SEO: What Works. What Doesn’t

In October Marketing Sherpa released the results of an annual survey of over 2,000 search marketers asking what are the most effective SEO tactics. Here are the top SEO tactics that are achieving results as well as many tactics that are a waste of time and money.

The Top 5 SEO Tactics

Here are the top 5 SEO tactics that have been achieving higher rankings according to the survey

  • Keyword Research- To learn what keywords to target or test


  • On-Page Content Optimization


  • Title Tag Optimization


  • Link Building


  • Meta Tag and Meta Description


Two Additional Tactics

The above are five of the top tactics we work on for our clients because they deliver results. However, we would add the following two tactics to improve organic search engine results. Notice I said “results” not “rankings”, focusing on rankings as the primarily goal of SEO will probably not deliver the results you want; searchers who click through to the web site and further, for many webs sites, the business goal is to increase the number of site visitors who convert by taking some action such as signing up, inquiring, purchasing etc.


  • Local Search Optimization. If local search results are important to your business then you should focus on improving your local search results as they are a very different animal than the traditional organic results that most of the above tactics focus on. See this article for more about local search results.

What Doesn’t Work

Last June we looked at what four senior SEO’s have said are SEO myths and boondoggles (Wasteful Pursuits) over the last year or so (Read the article to see all the claims and much more detail).

Below is a list of the myths were for which there is more or less agreement between two or more of these senior SEO’s.

  • Having an XML Sitemap will boost your Google rankings. (Not for regular HTML pages, possibly for other Digital Assets).
  • There’s no need to link to all your pages for the spiders to see them. Just list all URLs in the XML Sitemap. (Getting a regular HTML page indexed by listing it in an XML site map does not help rankings much).
  • Meta tags will boost your rankings. (Keyword tags do not help in Google at all. They can help with misspellings in other engines. However there is value in well crafted Meta Description Tags which may be included, at least in part, in search engine listings).
  • H1 tags are a crucial element for SEO. (False. They don’t make much difference).
  • Submitting URLs to search engines is useless! True. Search engines will find web pages by crawling the web and following links. If they don’t find a web page that way, such as one submitted by a submission tool, it has very little change of reaching top results in the search listings.
  • Click-Through Rate Improves rankings? False. If it were true we’d all be hiring overseas drones to click on our client’s sites.
  • Keyword Density is Not Used. There is no magic formula.
  • Our SEO firm is endorsed/approved by Google. Google does not approve SEO’s.
  • First you get your site launched and then you add all the SEO goodness. Bad Mistake. Think SEO when you start thinking redesign! See 8 SEO Steps During A Website Redesign
  • SEO is a standalone activity / one-time activity / SEO is Free.  False /False /False
  • SEO is about rankings, not conversions. Again, focusing on rankings as the primarily goal of SEO will not likely deliver the results you want; searchers who click through at the very least and for many web sites the goal is searchers who convert i.e. site visitors who take some action such as signing up, inquiring, purchasing etc).

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