A lot is being said on the web regarding search engine optimization (SEO), and how, if you do a particular thing, you will be at the top of Google. How I wish it were that easy. In essence, there are seven distinct rules that a search engine optimizer needs to possess. Most people apply one or two of the skills, ignoring all the other five. In order to obtain all the seven skills, you will need both time and effort. This however won’t be easy if you are running your own business, as you’ll have limited time.
The golden rules necessary for SEO work are:
- Web Design – Producing a visually attractive page.
- HTML coding – Developing search engine-friendly coding that sits behind the Web design.
- Copy writing – Producing the actual readable text on the page.
- Marketing – What are the actual searches that are being used, what keywords actually get more business for your company?
- An eye for detail — Even the smallest errors can stop spiderborts visiting your site.
- Patience — There is a time lag on any change you make, waiting is a virtue.
- IT skills — an appreciation of how search engine programs and the algorithms work.
- Many website designers produce more and more eye-catching designs with animations and clever features hoping to attract the people to their sites. This however is the first mistake they make; using designs like these may only decrease your chances of high Google rating. This means that you’ll have wasted all the money you had paid for the website design since your site won’t be found online.
The reason for this is, before worrying on how to attract people to your site, get the spiderborts first to like your site. Spiderborts are pieces of software used by the search engine companies to crawl the Internet checking all the websites. After reviewing all the sites, they use complex algorithms to rank the sites. Some of the complex techniques used by Web designers cannot be crawled by spiderworts. They come to your site, check the HTML code then exit the stage immediately, without even bothering to rank your site. This means that you will not be found on any meaningful search.
I get amazed the many times I look at websites and see how they are just wastage of money. The problem is, both the designers and the companies that pay money are all ignorant about this.
Optimizing a website to be Google-friendly is often a compromise between a visually attractive site and an easy-to-find site.
- The second skill is optimizing the actual HTML code to be spiderbot-friendly. His is slightly different from the web design because you really need to be “down and dirty” in the code rather than using an editor like FrontPage, which is OK for website design. This skill takes lots of time and experience to develop, and just when you think you have cracked it, the search engine companies change the algorithms used to calculate how high your site will appear in the search results.
This is not the place for even the most enthusiastic amateur. There needs to be constant monitoring of results, pieces of code added or removed, and a check kept on how the competition is doing. Many people design their own websites with the thought that they will get searched because of how good the websites look. Unfortunately, they totally miss it out. Without a strong technical understanding of how spiderbots work, you will always struggle to get your company on the first results page in Google. We actually run seven test domains that test different theories with different search engines. Remember that different search engines use different criteria and algorithms to rank your site.
- Thirdly, do copy writing as it is a skill in its own right. This is the writing of the actual text that people coming to your site will read. Googlebots and other spiderbots love properly constructed and well written texts. Some people try to stuff their sites with keywords, while others put white writing on white space (these can only be seen by spiderbots and not humans).
Spiderbots are very sophisticated. They will not only fall for such tricks, but may actively penalize your site. This, in Google terms, is referred to as sandboxing. Google takes new sites as well as the “naughty” ones and effectively sin-bins them for three to six months.
Besides good English, the spiderbots also read the HTML code. The copywriter hence needs interplay between the two. Those copywriting their own sites need to write well-constructed English sentences that can be read by machines as well as humans alike.
- The fourth skill is marketing. You need to market your site and the company’s products/services on the Web. The key here is to set the site up in order to be accessible to the searches that will give you businesses. Many sites, for example, can be found just by keying in the company name. Marketing skill therefore requires knowledge of the company’s business and what they sell.
- The next rule is an eye for detail. Even a simple change to a Web page can create an error to your site. This will hinder the spiderbots from crawling into your site. I recently put a link to a page that didn’t have a www… at the beginning of the web address. The link still worked but the spiders didn’t crawl. It took my colleague to identify the error. We have recently invested in a very sophisticated html validator that picks up errors that other validators fail to see. These errors do not stop the pages that display correctly to the human eyes, but cause massive problems with spiderbots. Almost all the codes that I look at on the Web using this validator flags major errors, even from SEO companies.
- The sixth rule is patience — it really is a virtue. Some people want to make changes daily and expect to track the Web page ranking results the following day. Well, this may not be so. It can take a week for the correct changes to take effect. SEO work should therefore be viewed just like marketing campaign that runs for six months, since it is only after that time that a true judgment of the effectiveness of the work can be made.
- Finally, there is the appreciation of how search engines and algorithms work. This actually is where both IT and math experience apply. People who are programmed at a detailed system level have a natural feeling for how spiderbots will read a page, what they will search for, what tables they will set up and what weightings they may give to different elements. All of this builds a picture of the database that will be created and how it will be accessed when a search is undertaken. Unfortunately, this skill is the most difficult one to learn because it relies on many years experience of system programming.
In summary, if executing search engine optimization would be that easy, then everyone would be doing it. I however hope you will see that professional search engine optimization companies need more than a bit of Web design to improve your business. Make sure anyone you choose for SEO work can cover all the bases.