On Page Search Engine Optimization Factors – Do They Matter?

Let’s hop into our Internet time machine and take a trip. Today we’re headed back in time to 2000 – in Internet time, that seems like 100 years ago. You’re an SEO expert and you want to write a book on how to get to the top of search engines – what do you talk about? Meta tags are definitely on the way out. Links help but this is cutting edge stuff – not the basis of your book. So you talk about keyword density. You say if you want to get ranked highly for a specific term, you need to have that in your title and you need to have it show up towards the top of your page, and in other parts of the page and have your page be keyword dense for your chosen topic. And I’m not talking about 1-3% keyword density – 100% keyword density for a word actually worked for some phrases.

Ahh, the memories. The days when keyword density actually mattered.

Back to late 2006. Keyword density is dead. DEAD! In fact the question comes up if it’s even important what content is actually on your webpage or if it all depends on links.

Let’s take some famous examples – first go to http://google.com and type in the word failure. The first result you’ll see is President George W. Bush’s bio. Go ahead and look at the page, and tell me how many times the word failure shows up on the page. Yep – zero.

To be fair, let’s go back to http://google.com again, now type in waffles. The number one result you’ll see here is John Kerry’s website. Go ahead and count the number of times you find the word waffles on that page. Indeed – zero again.

So what’s going on here? The reason George Bush’s and John Kerry’s site are showing up so highly for failure and waffles is because of anchor text. (This particular tactic actually has a name – called GoogleBombing – but that’s for a different day.) A large number of websites, have links pointing to George Bush’s website with the word failure in the link.

So what should this tell us – first of all, stop worrying so much about perfectly optimizing your website and start worrying about what the websites linking to you say.

Now I should say that having the keyword you want to rank highly for in your tag and having relevant content on that page does definitely help, and if you’re targeting a highly competitive word, then you’ll need to have relevant content on your page. However, don’t worry about having exact keyword densities for your pages – they’re not helping you, in fact they may be hurting you since the search engines found out that ranking by keyword density was easily abused so now they actually penalize sites that are considered “overoptimized” or too keyword dense. Just write naturally and leave it alone – that’s what the search engines want.

Instead, make sure the links pointing to your site tell your story and say what your site is about. Instead of links that say “click here”, get links that say “widgets” or whatever your site is about.

Before I finish here, I want to give you my favorite example for “Google Bombing.” Go to the home page of http://google.com. This time type in French military victories and click the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. Nothing against, the French, but that’s hilarious. Click on the French military defeats link for a good laugh.

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