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Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the technique used to make your site appear at the top of the search engines (mainly Google). There are lots of misconceptions about the trade. This is primarily because of two reasons: One, the rules change so quickly it’s hard to keep up and two, no one other than the owners of the search engines actually know what those rules are!

The only way we can work out what currently works is through experimenting with our own sites. Because of that rumours and misunderstanding about SEO abound. Many of them stem from the so–called ‘experts’; some used to be true and are now out of date. The rest are just plain wrong!

So here are 10 SEO techniques that WON’T help your website’s rankings. Not everyone will agree with all of these…but that’s the way it is with SEO.

1. The keywords meta tag

Meta tags provide information about the web page but don’t actually appear on the page itself. Years ago, when the search engines were much more basic than they are today, they didn’t have the power to index entire pages. So they used to read the keywords tag to get an idea of what the page was about. The idea was destined to fail as it was so easy to exploit—your keywords could say one thing and your web page another. Don’t even bother including a keywords tag on your site—it’s a complete waste of time.

2. The description meta tag

The description tag is similar to the keywords one but it is a short paragraph of text about the site—as opposed to a list. It’s worth including the description tag; it won’t affect your rankings at all but sometimes Google will use it in its listings as the description of your site (between the blue link and the green web address).

3. The robots meta tag

The robots meta tags tells the search engines how often to crawl your site. Unless you’re blocking them out completely (in which case you wouldn’t be bothered about SEO) this tag will be ignored. The search engines choose how often they will visit your site.

4. Dedicated IP address

An IP address is a unique number that matches your domain name to your web server. A dedicated IP address means no other sites use the same one as you. This technique has never worked and stems from the fact in some rare instances when a site has been banned from Google—so have all the others under the same IP address. I think Google have wised up to this now anyway so it’s not worth worrying about.

5. Adding titles to your hyperlinks

A title of a link is like a tooltip. If you use Internet Explorer it seems to work in the same way as an alt tag on an image. Alt tags are ‘alternative’ text that is displayed should the image not be loaded and do have a very slight positive impact on search engine rankings. However, despite their apparent similarity title tags serve a different purpose. They have never—and will never—affect your search engine position.

6. Writing valid code

Valid code means it’s written and structured in a way that conforms with the specification as set out by the organisation who originally devised the language that web pages are written in. As much as web designers (myself included) love to extol the virtues of having such code, the search engines don’t really care. As long the website text is accessible and has the correct headings the quality of the code is irrelevant.

7. Renaming file extensions

I’m not sure whether it was ever true or not but back in the good old days (early 2000s) it was generally held that search engines preferred static pages—which had .htm or .html file extensions (as opposed to one generated by a programming language like .php or .asp)— as they loaded quicker. Was it ever true? I don’t know but it certainly won’t make a difference now. Some people still rename their file extensions to give the impression the page is static when it isn’t in an attempt to get better rankings. While there are some technical advantages to this (that aren’t relevant to this blog post), they won’t push you higher up on Google. Note that I’m referring to changing the file extension only; this should not be confused with full URL rewriting which can have some benefits.

8. Keyword stuffing

Unlike the keywords meta tag, keyword stuffing involves cramming loads of keywords onto your page. Rather than fitting into to your main website text stuffed keywords appear as a comma–separated list somewhere on the page. Search engines used to like this as they didn’t know any better…they do now! Not only will this technique not help you, it could actually harm your site to use it.

9. Changing content regularly

Contrary to popular belief, constantly revising your content does not push you higher. If you constantly add new content to your site you improve your chances of being found. Each page you add to your site is another way people can find you. The misunderstanding probably comes from the fact that sites with frequently–changing content tend to get indexed faster. If you’re always adding new blogs and news items that’s a good thing. If you’re constantly fiddling with the words on your home page that’s a bad thing.

10. Absolute URIs

Using absolute URIs means that whenever you reference a resource on your web pages (images, scripts, Flash movies, etc) you use the full address. I recently had the (mis)fortune to work with an SEO company who insisted this would make a big difference. The only time absolute URIs are useful are if you have multiple domains pointing to the same site; it can prevent the wrong domain being indexed (and even then there are much better ways to handle it).

To get a site that uses the right SEO techniques call me on 07843 483 078 or get a free quote online.

Tim Bennett is a freelance web designer from Leeds. He has a First Class Honours degree in Computing from Leeds Metropolitan University and currently runs his own one-man web design company, Texelate.