Financial Post Article on SEO: Battling to be on Google’s First Page

By On 29, Apr, 2008 |  In: Search Engine Optimization |  | 6

Stephane Malhomme’s recent article in the Financial Post‘s “Small Business” section (April 21, 2008) regarding search engine optimization and how to get your small business website to the top of Google’s search results page was interesting and topical, yet did not fully cover the whole SEO story. The techniques that were discussed by SEO’ster Justin Cook in the article are known in the search engine optimization (SEO) field as “keyword stuffing”. This is the practice of placing key words that describe the product or service you are offering as many times, and in as many places as possible, in your web page’s hidden html code as possible.

While Mr. Cook, of, is technically correct in that keyword stuffing can have the effect of quickly bumping your website from page twenty to page one of Google’s search result rankings, it will not keep it there. Moreover, Google and the other search engines are more than overly familiar with this outdated SEO technique. The practice can, in fact, have the opposite of the intended effect. Once Google, Yahoo! or MSN analyzes your website’s html code and sees that it is keyword stuffed – and they will – the page will in effect be punished for the practice and will drop off the search engine’s radar screen – perhaps altogether, depending upon how blatantly the practice is abused.

Search engines are designed, and continually updated, to ensure that the results that are most relevant to the end user searching for information are displayed first. Google’s entire business model is premised on this, and they jealously guard against entrepeneurial types that seek to ‘game the system’ utilizing technical shortcuts that are irrelevant to the end consumer, such as keyword stuffing. If they didn’t, users would obtain better, more relevant search results using a different search engine! Consumers would vote with their feet – or in this case their fingertips – and Google’s market share would tank.

In both SEO and search engine marketing (SEM), the maxim is “Content is King.” While it is important to ensure that the relevant key words are in the right places on your website – and in the right amount, and no more – it is more important to provide quality information – content that is both relevant and interesting for the end user (i.e., the person typing in his or her search query). It is important to include the relevant key words when adding content in the form of articles, pages and blog entries to your web page, but not to overdo it. Every person who links to your site as a “favourite” is worth more than all your efforts optimizing your website

When a small businessperson is seeking advice on SEO or SEM – whether hiring a professional to undertake that function, or in looking for courses to learn how to perform those functions oneself – caveat emptor still applies: Buyer Beware! If the person selling you SEO services or advice is talking about a quick, one-time fix brought about by a tweak to your webpage and is not telling you that the best results are achieved by continually adding new and relevant information for visitors to your site, shop around.

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6 comments on “Financial Post Article on SEO: Battling to be on Google’s First Page

  • Nice post!

    You are right, I could have insisted a bit on the need to constantly update content, and maybe I should have adopted a slightly more critical view of what you call “keyword stuffing”. In the end though, I am not an expert and the purpose of these pieces is to give a good overview to the layman of what are the general options, what is at stake, etc.

    Plus I had two days to do the whole feature, and it all had to fit in 850 words…

    But I take your points. Keep up the good work!


  • Actually, I didn’t even once allude to the use of keyword stuffing. When interviewed, I highlighted the importance of proper choice, structure and placement of your keywords within your pages. I also explained that this is only one of the key components of SEO, and that ethical link-building is a serious portion of any SEO campaign. I am well aware that keyword stuffing is an old-school, ineffective tactic.

  • Hi Justin…Stephanie,

    I know that both of you realize how hard it is to “stuff” key points into a limited word count for an article. I just hope that the focus in the FP article which seemed to emphasize how to get the key words into your title, tags, descriptors etc. – which are, of course, important – don’t encourage more of the cowboys out there who think the name of the game is gaming Google. There are enough “black hats” in the game already!

    Maybe you could get back up into the FP with some of the other points about the tougher, more nuanced aspects of SEO. “Content is King”, they say. And I know how tough it is to focus on the one or two key points when and editor, be it on the paper’s staff or in your own head is telling you to keep down the word count and finish the puppy off.

    Thanks for checking out the blog. Hope you liked it and found it helpful…


  • I found this post searching for opinions on outdated seo after recent feedback from a podcast episode entitled “Outdated Website SEO Strategy” that I released last month on July 26, 2008.

    Your insight is dead on, and especially the comment “In both SEO and search engine marketing (SEM), the maxim is ‘Content is King.'” which certainly defines what small business owners need to do. The consequences of deceptive methods as mentioned were very apparent in October 2007 as 1000’s of sites buying/selling links went from page one to oblivion.

    My advice to further define “Content is King” first answers what to do, plus how to do it. The secret to SEO is methods that “add original quality content often” which naturally attracts people and search engines. Owners who focus on providing site visitors information that meets each word in that 5 word phrase will attract traffic, and are more likely to convert those visitors to buying customers. Conversion in lieu of high traffic stats should be the ultimate goal.

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