Let me begin by stating upfront, I do NOT consider myself a Search Engine Optimization expert. In a previous life, I worked for an SEO company and have done SEO for a number of years, but there are many folks who are far more knowledgeable than I am on this subject. There are also a number of slimy, snake oil, unethical people who give used car salesman a bad name also working in the SEO industry.
What I would like to do is share with you my take on SEO. I am going to start by not pretending that there is some kind of secret sauce, there isn’t. No-one has a special algorithm, decoder ring or the phone number to Mr. Google. Very simply put, this is my opinion on where to start and how to move forward to effectively compete on your most important keywords and phrases in the search engines. Here are my three simple truths on search engine optimization. I do want to warn you before you continue reading, you are not going to like what I have to say. As long as we are clear, let’s continue.
1. Google is all that matters
When I use the words ‘search engine(s)’ I am referring to Google. Yes, there are other search engines out there, but they really don’t matter.
“You are talking crazy there Cord! This is one of the last employees left in the search department from Yahoo! and I take offense to your last remark.”
“Hello Mr. Cord, this is Steve Ballmer at Microsoft. We have this great new search engine named Bing. How dare you say we don’t matter. Bing is even fun to say. You try it, Bing, Bing, Bing….”
Sorry Steve and Last Yahoo, but it’s true and here’s why:
- Newsflash: There are more searches done on Google each day than all the other search engines combined. They dominate the search market.
- If you achieve strong visibility in Google’s natural search, you will absolutely be doing well in the other search engines.
I guess what I am trying to say is when that SEO firm you hired sends you a ranking report and calls out that one keyword moved from #25 to #5 in Alta Vista, you shouldn’t get that excited. Is Alta Vista still around?
2. Your website must technically work
If your website was developed incorrectly and does not allow search engine spiders or bots to easily index or read your website, you’re toast. You could have the greatest website ever created, if the bots cannot index it, you will have no visibility in the search engines.
An easy way to confirm your website is being indexed as long as your site has been around for a little while is to go to google.com and do the following search: site:yoururl.com
Make sure you replace yoururl.com with the domain of your website. This search asks Google to show how many pages it has indexed within the domain you chose in your search. I did a search using Marketing Hipster, site:marketinghipster.com. As you can see by the screen shot, it returned a result of 960 total pages in Google’s index. If the number of pages in your search seems low or is at zero, you might have a problem.
Alright, you have done your search and your website is being indexed by Google, outstanding! Now all we need to do is get your website competing on your most important and relevant keywords. This is where some might suggest “optimizing” your website by focusing on things like meta-tags, alt tags, site map, page names, search engine friendly URL’s, etc. etc. etc. Please don’t get me wrong, all these items have merit, but they are not going to have a great impact on effectively competing on your important and competitive keywords.
You have only so many hours a day to focus on SEO if you are lucky. My recommendation would be to spend them working on things that will deliver you the best results possible. You want to compete on relevant terms in Google, in my humble opinion, there is only one thing you should focus on, drum roll please……. CONTENT.
This is why I warned you. I know this might be a bit of a letdown as there is nothing earth shattering about content. I told you there is no secret sauce, you want to compete, you need to put all your available time and effort into developing well written content that your readers will find interesting and want to share.
3. Content, Content and oh by the way, Content!
Two things determine your rankings and visibility in Google: content and links. You need well written, interesting content that includes the keywords and phrases that you want to compete on. That’s it. Write kick butt content with your keywords and you will get the visibility you are looking for.
“But wait Cord, what about the links? How do I get them?”
Right, well lets first make sure everyone is clear on what a link is. A link is when another website takes the time to link to a specific page on your website. Google believes that if someone has taken the time to link to your website, you must be offering something of value and will reward you with better rankings and visibility. There a number of ways to get links and there are some really strong folks who have written great articles onlinkbait, but if you write well written, interesting content, people are going to want to share that content with others. That sharing will deliver you links that Google loves and will reward you with better visibility.
I know I am making this seem simple when it is not. Writing great content is a huge challenge, but that is my point. My experience has been that people tend to focus on the other things like meta-tags because it is easier to do. Though in my opinion, your valuable time should be spent on the research and development of great content giving your target audience something to talk about.
I have a number of friends who are true experts in this. If you would like further help,contact me and I will be more than happy to make an introduction.
So what are you still doing here? Get writing!