Articles, tips, and resources for webmasters

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SEO 101:
Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Myths & Facts
  • Submission and Spidering
    • Submission
    • The spider keeps on comin'
    • Removing barriers to spidering
  • Keywords
    • Avoid single-word terms
    • Avoid terms that are too broad
    • Avoid terms that are too specific
    • Avoid terms that are unpopular
    • Avoid highly-competitive terms
    • Mine your server reports
    • Target word variants and word order
  • Ranking Factors
    • Content is King
    • One-page factors
    • Page Weight
    • Dead Links
    • META tags
    • Unknown Factors
  • NON-Ranking Factors
    • META Keywords
    • ALT text
    • Title attribute
    • Web Standards
    • Dedicated IP address
    • Changing hosts or IP's
    • Adsense
    • Resubmitting a site
  • Penalties
    • Over-Optimization penalties
    • Non-WWW penalties
    • Black Hat SEO penalties
    • Paid Links penalty
    • Duplicate Content penalty
    • Why did my site disappear?!
  • Black Hat SEO
    • Invisible text
    • Cloaking
    • Keyword stuffing
    • Doorway Pages
    • Orphaned Pages
    • Spam
  • Links
    • Anchor Text
    • Links in the body copy
    • Internal Links
    • PageRank
    • Backlinks
    • Reciprocal Links
    • Link Farms and Directories
    • Buying and Selling Links
    • Pages not passing PR
    • Link Age
    • Relevance and Authority
    • Suspicious Activity
    • Splitting PR (removing or forcing theWWW)
    • Summary of link factors
  • Changing domains, and renaming pages
    • Move a whole site
    • Move a directory to a new domain
    • Move specific pages
    • Advanced Redirecting
  • Hiring professional help
  • Summarized recommendations
  • Further Resources

How to get good search engine rankings

« Part 5: Ranking Factors

Part 6: Non-Ranking Factors

Part 7: Penalties »

What is a "non-ranking factor"?

If a ranking factor is something that helps your search engine rankings, then a non-ranking factor is something that doesn't affect your search rankings. Why have a page of non-ranking factors? Because lots of people mistakenly think the following things will help their rankings.

Please note that I don't list every possible myth below. You definitely should not assume that some factor is important just because it's not in this list. Every week people come up with some new, wrong idea for something that supposedly helps their search rankings. I don't cover all the myths, just the most prevalent.

The idea that the following things don't help rankings are based on common sense, experience, and the collective wisdom of experts in the SEO community (though there may be some dissenters).

As usual, I think worrying about whether certain things affect your rankings is a waste of time. Instead of spending your time wondering about these things, spend that time adding content to your site or making it better in some other way. Make a great site, and success will follow.

Meta Keywords

Search engines used to use the Meta Keywords tag to rank sites, but that was way back in the 90's. They learned pretty quick that it's a bad idea to take a webmaster's word for what their site is about, because webmasters would stick anything and everything into Meta Keywords. Plus, the search engines got a lot better at figuring at what pages were about on their own -- as well as which pages were the best matches for a given search.

I have #1 and front-page rankings all over the search engines for a variety of money terms (like "buy house"), all without using Meta Keywords.

Yes, I know that people all over the net say that Meta Keywords help your rankings. They're wrong. They're simply repeating what they've heard everyone else repeating. And my sites outrank all of them.

ALT text

The ALT parameter for <IMG> tags is for displaying a description of the image for users who have their image-loading turned off in their browsers, or for those who have slow connections while waiting for images to load, or for vision-impaired users whose browsers read the description of the image to them. Some engines used to boost rankings for keywords listed in ALT (and webmasters dutifully stuffed their ALT parameters with tons of keywords) -- but no major search engine currently cares about ALT text, according to Search Engine Guide. (The exception might be for the image database of a search engine, but not the normal results.)

As with most design issues, design for your readers, not the search engines. Use the ALT parameter to describe your images, using your keywords when it makes sense to do so. Keep your ALT description short. Also, don't use words that don't accurately describe the graphic in question.

The format for ALT text is <img alt="alt text goes here">. Incidentally, the correct term for this is the ALT parameter, or ALT attribute. ALT is not a tag. There is no such thing as an "ALT tag". A tag is a <> command, like <a>, <img>, or <p>. But you never write <alt>. ALT is an option for the <img> tag. Since it's not its own tag, we call it a parameter or attribute of the <img> tag.

Title attribute

Don't confuse this with the TITLE tag. The title attribute is attached to links or images, such as <A href="link.html" title="link description">. The purpose of the Title attribute is so the description pops up as a "tooltip" when the user hovers over the link. Contrary to popular belief, this is all but irrelevant for SEO. (WebmasterWorld 2007, 2005)

Web Standards

Following standards means that your site is syntatically correct and follows a set of best practices (like having an alt value for your images). Standards are not a bad thing. But there's no evidence that following them will help your search rankings.

The SE's want to provide the best match to a user's query. How would it serve the user to not show them a highly relevant site, just because the code isn't perfect? It wouldn't. That's why I strongly believe that SE's don't punish sites for not following standards. Elevating sites that are standards-compliant wouldn't improve the quality of the search results. So there's no reason for SE's to improve the rank of sites that follow standards.

(Here's a video of Matt Cutts of Google explaining that validated code isn't important for search ranking purposes.)

Dedicated IP address

Here's another one we can evaluate the same way: Would it improve the search results to elevate sites that are on a separate IP address? That is, Would that benefit the person conducting the search? Of course not. And that's why there's no reason to believe that putting a site on a dedicated IP will help its rankings.

Changing hosting companies or IP addresses

Would it matter to a surfer that you changed hosting companies or IP addresses? Of course not. And that's why it doesn't matter to Google.

Google says as much on its site, but you really, really should have known the answer without their having to tell you. If you're still wondering whether irrelevant things affect your rank, you're still barking up the wrong tree. What helps your rank is making your site better. Does changing hosting companies or IP addresses do that? No, it doesn't. And that's why the search engines couldn't care less.

Adding Adsense

A popular conspiracy theory is that sites that carry Google's Adsense advertising get a rankings boost, because that means more money for Google when people click the ads. But so far I haven't seen any credible evidence that that's the case. Google makes plenty of money without playing games like this, and they would be opening themselves up for a mountain of bad will if it were discovered that they were screwing with the search results for their own profit. That's why I think it's unlikely they're going down that road.

Re-submitting a site

Once a SE knows about your site, they know about it. They're not going to suddenly forget about it, even if you never fill out the Submission form on their site ever again. And they're certainly not going to rank your site higher if you keep filling out a useless form. How would it serve an SE's users to elevate a site which submits frequently? It wouldn't. And that's why they don't.


Now continue this series below...

« Part 5: Ranking Factors
Part 6: Non-Ranking Factors
Part 7: Penalties »

I was born into a cult.

The Aesthetic Realism Foundation is a small psychological cult in New York city. My grandparents were members, so my mother was born into it, and so was I. Recently I created a website about the cult to get the word out. I hope you'll check it out.


We'll cry if you don't link to us.


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