In this article I would like to speak about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services offered by some companies and/or individuals on the Internet. I am not an SEO expert, but I do have some clue what it means. The reason for me writing about this is a discussion that I had with one of my friends over a beer. My friend (lets call him Mark) has an online business, that sells some gadgets and obviously as any other online business owner, wants to be ranked higher in search results and get more traffic to his site.
During the chat, Mark started telling me with excitement how he came across some SEO product online, product that promises people fast results in terms of ranking. The vendor of the product (SEO in a box, package, suitcase or some other type of container) swears that once you commit and purchase it, you will know for sure the secrets of how to obtain first position in Google search results and overall SEO secrets in general.
Now, Mark is a good business man, but he is not really a tech savvy guy. So after patiently listening to his fascinating story, I asked him: “Do you know that SEO cannot be packaged in a box, nor it comes as a software, and it is actually a process?”. As an answer, the only thing I got back was an empty stare: “What do you mean?”. I saw that I need to spend some time on that, so I quickly finished my beer, and replied:
Imagine that SEO is like a diet. You cant do it in one go, one day, one hour – you can try, but you wont get any results. It is a process, you have to change your life style, what you eat, what you do etc., and after a period of time you are going to get results. SEO works in a similar way – you need to undertake a number of steps to ensure that your SEO yields results. For example, the following are some of the common things you can have in place:
- Make sure that your HTML code validates using W3C HTML Validation Service. In terms of application, its easier for search bots to index your pages.
- To have a domain name which describes the nature of your business is a big plus too
- No broken links. You get really penalized for that.
- Good quality content, frequent site updates
- Link building with other sites/blog (I am not talking about link farming, but genuine replies on other blogs/site to try to engage users to visit your site)
- Keyword optimization
- Submission of your site/blog to quality blog and website directories
- To leverage social media like Facebook or/and Twitter (Not an SEO technique, but just another way to try to increase traffic to your site)
To do what I mentioned previously can take some time, and still it does not guarantee that your website is going to be ranked 1st. Think what about other businesses like your self that are doing SEO for their websites? It is a tough competition.
Some of the companies that sell these products are often making use of black hat SEO techniques in order to deliver fast results to their customers.
What is black hat SEO? Black SEO techniques help to manipulate relevance of search results within a short period of time. Some dudes that do SEO full time can be really good at it. They learn from observation after many trial-and-errors how search engines react in certain situations.
It is a known fact these days, that the more links point to your site – the higher your page rank is with Google, and the better it is for your search results. Therefore some websites willingly exchange links with you. Some other websites that have high traffic of visitors, wont exchange links with you, but will link to you for a fee. This is called link farming, one of the black hat SEO techniques.
Google does not like manipulations. It is smart enough to identify websites that do black hat SEO. Therefore when such website detected, it is going to be buried deep deep inside the pages of search results. Long story short – shortcuts do not work, or if they do work, you as a web site owner should be prepared to bare possible consequences in the future. If you are running a successful business, last thing that you need is to be penalized by search engines for your short cuts.
I am not saying that the moment you exchanged a couple of links you are doomed. There are many blog/sites out there who exchange links with friends. Its just looks suspicious when you start hosting hundreds or even thousands of links to other sites, or let someone who does link farming link to your site. Google is able to pick up on many naughty things some people do in order to spin off their sites.
Therefore the whole idea of “SEO in a what not” is ridiculous. Many of these SEO software companies target people who do not really understand what SEO is really is. These guys try to sell an illusion that the moment you paid for their course, software or what not, you are going to be promised a spot on the first page.
No one can really tell you the secrets of how Google operates (unless its actually a Google engineer directly involved with search algorithm or Sergey Brin himself), its all one big illusion, sold to non-tech business people in order to scam some quick cash. Well this is just my opinion about the whole thing
A buddy of mine who is tinkering with SEO techniques made some comments:
- Validation in W3C is really not needed… It’s good practice I agree, but really what should be said is that the developer should be using a clean, css-based layout with scripts (css, js etc) being stored externally.
- Domain name describing the business is less important that having a domain name that contains the keyword(s) you are wanting to get ranked for. Also, having a .com.au for an Aussie businesses is generally better than having a .com
- On broken links… Yes this is true, but worth elaborating, tell the user to setup Webmaster Tools & check for 404s. If they exist, 301 redirect to the most appropriate page.
- Directories are almost pointless in this day & age. I’d pick the top 3 in your location / relevance area & move on. (for example, hot frog is a good one for aussies)
- Leveraging social media is actually becoming an SEO technique now, Google assigns value to the popularity of your content of social networks, its only a fairly recent phenomena. It’s also VERY useful for getting pages indexed. (tweet the full URL and you’ll have google bots there in a jiffy )