A few weeks ago, I got an email from a web consultant whose client was sent an offer to buy a keyword rich website domain name (at an inflated price in my opinion). She wanted to know if her client should jump on it and buy the domain, and would it help her show up higher in the search engines. I won’t go into the details, and you can read my answer to her in the article.

Unfortunately, this is a common myth in the search engine optimization world. We’re all looking for that magic secret sauce that will speed us to the top of Google – if we could only figure out what the secret formula is.

If you’ve taken any SEO class before (yah, I know, that’s a keyword link), you know that certain things are good for SEO:

  • Having keyword-rich page titles
  • Having your keyword in your domain name
  • Having a keyword link pointing at your website (warning: blatantly overt example above)
  • Having your target keyword phrase in your web page URLs (like your blog posts)
  • Having your keyword in an H1 header tag
  • Etc.

I could go on, but you get the point. You have lots of opportunities to build in the correct SEO signals to your content so you’ll show up high in the search engines. I even wrote about it in my 16 places to put your keywords article. None of this is a secret. (I’ll bet there are a couple in my list you didn’t know, though!).

Pick any one of the bullets above, and think about it a bit. Is taking one SEO factor in isolation going to help you? Maybe. A little. But probably not much.

The biggest problem with this is that every time Google has in the past said, “XYZ is good for SEO”, everyone goes running for the hills to put that one thing in their website thinking that that will appease the Google gods and grant them the coveted top spot in the search results page.

SEO Factors in Isolation Don’t Work Anymore

Well, it just doesn’t work that way. Maybe it did back in the day – WAY back in the day.

I ask this question every time I teach an SEO class or workshop, “Raise your hand if you think the keywords META tag is a very important place to have your keyword phrases.” I usually get at least half the hands in the room to go up with that question. It was true back in the days when Yahoo! was king of the search engine hill, because that was the only way you could get to the top.

So everyone started stuffing ALL their keyword phrases into the META tag, that myth prevails to this day. (By the way, if you weren’t sure, Google 100% ignores the keywords META tag, so just leave it blank. It’s completely useless.)

Then content was king – the more the better! So people built scraper sites and pumped out thousands of pages of crap content.

Later, links were the way to get to the top. So people built thousands of spammy links to their website.

It worked for a while, but no more. Google built Panda and Penguin to kill this behavior. Every time Google sneezes, people react and overdo it by gorging on whatever they sneezed at. If a little is good, more must be better. A lot must be AWESOME.

I read recently (and rats, I can’t find the article), that having a well-optimized website with poor SEO page titles won’t affect their “rank” on Google. Putting in great SEO titles on an already well-optimized website will have little or no effect. I had this very experience with a client a couple years ago. She has a pretty good website with lots of content about her particular niche, and she was doing well. I optimized all her page titles and descriptions (which don’t affect your “rank” at all), thinking she’d start seeing some terrific results. Nothing changed on her site traffic stats.

Taking Your Google Vitamins Because They’re Good For You

To me, SEO is kind of like your eating habits. If you take nutritional advice in isolation (like SEO factors), it probably isn’t going to make much difference. As an example, how many of you have heard that vitamin A is good for your eyes? We all grew up with that – “Eat your carrots, they’re good for your eyes!”. Vitamin A deficiency can definitely lead to poor vision or blindness, but it’s probably unheard of these days. So flipping it around, taking a vitamin A tablet every day “because it’s good for your eyes” really is going to have a net zero effect on your overall health, because it’s likely that your diet is giving you perfectly adequate nutrition.

Your overall health is based upon your overall eating habits, and your body is pretty good at compensating for the occasional dietary infraction.

Similarly, Google is pretty good at figuring out your website whether you’ve done a good job with SEO page titles or keyword domains or not.

I was just looking at a website today. Her “About Us” page title had her target keyword phrase. But nowhere on the page or anywhere else on the site was that keyword phrase even mentioned. So her web designer took that one factor (the SEO title) in complete isolation and “optimized” it without thinking about the rest of the page or even the rest of the site.

It doesn’t work.

Google is able to figure this out, and guess what? She won’t rank even with the keyword phrase in her page title, because it’s a single factor in isolation. She took the “vitamin A” because it was good for her, and it won’t make a hill of beans difference.

So What DO You Need?

It boils down to three things. Your website absolutely must have:

  • Lots of rich information about your industry, services and products
  • Regular, fresh updates with new content (like a blog)
  • Hopefully, the factors that Google has been talking about lately: mobile-aware design, good quality citations (company-based links), social signals and SSL for a secure visitor experience

If your website is healthy, has lots of the good stuff, it’s just going to naturally show up higher in the search results. Try to do a decent job of putting your keywords into all the nooks and crannies you can without being spammy. But if you forget on a page or two or five, an occasional “bad” factor isn’t going to affect the overall performance, just as fixing it really won’t make a significant positive influence.

Taking that one SEO factor in isolation is a pointless exercise, and you’ll do yourself a much greater service by concentrating on great content than you will with a single magic Google vitamin pill.