Earlier this week I woke up to find not one, but two spam emails in my inbox offering “100% Guaranteed Seo Results”. I’m not sure why gmail decided that all of a sudden I needed to see these, but I just marked them as spam and proceeded to read the rest of my emails. However, a few hours later, a random email landed in my inbox:
Just found your site through google… Great SEO! ;)
The funny thing is, I haven’t really done any SEO. In fact, I think SEO is bullshit and I’m not alone. I believe in great content and being good as what you do, but paying someone for SEO? Not at all. I thought I would share my “secrets” with you. I can’t guarantee 100% satisfaction, but other than a bit of time, it won’t cost you a dime.
Before I begin though, it’s important to emphasize that I’m a Web developer and work by myself. These tips may not be appropriate for big corporations, hotels, resorts or industries that need lots an lots of traffic. Being a one woman show, even if I had amazing SEO and got thousands of visitors, I wouldn’t be able to take on all the projects and requests that could come my way.
Content is King
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of content. When web crawlers visit your site, they look at content. On any website that you visit, there’s a way to view the HTML source, this HTML is what the crawlers read. Back in the old days when flash was popular, this was the problem. Take a look at the source code of any flash site and you won’t see any content.
Web crawlers or spiders, read this content and then using their algorithms, place your site accordingly. This is why updating your content and keeping it fresh is important, but be very careful how you write your content. Your content should be written for your visitors, not web crawlers. Yes web crawlers are looking for content and finding keywords, but if your visitors find the content dry, boring and unhelpful, they will immediately go elsewhere and they’re your potential clients, not Google.
Over the years, my company has changed and evolved and I’ve updated the content, deleted pages and added new ones. I never once stopped to think of what Google wanted, but rather tried to explain clearly what it is that I do and what I don’t. For me, this is more important. I would prefer to get good prospects contacting me, than random strangers asking me to design business cards or build them a flash e-commerce site, which is not what I do at all.
Meta Keywords are Pointless
New clients often worry about keywords. Keywords are important, but adding keywords in the meta tags, or, worse, writing them in white and putting them on a white background will do no good. In fact, search engines may penalize you.
Keywords are only important as part of your page or article content and shouldn’t be added as an afterthought. They need to be used sparingly. Two or three keywords max per page. Remember, your audience is human, not web spiders. If your articles have too many keywords in them and read poorly, your readers won’t be impressed and will simply go somewhere else.
Writing good headings and title tags, in my opinion, is where the most attention needs to be paid. Just like newspaper headlines, good headings will draw readers in and make them curious to find out more.Titles on the other hand, give your visitors and search engines and indication of what your page is about.
The best way to understand the Title tag is by using the WordPress SEO plugin. Plugin developer, Joost de Valk included a great visual element that allows you to see how Google will display the title and meta information. I love this feature. It makes it so easy to use and explain to clients.
Joost has a lot to say about Search Engine Optimization and his plugin is very sophisticated. To find out more about all the nitty gritty details, you may be interested to have a look at his definitive guide.
Organize your Content
If you’re a blogger, you’ll be familiar with Categories and Tags. Once again, these tools were put in place for humans, not search engines. Categories and Tags are very similar and both allow you to organize your content helping your visitors find related information. Lorelle wrote a great blog post in 2005 which is still very relevant today. To explain the difference between categories and tags, I like to use the restaurant menu analogy.
Categories are your Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner sections
Tags are your Soups, Sandwiches, Pasta, Fish and Meat sections
You probably wouldn’t be impressed with a restaurant menu that has the following sections:
- Cheese sandwich,
- Turkey sandwich,
- Smoked meat sandwich,
The same is true on a website.
Only the one tag, “sandwich” is needed. That way, when your visitors click on it, they will be able to read all the posts that you’ve written about sandwiches.
So if you were a photographer, you may have Family Portraits, Pet Photography and Headshots as categories, and events, promotions, charity or fashion tags. Of course this will vary from website to website, but just remember to think of your visitors and make it easy for them to find the information that’s relevant to them.
Start Early and Be Wary of the Snake Oil Vendors
If you are serious about working with a Search engine optimization specialists, it’s important to start early on. SEO decisions need to be made at the very beginning when you’re planning design, writing your content, and looking at the competition. Content needs to be written with SEO in mind and cannot simply be added afterwards once you’ve launched your website.
Before you hire anyone, be sure to ask lots of questions, find out exactly how your money will be spent and be wary of folks who just contact you out of the blue. Even Google receives unsolicited emails:
I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”
There’s a lot of misinformation on the web and before you spend a penny, I would encourage you to read Google’s explanation of SEO and do’s and don’t.
Let Common Sense Prevail
At this stage, it might be worthwhile to clarify that most SEO techniques used by “experts” guaranteeing 100% results, are bullshit. All you need to rank highly is to use common sense and write content that your users will love.