Search engine specialists will often blind you with science of getting to the top of the rankings. After all, you want to be “number one” for your important keywords, or at the very least on the front page of Google. So, these specialists can help you – as long as you pay them a nice monthly fee and they can adjust all manner of settings on your website. They will talk to you about “Title Tags” about “Meta Descriptions” and about “on-page” and “off-page” elements. Search engine specialists will suggest the use of “anchor text” in “backlinks” and will also provide you with data about the need to reposition your keywords in your “titles” so that they are nearer the front. And all of that’s before they start talking to you about word counts, character counts and “alt tags”.

The one thing you can be sure of with many SEO experts is the amount of jargon they will use and the seemingly complex array of techniques that are required to get to the top of the search engines. They make you think you need to understand computer coding, that it takes years of experience and that it is a combination of science and art that you simply do not have the time to learn.

Oh dear. These kind of SEO experts need to read the details of a massive study on the kind of web pages that get top ranking on Google. The researchers looked at 10,000 different keywords across 300,000 websites and then they conducted statistical tests. And guess what they found?

SEO and search engine ranking factors

Well, they discovered that “Title Tags” are not related to search engine ranking, neither is the position of the keywords you use in any of the text elements on your page. Indeed, all the “traditional” SEO expert techniques appear to work AGAINST websites. It looks like the favourite techniques of many SEO gurus are actually nonsense. They are selling you snake oil.

So what did the research find was most valuable? It seems that the top websites that get the highest rankings are the ones with most Facebook activity – such as “shares” and “likes”. In other words, at first sight, it seems from this research your Google ranking depends almost entirely on your Facebook activity.

But don’t believe everything research tells you. What this study is really showing is that there is a correlation between the extent of the Facebook activity and the search engine position a web page gets. And correlation does not mean cause.

So what is going on? If you look at the research it shows you that there is a negative correlation between the title of a page and search engine ranking – not what SEO experts would expect. Equally, there is no information on Google+. Surely Google are  not going to give greater prominence to a competing social network in their ranking system?

Think for a moment. What do people DO when they focus on SEO using things like title tags or meta descriptions? They tend, in my experience, to think that is “the secret” to search engine success. Indeed some of the more snake oil selling type of SEO companies may well tell them this is indeed the secret. The result? The hapless firms don’t do anything else which could help them achieve search engine success.

But what if you believe that search engine success is about everything you do online? What if you think the sum total of your activity online affects your search engine ranking? The chances are you will do plenty of Facebook activity, that you will Tweet a lot and that you will contribute to other websites, bring you highly useful backlinks.

The research actually demonstrates that when you focus your attention on your entire web footprint you get search engine success. When you focus solely on getting top search engine rankings you worry about those geeky SEO science bits and pieces and that fails to achieve what you want. Of course, the really good search engine specialists will already tell you that search engine success is much more than simple SEO science.

Ultimately, though, what this research confirms more than anything else is that it is about attitude. If your attitude is that all you need to do to succeed online is to get search engine rankings, you won’t succeed. If your attitude is that you need to focus on a complete web presence, then you will gain search engine success.

The answer? Stop thinking about SEO and think instead about your complete web presence. The SEO will then sort itself out without you needing to do anything – or pay for any snake oil.

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