original and useful content to your site. Don't plagiarise and don't copy and paste from other sites.
Only accept reciprocal links from sites you believe may be of interest to your regular users. Make sure you have at least one link to your website from a site that is already listed in Google, Yahoo and MSN.
Make sure search engines can see all of your pages, by linking to them from the homepage. If you have a lot of pages, have a site map page linked to your homepage instead.
Make sure you have a homepage link on EVERY page. If your content is good and abundant, visitors will enter your site through deeper pages. If they like what they see, they will want to visit your homepage to see what else you do.
Stop trying to incorporate every search engine "strategy" you hear. Instead spend time focussing on step 3.
Google seems to reward sites that stick around, but its probably because time affords you more inbound links, more pages to spider and a greater pagerank. You might not get the top positions from following these steps, but you will get traffic from search engines. And you will have a site that people want to visit.
So, patience is needed. To build up a really good site with lots of decent content can take years.
If you don't have patience, try Pay-Per-Click instead.
Dylan Campbell has been quietly making a living on the Internet since 2000. He has a unique, and often controversial, view of the industry.
Dylan Campbell writes exclusively for The Nettle Ezine.