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 Convurgency.com, 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 Moreover, Google and the other search engines are more than overly familiar with this outdated SEO technique.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.