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I've been spending time re-reading some of my (circa 1999) HTML books and my impression is that even though it seems everything is changing week by week, there are some general design/coding principles that still hold good today. A case in point is the use of H# and ALT tags. Surely we can't be constantly watching Google day by day and altering our H2s to H4s (or whatever) and wondering whether we should alter all our pages to remove ALT tags just in case the latest algo doesn't like them (which I doubt).
Of course I understand the importance of traffic, especially when one makes a living from it, but surely there are better things do do with one's time than constantly tweaking and re-tweaking perfectly sound pages?
As a matter of interest (and I'm no expert), my own experience of SERPS for my sites is that backlinks are far less important that people say they are. What seems to count most of all is what I've actually written on my pages.
I fully appreciate people have been hard done by - including me, but you cannot ignore the basics of good coding and accessibility imo.
Get some PR, watch the SERPs and add a key phrase here and there. Notice that you've gone up a few places so you repeat the phrase somewhere and so on. A bit more PR, a few more KWs, add a couple to the heading and you're number 1.
There are definitely better things to do than tweaking and re-tweaking, but when you look at your stats and see that "glowing widgets" is sending you traffic, but you're only ranked at #9 for it, and maybe if you just added that phrase one more time to your page...
Tempting and addictive.
Then a big update comes along and you wonder which trick (seo technique) got you dumped. But of course it was all of them.
I'd say most people worried that their H1 has been penalised are actually worried that they've over-stuffed their page. I've been there.
Surely we can't be constantly watching Google day by day and altering our H2s to H4s (or whatever) and wondering whether we should alter all our pages to remove ALT tags just in case the latest algo doesn't like them...
Patrick... you know there's only one place on the page you should use H2s (as headers for secondary sub-sections of the page), only one place you should use H4s (as headers for level four sub-sections of the page) and that you should use an ALT tag for every single image to describe what that image shows.
You don't have to reconfigure the page once you've done that. Forget the spammers, forget Google and the other search engines... that's how the document is supposed to be set out. If Google can't find the page, then it is doing something wrong, not you. Google doesn't deserve greater authority than the W3C on how to markup your pages...