Thursday, 2 June 2011

SEO: Demystifying Search Engine Optimization

There is no magic trick that will float you immediately to the top of Google or any of the search engines. 

If you want to get to the top of the list on the first page, you will have to pay for advertising. There's no other way.


Here's how it works: you get me to design your site, and pay your fee. You have paid me to design your website, not float you to the top of Google. No amount of keywords is going to get you there. Please bear in mind that your competitors are doing the exact same thing and have been doing it for longer. ''ll make you a robots.txt file as a matter of course, but all that does is invite all the search engine bots to the party. It doesn't make them come and it won't make them return. They'll come in their own time.


Backlinks have their place, but are depreciated now because the bots are getting wise to them. I've hit upon the idea of business card adverts, where you get an ad the size of a business card on my website if you let me do the same for you -- or pay me for the space. They have real content in the form of text and images, some of which are linked. Basically, I link your logo and your web address and add a bit of blurb about you — the kind you'd find on a business card.


You need to get as many links to and from other sites as you can. Directories that specialise in your field are ideal for that. You can also register in DMOZ and most of the search engines. Please bear in mind that you will need to have accounts on some of them, e.g. Yahoo, just to register.


Bots love information. Lots of information. My website would have no value at all if I had nothing on it about being based in Manchester or being a web designer. Announcing that I'm a Manchester-based web designer who can make your website look decent and add e-commerce and other software applications and integrate them with your site theme, and take care of your graphic design issues gives me an edge over people who don''t tell their potential clients where to find them. It also narrows down the list of URLs the search engine bots have to crawl to find you when someone googles "web designers manchester." Remember, I'm up against literally millions of other web designers who have been around for a lot longer and have already built up a client base. My website doesn't bring me business based on its visibility.

Key words

Key words are usually added in a long comma-separated string in something called "meta tags." Google doesn't read them any more because of a cheap SEO trick called "keyword stuffing." This is where variations of the same word are put in to catch people searching for, let''s say, web designers in Manchester. This is what comes up for that search, in case you're interested. The first three have paid for advertising, the others have done their SEO. Some of them aren't using meta tags at all, but let their content do that for them.

Since others have been doing that for a long time, they're way higher than I am. Do NOT rely on key words to get you up the rankings. That said, my surname alone gets me on the sixth page, and my forename and surname together gets me to the top of the first page of Google.


This is where it's at. Clickage, more than anything else, will raise you up the ranks on the search engines. Search engine bots are drawn to popular sites like butterflies to buddleias. You get second-hand clickage when people click on a link and land on a page where there's a link to your site. This is a bit helpful, but getting direct landings is the ideal because that''s when they see what you have to offer.


If all of the above makes you question the point of having a website, here's the answer. The primary purpose of your website is not to bring in business or even raise awareness on a massive scale. It's a shop front. And like a shop front in the real world, it displays what you have to offer in the hope of enticing a customer to enter and make purchases or whatever the goal of the site is.

It's the first thing you see when you land on my home page. At once it shows you what my website designs look like and therefore what yours are likely to look like if I do one for you.

I haven't mentioned SEO services there, though it comes up on my rates and terms sheet, because the most I can do is add your name to some directories and social networking and bookmarking sites. I can jazz up a BT Tradespace site for a small consideration, putting in those all-important links.

Mostly, it's because the first thing a person would ask is, "Why can't I find you in the top 100 on Google in a search of Manchester Web Designers?"

Answer: "I'm unwilling to pay for the advertising to do that."

So what's the purpose of my website, then? To showcase my work via my portfolio and provide information about what I do. Nothing more. If it gets me business it's because I gave someone the link and they liked what they saw. If you want to get business directly from an advertising or marketing campaign, use business cards, leaflets or traditional advertising methods. Or shell out for pay-per-click advertising on Google.

If you want to get business from your website, make it as beautiful and informative as possible to give people a reason to go to you instead of someone else. Then get the word out on Twitter, Facebook and all the directories, then friend or follow people for secondhand clickage, then get links to and from related sites such as suppliers or distributors.

Don't forget to update your home page regularly. I use an RSS feed so it gets updated several times a day without my lifting a finger. Anything better (i.e. faster and more effective) than that will have to be paid for.

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