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For all the knowledge that any SEO expert of Google nerd has about what works best for ranking a website on search engines, there’s just as much that we don’t know. In fact, none of us truly know anything about Google apart from what they’ve told us. This means that anyone in the world can become an “expert” on Google by just googling for the wealth of information that is already out there from Google themselves.

But there are three things that most SEO experts don’t understand and that most business owners would have no idea of when it comes to working with the search giant.

– Often your meta titles and descriptions don’t matter

– All your SEO work can often lead to no result

– No one outside of those who write the algorithm knows how it truly works

Google often rewrites your preferred titles and descriptions

For those of us who have built websites for years, we’d remember the old meta tags that were part of HTML from time immemorial. Or at least for the past 25 years. The first was the title tag. Then there was the description tag. Finally, there was the keywords tag.

The keywords tag was made redundant around 15 years ago when Google needed a way to stop marketers from trying to attract search results to their pages by typing in keywords that had nothing to do with what was on the page, simply to attract people looking for those things. While Google couldn’t read things like intent, quality and context like they can now, the only choice they had was to ignore keywords and draw the context of what was on the page from the text that was actually on the page. Not what we coded into the HTML for the page.

Now in 2021, we’ve learned that Google often ignores the meta titles that we’ve been manually adding to our pages via HTML, the WordPress tags or in plugins like Yoast. This also has implications for the SEO titles and descriptions that we write in tools like Wix, Squarespace and Shopify that are designed for us to have more control over what our search results look like on Google.

At the moment, Google admits that they need to change around 1 in 5 page titles to something that is more human-readable since marketers tend to try and cheat the system by stuffing keywords into titles and descriptions rather than relying on well-written and quality-oriented content on the pages they create.

So if 20% of page titles are being rewritten away from what you originally stipulated that you wanted to have displayed in the meta title, is it even worth writing meta titles anymore?

Well, yes. Remember that it’s only 20% so far. And in the cases that are changed, it’s because Google thinks that the titles are of such poor quality that they have to change them. The clue here is that it’s only the titles that are of poor quality. So stop writing keyword-stuffed epic stories in your titles and concentrate on titles that make sense to humans reading them. Google won’t have to change them if you don’t try to cheat in them.

All your SEO work can often lead to no result

That’s a hard reality that bites if you are paying a tonne of money for an SEO expert right now. Trust me, it’s just as hard for me, as an SEO guy myself, to hear it. Yet that’s the reality that most of us in search engine optimisation understand, but don’t tend to openly admit.

A lot of what we do may do nothing. And even if that stuff does work, it could take months for you to see the result of it.

SEO is not a complete science. That’s because we don’t know exactly how Google works. Sometimes Google will tell us some vague thing that gives us a clue. Sometimes there is a pattern that is noticed. Sometimes it’s just plain logic. But the reality is that the three things that matter most, as far as we know, to Google are, the trustworthiness of the source, the popularity of the source and the number of relevant and quality backlinks to the source.

The pages that sit on top of the rankings tend to feature high in these factors. But sometimes they don’t. I’ve had pages rank high that didn’t meet those criteria. That’s mostly because they had a local slant to them that made them very relevant to a very specific geographical area. So, there are no guarantees here.

Even those SEO tools like SEMrush, AHREFS, Moz, Mangools and others are just taking their best-educated guess. One of my tools has been telling me for 2 years that my website should be outranking all my competitors by a long shot in two big search phrases that I want to rank for. But I’m not. So I have to keep plodding along until I do.

Google is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, wrapped in an enigma

Try as they may, no SEO expert knows how Google’s algorithm works. They can guess at it via the patterns that they see and they can use the deduction from the outcomes that they get from doing certain things, but at the end of the day, they are making nothing more than an educated guess. That’s the hard truth when it comes to Google ranking.

No SEO guru can guarantee you a number one position on Google apart from searches for your business’ name. And even then that’s not something to bet the house on.

Google is as Google does. What they do is a trade secret that they are not keen to reveal. Much like the formula for Coca-Cola or the exact blend of KFC’s 11 secret herbs and spices. We just have to trust that it’s working for good and not evil — and that what we learn from various sources about it can be somewhat trustworthy.

Listen to this article on the Clickstarter podcast

Dante St James is the founder of Clickstarter, a Facebook Blueprint Certified Lead Trainer, a Community Trainer with Facebook Australia, a digital advisor with Treeti Business Consulting, an accredited ASBAS Digital Solutions advisor and presenter, and the editor at The Small Marketer. You can watch free 1-hour webinars and grow your digital skills at Dante’s YouTube Channel.