How Much Do You Know About SEO?
By Titus Hoskins 2010
So just what do you know about SEO? When it comes to SEO are you a Novice, Intermediate or Expert? Regardless of your level, this article from a 10 year SEO war veteran may prove helpful.
One of my biggest problems in trying to help other webmasters - I naturally and wrongly assume they know all about SEO. I forget these webmasters have not spent the last 10 years battling it out with other online webmasters and marketers for some very popular and lucrative keywords, in the process, honing their SEO skills with other like-minded individuals.
I forget that many beginning webmasters may not be familiar with all the SEO lingo and SEO techniques which I mention in my articles.
There's nothing wrong with that. If I were to take up a new hobby or explore a new subject, I am sure I would be just as clueless. Mainly because every subject, sport or hobby comes with a lot of terms/phrases which are unique to that subject. SEO is the same way so maybe a little background or warm-up is needed in regards to understanding the basics of SEO.
First, you must understand that SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization... which means you optimize your website and content so that it ranks high in the major search engines such as Google and Bing/Yahoo. This optimization can take the form of following a strict formula or layout of your website content with the proper meta tags, keyword density, linking structures and so on. It can also mean off-site optimization with link building, right anchor text, keyword positioning and so on.
SEO has become a major industry simply because getting top rankings for lucrative keywords can mean big bucks for companies or individuals. We are talking about billions, if not trillions of dollars, exchanging hands with the sale of products, services and business transactions. Get a top ranking for your chosen keyword phrase and it means a flood of targeted prospects/buyers coming to your website or company, ready to do business.
Now, because there is so much money involved, a whole SEO industry has sprung up with consultants, experts and companies offering their services to get you or your company into those top rankings in the search engines. These SEO services could include link building, link buying, social media positioning, onpage optimization, pay-per-click management... all with the goal of bringing targeted traffic/customers to your site or business.
White Hat vs Black Hat SEO
You may also have heard other webmasters talking about White Hat SEO as opposed to Black Hat SEO. And as the names suggest, White Hat is strictly above board proper site optimization, while Black hat is using underhand devious cloaking methods and systems to raise your rankings. For obvious reasons, always go the White Hat route and you won't be disappointed and you will feel better knowing you're doing the right thing in regards to your site.
Perhaps the next concept or term you should know is Algorithm. Search engines create complicated algorithms or lists of rules which determine not only how web pages are listed but also which web pages are listed first in their index or SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). These rules or ranking factors are used by SEO experts and webmasters to help move their keyword rankings up in the search engines. You open a web browser, go to a search engine such as Google, type in a search query for "top corporate lawyers" and the search engine returns a list of organic results along with a list of paid listings. Now, getting to that top spot means a lot of potential traffic/clients would be coming your way.
This is just one example, but most people quickly realize how lucrative getting to those top spots is for any individual or company. They also realize that understanding how the search engine algorithms work and how to manipulate them is a valuable skill which many clients will pay big bucks to have on their side. This SEO industry also consists of SEO software which helps webmasters/marketers get their sites into the top positions in the search engines.
Most SEO experts break up your search engine optimization into
TWO TYPES: On-Page and Off-Page Optimization
On-Page Optimization means getting right all the factors which influence your rankings in the search engines. Keep in mind, the whole web is "keyword based and keyword driven" which means you must optimize your domain and site for your chosen keywords. Your main keyword should be in your Domain Name, in the title of the page, in the main heading for that page, in the URL and it should appear (with variations) throughout the page. Try to keep the keyword density to around 2%-5%, although like many things to do with SEO... there are varying opinions on the exact percentage. But what most experts agree on: the layout or structure of your web site or pages must be easily reached not only by your visitors but also by the search engine spiders which crawl your site. Keep it simple - have no links more than three clicks away from your homepage. Many webmasters include a link back to their homepage on EVERY page of their sites.
Off-Page Optimization means building backlinks flowing back to your web site or web pages. Regardless of what anyone will tell you, getting quality keyworded links from other high quality keyword related sites is the most important factor in achieving top rankings in the search engines. So link building should be a major part of your SEO efforts and something which will bring the fastest results. These links must appear natural and organic so varying the anchor text (underlined part) in your links is important. Also, the web is quickly changing, links from social media sites such as FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter are becoming more helpful to getting top rankings. So too, are links from blogs especially those from Blogger and Wordpress because these are optimized for keywords. Don't forget other media forms such as videos since links from sites such as YouTube can also boost your rankings.
Tip: SEO experts sometimes like to complicate matters. One easy and simple way to get hundreds, if not thousands, of links from the different social media sites is to add the Free Addthis.com bookmark to all your pages/content. Let your visitors bookmark your content for you. Simple, yet an effective SEO technique that doesn't cost you anything. Other webmasters simply place bookmark logos for Twitter, FaceBook, Google Buzz... on their sites. If a page goes viral in one of those networks, you can get hundreds/thousands of backlinks flowing traffic and SEO link juice back to your site.
Along those same lines, the key to SEO has been and always will be quality content. Never forget the web is a very smart place. Remember it holds all our collective knowledge. Users will find your quality content and promote it. Produce quality articles and webmasters will place them on their sites with backlinks to your site. Produce quality blog posts and bloggers will link back to your posts. Produce quality videos and viewers will recommend them to their friends.
Now that's not to say you shouldn't do any SEO promotion or work. One of the best ways to succeed is to constantly promote your site or links: do press releases, write articles, make videos, create quality blog posts... get involved in online forums related to your topic and leave your sig links at the end of your comments. Do the same for all your email messages by including your signature tag.
Many webmasters make the assumption that just because they have created a well optimized site - it will automatically rank high in the search engines and will receive plenty of quality traffic. Now if you're extremely, extremely, extremely lucky and by word of mouth your site catches on and becomes popular you will get that traffic. However, in my experience, you can build an excellent site and have it indexed in all the search engines and it will go nowhere unless you do some SEO promotion.
With one of my nine or ten sites, I have done very little in regards to SEO and as a consequence it gets very little traffic and is nowhere to be seen in the rankings. This is a site which I have not worked on mainly because of a lack of time and it's not closely related in theme to my other sites. Now if I wanted to promote this site and build up my rankings... I would do all of the above... write articles, do press releases, do viral videos, join related forums and get involved, do blog posts, and so on. Now, from past experience, I know if I work/promote this site for two or three months consistently, the rankings would go up and the SEO would improve. Give it six months to a year and this site would be highly ranked in the search engines and bringing in a lot of quality traffic.
SEO is not some mysterious process that only a few skilled individuals know how to do, rather it is a simple process of consistently promoting your site and content by building quality backlinks from related sites on the web. It is the simple process of connecting your content with the steady flow of traffic on the web by becoming involved in forums, blogs, social networks and like-minded communities. SEO is simply placing your site/content into the whole mix of things so that the search engines can't ignore your site. By consistently using SEO you will make your site an authority on your chosen subject and you won't look back.