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November 14, 2008
SEO Software for High Rankings
 
It seems that every day a new SEO software tool comes out that promises to help your site get top rankings in the search engines with the click of a button. If only it were true! The programs I’ve looked at provide some interesting insights into your website, but they seem to focus on a whole lot of stuff that has nothing to do with search engine rankings.
 
For example, SEO tools are great at telling you how many words you have in your Title tag, and what the ratio of keywords to text is within you website copy (aka keyword density). They even make recommendations on what these numbers actually should be based on their automated analysis.
 
The problem is that their recommendations are wrong.
 
The premise of the software is flawed from the start. While one would think that since search engines are using a formula for determining how to rank websites in the search results, it follows that it could be reverse-engineered.  If that were the case, then yes, someone could invent some SEO software to do that. In fact, back in the olden days of SEO — I believe it was sometime in the mid-90s when Inktomi was being used as the backend for a few search engines — someone had developed a specific template that could be filled in with your keywords of choice and it would basically guarantee you a high ranking! However, in the 90’s search engines weren’t even close to being as sophisticated as they are today.
 
Today, the formulas (or algorithms) have so many aspects to them, with each factor possibly affecting other factors, that you can’t just follow any specific set of rules to gain rankings. There is no best number of words for a Title tag or for the number of words on a page. One page’s Title tag may be perfect with 5 words in it, while another works better with 12. One page may say all it needs to say in 75 words, and another in 2500. You can’t analyze the top ranking pages, copy what they’re doing and expect that it will work for you. Well, you can try, but you’ll learn very quickly that it won’t.
 
Let me be very clear — there are no specific SEO rules or formulas that you can follow that will consistently provide you with a high ranking in the search engines for your keywords of choice for any given page. None. Nada. Zilch.
 
And that includes Google’s webmaster guideline “rules” and all the stuff you read in SEO articles, as well as the information provided at conferences. Much of it is outdated myths, or just plain wrong. You will never find that quick-fix, automated, magic-bullet list of specific things that will work for every site/page every time. The only way to truly optimize your website is by testing a variety of things and see what works for you. While you can use software to provide some clues, nothing beats the experience of an SEO expert who has seen different techniques come and go through the years. That experience with hundreds of different sites that enables them to fit the perfect SEO strategy to your particular website. Unfortunately, you can’t package up that experience in an automated tool, regardless of what the toolmakers may try to tell you.
 
While the low cost of SEO software is enticing, and certainly a much cheaper alternative to hiring an SEO company, in the end, you will get what you pay for. The software may help you find some specific technical glitches that should be fixed, and it may help you with your keyword research; but since SEO is largely a creative endeavor, that’s where the value of the software ends.  Most of SEO is done through creative means and for that you need the brainpower of an SEO expert. 
 
Every site is different.  And every page on every site is different. They all have different goals and target audiences. Since a big part of SEO is in the writing that’s on the page—making it enticing to both search engines and your target market can only be done by hand. Try to write copy based on some arbitrary numbers that some SEO tool tells you to use and you’ll see what I mean. You will basically end up with a big mess of unreadable nonsense every time.
 
The worst thing about SEO software is that it causes you to waste your time and energy on SEO tasks that in the end will have no bearing on gaining targeted traffic to your website. Some of these wasted endeavors include removing tables from your HTML code, adding meta keyword tags, validating HTML, moving keywords to the top of the page, adding keywords to your URLs, adding H1 tags. None of which will change your search engine rankings. That’s right—none of them.
 
Don’t believe me? Go get yourself some SEO software and try it for yourself then let me know how it turns out!
 

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As an SEO Consultant, Jill Whalen has been providing her no-nonsense, practical SEO advice since 1995. If you learned from this article be sure to sign up for Jill's popular High Rankings Advisor SEO Newsletter to keep up with the latest information in the ever-changing world of SEO. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen, "Like" her at Facebook, and "Circle" her on Google+.

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