Almost anybody who buys their own URL these days is sure to start getting emails from companies offering to help with their search engine optimization (SEO). For example, here are typical offers from SEO gurus, often located offshore:
- “Get on page 1 of Google!”
- “10X More Traffic with Metatags”
- “Get Traffic with Links from TOP websites”
These promises sound too good to be true. And, no surprise, they almost always are.
In the old days, say five years ago, you could boost your website traffic in as quickly as a few days just by doing a few quick technical tricks on your website, such as changing metatags or repeating keywords in the body of the text.
But those days are long gone. Now, after years of algorithm updates that have made Google much smarter, fake SEO and the gurus who peddle it can be a total waste of time and money.
Even worse, SEO tricks can actually backfire, and reduce your rank in Google searches or even cause Google to remove your website from their system altogether. Ouch!
What is a metatag?
To put it in non-techy terms, a metatag is a word or phrase placed in the background of a web page to describe the contents of that page. For example, “solar panels Los Angeles” or “zero down residential solar.” Because they are in the background of the web page, metatags are hidden from humans, and visible only to search engines.
Metatags are supposed to honestly describe the content of a web page. In the past, metatags used well could increase the rank of a web page in Google for the search terms listed in the metatags.
But then unscrupulous SEO gurus started metatags to try to get more credit for a web page than its content deserved. So, SEO gurus would attach a dozen or more metatags to a single page in an attempt to fool search engines into thinking that the page was a good source of content for each of those terms.
For example, an SEO guru might insert metatags in a solar installer’s residential solar page naming all the major cities and towns that the company serves, such as “home solar San Diego,” “home solar Escondido,” “home solar Chula Vista,” and so on.
But unless the page actually talks in a meaningful way about all of these places, then using these city and town names as metatags offers little value to a web searcher. At best, it’s wishful thinking. At worst, it’s dishonest.
And it doesn’t make it much better to post a list of places that the company serves on the page with all those city and town metatags. Such a list adds very little value for web visitors.
Even worse is repeating the names of the cities and towns you serve over and over in a single page, in a totally artificial way, just to try to get credit with search engines. That’s called “keyword stuffing” and if Google catches you doing it, they’ll get very, very angry.
If Google determines that you’ve stuffed keywords on a page, not only will its algorithm fail to give that page credit in searches for all those terms. Google may actually remove your page or your whole website from its search results as punishment for you trying to deceive them.
That’s just one way that SEO shortcuts and the fake SEO gurus who peddle them can get you into trouble.
The bad news for the impatient website owner is that there’s no shortcut to rank well in Google searches for different cities.
Instead, you just have to do it the old fashioned way, by actually talking about those cities. For example, you could write up separate case studies of solar installations that you’ve done in San Diego, Escondido and Chula Vista and link those to your residential solar page.
Google Catches On to SEO Tricks
Anyway, over the years, tricks like overusing metatags and stuffing keywords actually worked often enough that SEO clients started to demand more of these tricks. Especially metatags — because, apparently they sounded like magic to businesspeople under the sway of fake SEO gurus.
Website owners started to think that metatags were a shortcut to getting Google rankings without the hassle of actually having to create content good enough to deserve a high ranking in web search results.
“Content? I don’t need no stinkin’ content. Just give me a bucket of metatags for each page — I will accept no less!”
And, for a while, putting in enough metatags did indeed enable lackluster webpages to score well in Google.
But no more. A few years back, the smart people who run Google got wise to the over-use of metatags and decided to fight against it. After Google updates including Panda, Penguin and more, the search engine has become much smarter and harder to trick. Now, Google doesn’t even consider metatags in search engine rankings.
Yet, SEO gurus still promise that if you just let them optimize your metatags, you’ll score high in Google searches.
Don’t be fooled.
Overusing metatags is just one of the technical SEO tricks that real SEO experts say you should forget. To do well in Google, instead, you should focus on publishing high quality content on a regular basis like blog posts and ebooks. But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself:
- 8 Old School SEO Practices That Are No Longer Effective (Rand Fishkin at Moz)
- Google Does Not Use the Keywords Metatag in Web Ranking (Google Webmaster Central)
- Why SEO Is Actually All About Content Marketing (Kissmetrics)
Of course, creating useful content takes much more work than trying a few SEO tricks. And SEO gurus can’t make any money off you publishing good content. So, they keep trying to sell you tricks that don’t work anymore, and may in earn you a penalty from Google.
Listen to the Real Experts on SEO
At Curren Media Group, we’re all about helping you do things that work and helping you forget things that don’t work. So, here’s my advice on SEO:
- Ignore cold emails from SEO gurus in the Philippines or Bangladesh or even your own neighborhood who want to sell you metatags or links.
- Instead, listen to the real experts, including the people above as well as the leader in SEO for WordPress, Yoast.
Starting in 2017, every Curren Media Group solar website will have the Yoast SEO system installed and ready to go. Yoast is the most popular SEO system for the most popular website building system, WordPress, for a good reason. Yoast handles the techy stuff — like creating sitemaps for Google — while helping you optimize your own blogs and pages for keywords you want.
Learn more about the Yoast SEO system. Then, get started using it on your own WordPress website — or hire us to build a new site for you that has Yoast already installed. It’s one of the easiest ways to make your site stronger on real SEO. Not the fake stuff, but the things that actually work today.
— Erik Curren, CEO, Curren Media Group