Your attitude is the key to successful search engine ranking

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.

Your attitude is the key to successful search engine ranking 1

7 thoughts on “Your attitude is the key to successful search engine ranking”

  1. Hi Graham
    Whilst I don’t completely disagree with your conclusion this line from the report is telling:
    “Data for this study was collected in February and March 2012. In the results, you can see the effects of various Panda Updates, which have significantly changed the look of results since the start of 2011.”
    According to there have been quite a few changes between then and now, namely:
    Panda 3.7 — June 8, 2012
    May 39-Pack — June 7, 2012
    Penguin 1.1 — May 25, 2012
    Knowledge Graph — May 16, 2012
    April 52-Pack — May 4, 2012
    Panda 3.6 — April 27, 2012
    Penguin — April 24, 2012
    Panda 3.5 — April 19, 2012
    Parked Domain Bug — April 16, 2012
    March 50-Pack — April 3, 2012
    In short the data they collected is as useful to us as the day before yesterday’s weather forecast for yesterday.
    Graham, have you had a bad experience with someone in SEO? You seem to take exception to SEOs – there’s always a reference to snake oil… harboring pain and distrust isn’t healthy…

    • I disagree. The data confirms what Google wrote in its blog over five years ago. Google stated clearly that people should stop writing and producing pages aimed at search engines, but should focus on writing content for people. Furthermore, Google analysed its own pages for SEO and found it failed on a significant number of so-called SEO measures. Strangely, even with poor SEO, Google tends to do OK.

      As for bad experiences…I have never employed the services of an SEO specialist but all of my clients have. And without exception they all tell me it is a waste of money and they feel as though they were hoodwinked by snake oil sales techniques.

      • Hi Graham
        I agree it’s best to write for people and it’s a good idea to follow Google’s rules.
        But as a psychologist you’re a scientist; and as a scientist you cannot ignore scientific rigor when it comes to research… and timing is all.
        The research may, or not have been useful, but the world changed and it ceased to be useful. SEO research is notoriously bad.
        The scientific/business argument for SEO:
        1. An understanding of Google can help get more traffic to a website.
        2. More traffic may drive additional profit.
        3. If the profit is greater than the cost you have ROI.
        4. If you get a ROI you’re happy with – you continue; if you don’t – you don’t.
        5. Every business owner has tried things that didn’t work (NB: that doesn’t mean that anything you try will not work!)
        On the ‘All my clients have received bad SEO ergo all SEO are bad’ may I direct you to accident – one of Aristotle’s 13 fallacies.
        Now, pedantry and didactics aside, there are good SEO out there and they’re saying much the same as you – if you want good SEO research check out Michael Martinez, to quote him:
        Plan ahead. Rely on long-term SEO strategies. Never publish any content that MUST rank today, that MUST have traffic today, that MUST pay for itself today. A good Website is a pipeline that produces results 2-3 months down the road — 2 years ahead if the content is truly “evergreen” and not “everfake”. Oddly enough, many spammers do just this. They set up autoblogs and leave them alone. Substitute good content for the autoblog and its low-quality backlink profile and you have an SEO strategy that should be good for 5-10 years.That means ignoring all the SEO gurus who are out there selling you their tools, their rapid success courses, their secret formulas, and their nonsense pseudo-scientific case studies that “prove” whatever it is they are selling is worth the money you pay. That means concentrating on the basics: Publish interesting content, monitor your analytics, and make adjustments as required. Grow your content base. Explore new topics (not keywords, TOPICS) on a regular basis (quarterly is ideal but most people may not have the bandwidth to do it more than once or twice a year).”
        Bottom line we all know that there are good and bad in every profession – being blind to this when it comes to SEO is unfortunate… especially when there are a few of us singing from the same sheet as you!

        • I think we are saying the same thing…! But I also think you need to look closely at what I said. I did not say that all SEO is bad. I am not blind to good SEO at all – indeed you will find articles on this website I have written explaining what good SEO is…! And you’ll find that they agree with you…! But just because the world has changed does not mean that previous research is not valid. Even though the study was completed prior to the latest Google updates does not make it wrong or not useful. Indeed, what this research is saying is exactly what you are saying….! So you can hardly dismiss it…!

    • The article only makes the same point I make – that it is a correlation study. Perhaps I didn’t get my point across clearly enough. The point I am making is that what really matters is content, fresh, original content. The very point that Google keeps making but which many “SEO experts” ignore by publishing correlation studies to “prove” some effect which does not exist…!

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