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SEO Demystified


Trying to explain SEO to upper management makes you look insane. Search engines keep changing everything. There's a lot of gobbledygook. Nonetheless, there are 3 pillars of SEO:

  • 1. Site architecture and coding, the structure and guts of your site
. You need good HTML, good bones (hierarchy and organization). Styling is not as important as you think.
  • 2. Content is the heart of any site, no matter what the business
. Hilton Hotels scored low on search engines because they didn't have the word "hotel" on their pages!
  • 3. Linking: how humans and bots find your site.

Wikipedia is right at the top of most searches. Why does it rank so well? Content! Give the people and the bots what they want-- something to read. If the site is well-written and keyword-rich, it's a fantastic place to be. Product-driven sites have lots of content: product descriptions, reviews, buyer's guides. Directory sites on the other hand have to become more than a database. Directories are seen as just a big collection of links, so you need content. You can buy content-- but make sure it's good. Linking is content-driven. You need well-written articles, interesting studies/data; great commentary, video, blogs. Then ask for links from others. Guest writers and commentators can be your allies. “Link love” is key. But don't buy links—that’s link abuse. Google search pages have a "Talk to Google" panel for users to report link abuse. Finally, make sure your site is crawlable by robots. There have been many cases of sites which were off limits to robots. You can imagine what happened to the search results... It's not black magic, just follow the rules and best practices from the beginning.

There have been a few new developments from Google. Last year, Google introduced Google Places, which helps get your business found on local search results on both Google Search and Google Maps. The winners have been people who did good old-fashioned "white hat" SEO.

Google’s “Caffeine” update a few years ago put much more emphasis on speed. With Caffeine, as Google crawls the Web, it immediately indexes the updated information. Google had been crawling a fraction of the Web every night and then indexing the new information in a batch. Before that, Google was updating its index every 30 days, and initially it only did so every four months. With Caffeine:

  • Page weight and download time are more important than ever
  • The mod_pagespeed Apache module can increase your page responsiveness
  • Consider using a content delivery network if you can’t make changes or optimize your site for speedy delivery

Google Instant is another new development which shows results as you type. Instant will change SEO because it will influence user behavior, resulting in:

  • Reduced length of queries
  • Faster query construction & speed
  • Changed result scanning (the “golden triangle” will likely disappear)
  • Increased importance of Page titles
  • Increased importance Snippets (the description under title on results pages); Google webmaster tools have snippet tools.
  • Potential benefit to sites that target the long tail

SEO is a pain in the neck and it's going to be a bumpy ride. Invest in as much tracking as you can afford. Don't fall in with a bad crowd: avoid unscrupulous attempts to trick the search engines. Google is not out to get you, they’re walking a fine line between showing the best results and avoiding everybody’s attempts to scam them.

Bottom line: SEO is about doing your homework. Beware of unscrupulous "SEO consultants." Don't sweat the details too much. Stick to the 3 pillars-- Site architecture and coding, good HTML, and content-- and you’ll do fine.

Interested in hearing more? I’d be happy to continue the discussion. Email me at .