If you've been involved in SEO (search engine optimization) for a while, you may remember the time when you could create a web page and get it ranked at the top of any search engine with little effort.
All you had to do was load up the page with the keywords you wanted to rank high for, make sure your meta tags were stuffed with those same keywords, submit the page and within a few days or weeks you've captured a top 20 or even top 10 result.
The major search engines were pretty easy to figure out. Some focused on the first 90 characters on a page, others gave more weight to the title tag in your HTML, another paid more attention to the overall content and finally some used a combination of factors to determine a page's rank. And if you were a search engine expert, you knew which engine looked for what information.
Back then, you didn't get penalized much for keyword stuffing, hidden text, and some of the other tactics that can get you into trouble in today's world.
The bottom line is search engine optimization for the average webmaster was almost like a cakewalk years ago.
Well, times have certainly changed! Those same methods described above will not only hurt your rank, they can even get your banned from the engine permanently.
Below you'll find some search engine optimization techniques that may have worked well in the past but have now been known to penalize you if you implement them.
Useless Link Exchanges
It used to be you could go scout out other websites that were related to yours and swap links to help boost your link popularity. These days the search engines are frowning on certain link exchange strategies.
The best kind of link exchange is one that offers a contextual link to both parties. So instead of creating a “page-o-links" that no one will even read, offer your potential link partner a contextual link in an article that is related to their site. Ask your partner to do the same for you. The search engines will see this link as a much better quality link than a link from a page chuck-full of other sites.
Let's say you have a website on dieting. Instead of creating a “list-o-links" page titled “Other Diet Resources" where you list 300 different partner links, write some diet-related articles and recommend a few of your link partner's sites within the context of the article.
I'm not saying avoid link directories altogether. There are some good ones like Yahoo!, JoeAnt and The Open Directory to name a few. None of these directories require a link back to them and they all have a pretty high Google PageRank.
Doorway pages are small, keyword focused pages that mainly serve the purpose of getting the visitor to your affiliated web site. They usually offer no value to the website as a whole, and often times they are cluttered with several different affiliate links.
Google is smart and can scope those kinds of pages out. You may be penalized if it finds these on your site.
Hidden or Tiny Text
This is an OLD tactic and it amazes me people still use this.
Using white text on a white background or making your text so small it is hardly visible to the human eye is one of the oldest search engine tricks in the book.
Many people would use this technique to hide tons of keyword phrases they wanted to rank high for by hiding the text at the very bottom or top of the page and make it match the background color so they are invisible. Others would use a tiny font to add these keywords in various places all over the site. The human eye may have a difficult time finding them but the search engine spiders would.
What You Should Be Focusing On. . .
Unique content rules. Don't get stressed out about your meta tags, link lists, number of backlinks, etc. If you want the search engines to love you, build a website with lots of unique content, get a couple of high-quality sites to link back to you (Yahoo, The Open Directory, etc. ) and develop a good link exchange program (described above).
That's it! Keep building content and make your site as useful as possible. Pretty soon people will link to you voluntarily and your link popularity will begin to increase.
Write for humans, not the search engine spiders. Forget about keyword density (the ratio of a keyword phrase to total body content), just write for real people. After all, rumor has it that Google is using humans to review sites anyway! Could this be the future of search engine rankings? Only time will tell.
Bottom line: Don't take shortcuts. Be ethical and work hard to build the best site you can. You'll be rewarded in the end.
Lisa Irby is the author of http://www.2createawebsite.com , a site that offers tutorials on web hosting, HTML, traffic-building, earning money and more.