Okay, so I said it all in the title. Perhaps you need not even read this article as you may start off not believing it.

Today I read an article written by an unknown name in the SEO industry (at least unknown to me). It had a number of points focused on improving search rankings and provided a bunch of tips on how to improve the overall standings for a site. Sounds like a useful article, and for many who read it, I am sure it was – or at least seemed that way.

The article, sent to me by a client, was surprisingly wrong on several accounts with what the author recommended in terms of SEO. The advice was certainly not anything which could be damaging, but more out dated, now useless information. Many of the tactics recommended may have worked several years ago, but now play little to no role in search rankings.

I found it odd that an article as out dated as this had been published by a seemingly credible newsletter. The source was one I had heard of, but never actually read. I am not trying to discredit the source and therefore will not mention either it or the author, as this is not the point of my post.

I replied to the client and explained which points were inaccurate and why, and then carried on with my day. I got to thinking after receiving a thank you from the client where he stated: “…goes to show you cannot believe what is being written all the time…”. I thought, that is very true, and it sparked the idea for this post. I read a lot of articles from a variety of sources, and often spot what I find to be inaccuracies, but never really think anything of it. But what if I were a common businessman with a website, and I was trying to learn about SEO?

How can you tell if the advice you are reading will actually help your site? This is actually a tough question. Most of the advice you read in newsletters and even on authoritative SEO sites is fairly general, applying generic techniques. Very seldom are they focused for a specific site for a specific purpose, so even while the recommendations may be perfectly legit and helpful in most cases, they may not have the desired effect for some. This is not to say they are bad, but merely non-specific enough to do the job. This all makes sense of course, as to be specific enough and cover all possible scenarios, would require articles into the hundreds of pages – otherwise known as books!

Now that I have gone a little off topic, I’ll get back to where I was at. So how can you tell if the information in an article is even accurate? Here are three fairly simple points that can help you to determine if what you are reading is trustworthy:

  1. First check out the author. Is it a name you recognize? What are his or her credentials? Have they been around for a while? Are you able to find their articles on any creditable SEO news websites? If not, this does not mean they don’t know their stuff, but it may raise a flag, that perhaps their article could be incorrect. The best of the best are often featured on these news sites and publish a number of articles, so there will likely be at the very least, some reference to them.
  2. Check out the website in their bio. (If they don’t have a bio, there’s another flag). Do they even represent an SEO company? If they do, use whatever SEO knowledge you have to see if their site reflects the industry. While not all good SEO companies will necessarily have their own rankings, the basic SEO fundamentals should be in place. Check for the basics, things such as unique title tags, on page textual content, proper navigation etc. In the vastly outdated article I read, the author’s bio pointed to a web design company. Now their design was quite nice, and they seem to know their stuff – in terms of design, but their site did not address SEO properly at all. In most cases good designers are not good SEO’s, just as good SEO’s are not necessarily good designers. There are of course exceptions to every rule, but chances are you would not pay a visit to your lawyer to ask for medical advice. For that matter, you would also be unlikely to see your doctor to have a tooth pulled, perhaps a closer analogy to SEO and design.
  3. Check out the author’s advice. If you plan on implementing the advice or specific recommended technique, do some research to verify if what they say is true before putting your site at risk. If their recommendation is one that can be helpful chances are someone else has also written about it. Take a look at some of the popular forums and check for references on the technique – even add your own post asking for thoughts on the item. It is possible that the author is writing about a breakthrough discovery that nobody knows about, but in virtually all cases where a breakthrough occurs, it is kept secret, one would not want to give away a goose that lays golden eggs.

This may seem like a lot of work, but it may certainly be worth it. If you plan on undertaking your optimization efforts on your own you want to ensure that the techniques you are about to use are not only up-to-date, but also worth while and legitimate. Check out your sources and their recommendations. If they are legit, you will most likely be able to verify it fairly easily.

I want to throw in an extra note here. It is very possible that you could stumble upon an article by an unknown name, with no website, and no prior history of contributing articles to any news publications, and it is very possible that this article and author are highly knowledgeable. There are exceptions to every rule, and everyone has to start somewhere. Just because an author comes out of the woodwork it does not mean that he or she has not practiced SEO extensively as perhaps an anonymous face in a large company or even as an in-house SEO for a large corporation for example. My point is basically to do your due diligence before applying any techniques you read about, because you just never know.

And in case you were wondering, no – you don’t have to believe anything I say either.