Hi Jill

I am currently looking at doing SEO work for a [generic type of alcohol for drinking] industry-related website. I have come across one problem though.

If I enter [the type of alcohol] into Google (www.google.co.uk), and look at the top ranking site, I cannot see why it should be number one. I know you do not review individual sites, so all I can say is that I know for a fact that this site was not (deliberately) optimized.

It has weak titles, no particular keyphrases in the content, no meta description or keywords, no keyphrases as headings or alt text. It has about 60 incoming links but none that could be regarded as ‘quality' websites. The HTML does not even validate. All I can see is that [the type of alcohol] appears as part of the URL and as the first word in every page title.

The problem is justifying SEO to a client when a competitor site like this apparently defies SEO logic and succeeds nonetheless.

Any insight is appreciated!


Jill's Response

Hi Maurice,

This is a great example of how all the elements that people believe are necessary for a site to rank highly are not always needed at all! In fact, much of what you read online about what is supposedly going to gain you high rankings is a complete myth. This is especially true when it comes to extremely general, one-word keywords, such as the one you are talking about.

You'll almost always find the top ranking pages for any one-word keyword will defy the "rules" of SEO. Which is why SEO is not about optimizing for a one-word keyword, but instead optimizing for the hundreds of keyword phrases that relate to the product/service in question. With one-word keywords, it's basically a crap-shoot.

If you absolutely need to show up for a very general one-word keyword (and I strongly believe you don't) then your best bet is to bid on it via Google AdWords. However, it's doubtful that the cost per click would provide you with a positive return on your investment. General words are usually very poor converters — another reason why they're not worth the aggravation of optimizing for.

Do your keyword research and find the tons of related phrases, then optimize each page of the site for 3-5 different ones. Your traffic will soar, your conversions will be great, and your client will start to see what real SEO is all about!



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October 23, 2007

CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.

High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.

Jill speaks at national and international conferences and has been writing about SEO and search marketing since 2000. She's been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Her articles have appeared in numerous print magazines and online websites including CIO Magazine, CMS Focus, The Internet Marketing Report, ClickZ, WorkZ, Inc.com, Entrepreneur, Lycos Small Business, WebProNews, SiteProNews and others. Jill has also appeared on many online and offline radio programs such as Entrepreneur Magazine's E-Biz Radio Show, SearchEngineRadio and the eMarketing Talkshow.

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Search Engine Guide > Jill Whalen > Unoptimized Site Ranks #1