Archive for February 2010

Search Engine Optimisation

February 16, 2010

I am an expert at optimizing websites for the maximum impact on search engines. An expert, seriously. I know as much as the dudes getting $500 a month who optimize websites for a living.

It’s simple. Ready? Write this down:

It’s all about text content.

Not images. Not Flash. Not Ajax. Certainly not keywords.

Content. Text. Text Content.

Google™ doesn’t use KEYWORDS, and never has. Yahoo!™ doesn’t.

If you want Google™ to rank you for “pottery” in “Lawrence, Kansas”, then make sure that those three words appear as often as is logically possible in your content. It doesn’t get simpler than that.

Have an image? Make sure the ALT tag has text. Have a link? Make sure it has a TITLE tag. Make sure the link doesn’t say “Click here”, but is meaningful, like “”Get more information about Kansas Pottery.”

Visit blogs, online forums, and newsgroups related to your subject. Post, reply, flame, and make sure your web address appears at least once in every one.

Visit related websites, and see if they’ll link back to you.

That’s IT.

If you Google™ “how do I optimize my website”, you’ll find all kinds of resources, and they’ll all say basically the same thing. It’s about getting the word out, then having the word on your site.

After that, things get a little vague.

If you call me on the phone and ask, “Why did Google™ drop 20 of my pages from it’s index?” my first inclination is to respond, “I don’t know, why don’t you call and ask them?” Since I can’t do that, what I say instead is, “I don’t know, let me check on it and get back to you.”

The fact of the matter is, when I call you back, I’ll have nothing to report, and I’m not going to make something up.

Because I don’t know. Nobody knows. Google™ doesn’t publish how their search works, and I could beg them all day and never find out. In the parlance of my industry, Google™ is a “black box”: you feed it your input, you get output, and you’re not allowed to see the inner workings.

When I say, “I’ll check”, I’m just allowing you time to get distracted and busy. In your mind, I’m likewise busy; in reality, I’m getting a cup of coffee and working on somebody else’s issue.

When I call you back, and I do, I will report to you what you already know. You had a hundred pages indexed yesterday, eighty today. You’ll deny messing with the site, I’ll deny messing with the site. Then I’ll tell you, “We’ll do an audit on our side, and let you know if you need to change anything on your side. It can take up to two weeks for Google™’s index to change, so we’ll revisit this then, okay?”

So, I’ll admit, that last bit was a lie: we’re never going to revisit this. By tomorrow morning, the next day at the latest, you will have forgotten about this whole issue. That’s the nature of your business, and mine.

So there’s the situation: you want the Ultimate Search Engine Optimization Answer.

Okay, here it is: there isn’t one. Are you listening? There. Is. No. Ultimate. Answer.

SEO has been on the internet radar since the first search engine appeared more than ten years ago. SEO has been big business for the last five or so. Don’t you think, in five years, if there were an Ultimate Answer, someone would have found it by now?

The best we can do is make educated guesses, do all the things we know to do, and hope that Google™ doesn’t screw us both. And if it does, we live with it.

Beware the guy who tells you, “For $100 a month I can guarantee you a high ranking on Google™.” That’s true, for a couple of weeks, until something else comes along that’s optimized a little bit better, or has content that’s a little bit newer.

Anybody who can write a website can “do” SEO: keep your content relevant, fresh, and easy for Google™ to read.

It’s not a task to be done. It’s a process to be followed.