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10 things search engine ‘experts’ argue about

I hate to put caveats on the end of advice I give people, but with search engine optimisation, where there are no rules, only observed effects, it’s hard to be definitive. Here’s a case in point: an article at SEOmoz which examines ten questions where experts are agreeing to disagree. Here are the ten questions, and the conclusions:

Q. How Significantly Does Personalization Affect Rankings?
We all know Google serves up different results from person to person. But are they very different? Yes, they are. Or maybe they’re not.

Q. Do We Need to Update Our Homepages Every Day to Maintain Rankings?
Testing has showed that new content on the home page really helps a site in the rankings. Although you can do just fine without it, so perhaps it doesn’t matter after all.

Q. How is Google Treating “Reciprocal” Links?
Of course it just ignores “swapped” links. Or maybe it doesn’t.

Q. Keyword Density is Not Used – How Many Times Do We Have to Say It?
Look, just use the important keywords on a page several times, right? And don’t bother counting them. Unless, er, you want to.

Q. Do Hyphens in Domain Names Really Suck for SEO?
No, spell your phrase out with hyphens. Or thinking about it, maybe you shouldn’t.

Q. Does Click-Through Rate Matter?
Er, nobody knows.

Q. Do H1 Tags Help with Rankings?
Yes, they do. But only a tiny bit. Although maybe that’s because an H1 tag is normally at the start of a page. Hmm, yes, that could be the reason.

Q. Can Linking to Other Sites Help You Perform Better?
Yes, a bloke from Google said it’ll help. Or at least he said they do look at that. Come to think of it though, he didn’t say they actually used the information.

Q. Is PageRank a Good Predictor of Rankings?
Probably, although the PageRank shown on the Google Toolbar isn’t the PageRank used internally by Google, so who knows?

Q. Does Great Content Equal Great Rankings?
Of course it does. Except if nobody links to you, then it won’t rank well. So it doesn’t necessarily mean you will.

So what’s my take on all this? Maybe some of the things you try won’t have any effect. Others will, and you may never know which ones. But anything you can do to make the content of your website “better” and to get more links to your site and people talking about it is, in the long term, a good thing. Don’t use the lack of a rulebook to be an excuse not to do anything.

The SEOmoz article is here and it’s discussing a SearchEngineLand article which is here.

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