Search Engine Optimization Malpractice

In my last article, Search Engine Optimization: What it is, and why you shouldn’t care, I suggested that Search Engine Optimization (The practice of designing your Web page in such a way that it appears as high as possible in a list of search results) was not only misleading to both users and Web designers, but that it opened the door to malicious practices. To make matters worse, current SEO “rules” are suppressing many great innovations even while they allow deceitful Web sites to gain high rankings.

In a comment on my last article, Frank summarized what I expect are pretty general feelings about Search Engine Optimization. Essentially, Frank suggests that Search Engine Optimization helps provide “good no-nonsense copy that helps a searcher get their question answered.” Frank suggests that “search engines are not something to be fought but rather embraced.” In general terms, I agree completely. As I said, who could imagine life without search engines? And isn’t it obvious that Web designers should consider how their Web site will be placed in search engine results pages (SERPs) when they build their site? Of course it is. The basic ideas behind SEO are very valid, and are not to be fought.
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Search Engine Optimization: What it is, and why you shouldn’t care

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): It’s a term any Web developer is intimately familiar with, and even the most novice Web site owner/developer/writer has heard of. But if you’re just getting started with building your own Web presence, you may not really understand what this term is all about, or how important it is to you.

In simple terms, search engine optimization refers to the practice of designing Web pages to show up as high as possible in the list of results shown when a person searches the Web. Most Web developers spend considerable amounts of time studying exactly what the major search engines use to determine placement in the list of results. Although search engines design the results page to make it seem that they have scoured the entire Internet and returned the page with the results most relevant to your search terms, this is not entirely true (Actually, it’s just short of a bald-faced lie). In truth, search engines look at a wide variety of factors to determine placement, not just how closely the text on the destination Web page matches the text you are searching for. There are many other factors being considered, including hidden HTML codes inside your page called META tags. These tags were initially designed to allow Web designers to give search engines a brief description of your Web site/page’s contents and some suggested keywords that apply to your page without displaying this to the visitor, but that are often misused and abused today. Search engines also display sites that are updated frequently higher in their results than sites with more static information. Although this sounds like a good idea, keep in mind that not all content needs to be regularly updated. A good source of information on the life and death of Socrates probably doesn’t need to be updated on a weekly basis. But by far the most common measure of your site’s quality, according to most search engines, is the number of other Web pages which link to your site. And links to your site from sites that are ranked higher in the search results page count more than sites that the search engines have ranked lower. The number of visitors to your site also plays a vital role in the placement the search engines give to your Web site.

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