The Absolute Basics of SEO - "Secrets Exposed"
I've decided to include the item regarding "SEO Secrets" because, in my experience, most "SEO secrets" are nothing more than various tactics designed to get you to buy a book which is filled within information that for the most part, you could have found yourself online for free.
I certainly do not consider myself an "expert" in SEO, SEM, or in IT, but I am willing to share my knowledge and 12 years of experiences with the community and openly invite anyone to question or contradict any statements I make - I am not perfect, and technology changes daily.
That said, consider the current focus of the major search engines (Google, Bing & Yahoo). These three search engines are used by more people around the world, than any other search engine. And each of the 'Big 3' openly admit that their continued aim and goal is to bring their users better and more relevant search engine page results (SERPs).
Yes it is true, that the 'Big 3' will not reveal how their search programs workout which page or site should rank in what order, but they are also not secretive about what web designers and web owners should do in order to achieve the best overall ranking. In fact, the 'Big 3' each openly provide FREE information designed specifically to guide web designers and owners.
Here is Google's "Best practices to help Google find, crawl, and index your site"
The reason the Big 3 are not secretive about what you should and should not do with your website, is because it helps them to achieve more relevant SERPs when someone searches for something. So it is in their best interests to provide you with this information.
SEM (Search Engine Marketing), on the other hand is a completely different ball of wax and there are many different approaches to it...but there are no "big secrets" to SEO;
- proper coding design
- proper use of tags
- original, informative, authoritative content
- functional layout
- serves an actual purpose
That said, once all the basics have been followed, there are some improvements that can be made. A professional business or media writer may be able to create content that draws more traffic to your site naturally. A professional graphic artist/designer may be able to create a better look-and-feel. A professional web developer may be able to create a more intuitive and more user-friendly site...I could go on...but these things would all be after the basics were completed (unless you have a lot of money to throw at it from the start).
The Absolute Basics of SEO - "Secrets Exposed" - Part 2
Just so this point isn't mistaken - I am not against anyone going out and picking up a couple of SEO books from your local bookstore (or online - lol). In fact I own several myself and have read them cover to cover (including several SEM and AdWord books).
The problem however that I have found when it comes to such literature, is that you don't know who's selling magic beans. Worse still is that when you're just starting out and simply don't know, you're not able to identify whether the pearls of wisdom handed to you are genuine of fake (no pun intended).
Take for instance the recent major search engine shake up that occurred this time last year (March 2011), that many refer to as the "Panda Update". The major search engines begin releasing upgrades to their algorithms that were designed to better refine SERPs and give websites with original, well-written and authoritative content higher rankings. Unfortuneately for some content websites, like Suite101.com (who before these updates were getting over 2 million page visits a month), after the updates had lost over 80% of their traffic. They were not the only ones either, Hub Pages, Demand Studio, eHow and several other large content provider websites all took massive losses to their visitor traffic after the search engine updates.
Had the search engines made a mistake? These sites belong to companies making millions of dollars a year in revenues...how could this happen? Are the search engines trying to create virtual monopolies?
To the last question...perhaps...but "no", no mistake had occurred...at least not by the search engines. The mistakes were made by these websites - and believe it or not, each had several "SEO Guru's" on staff and provided their writers with the "Secrets to Awesome SEO". Suite101.com was no different.
According to the Suite101 staff (who boasted no less than 3 SEO Experts and 1 SEM expert), the secret to killer SEO was...
- write content based upon the "ad click" value of short & long-tailed keywords.
- use 4-5 keywords per page
- keep keyword density below 5% of the content, but above 2%.
- break content up into 100-150 word paragraphs
- separate each paragraph with a bold sub-heading
- keep total length of content to no less than 400 words, but no more than 1,000 words.
- where possible, write 4-5 articles about the exact same specific subject (or sub-subject) and refer each article to each other creating a web of inter-connected article pages.
- where possible, promote you article pages on as many social media sites as possible and get as many as possible to post links on their sites to your article pages
- and more...
These were their "SEO Secrets"...and it worked for a couple of years. Writers were making upwards of $5,000 USD a month spending only a couple of hours a day writing. The company was even featured in several business magazines for their success and boasts about their informational and online resource value to people looking for original, authoritative content. But these were not actually secrets...they were a combination of loopholes discovered with the search engines functionality that they were exploiting.
And when the search engines closed up these loopholes, these company websites tanked. Writers went from earning $2,000 - $5,000 each month to earning a couple hundred, then to less than a hundred...and after a year since the search engines closed up these loopholes, Suite101 and several of the other like sites are still struggling to recover (mostly by trying to discover the next useable "secrets").
Bottom line is this - if you send an email to Google, Bing or Yahoo, and tell them that you know an SEO Expert who is guaranteeing top-page ranking, you'll get a reply telling you to be very cautious about using such a person OR their recommendations. All the major search engines (within their webmaster guidelines pages), state very clearly that "no one can guarantee page or site ranking" and still be following good website design practices.
Last edited by morphius; 03-20-2012 at 06:03 PM.
Thanks for this post. I am learning from you and appreciate it. I am just starting a blog about my favorite doggies, the big Chihuahuas, which I call Techichis and just learning how to manage WordPress. I hope my old/new name for these doggies will catch on and I want it to become a popular site.
I was very intimidated by all the SEO requirements, like the ones in your most recent post. I am thinking I should just go on writing good and interesting content. At least it is interesting to me. I find most doggie people do not care how dogs became dogs or why my little old fashioned, nay, ancient breed, came about, but I want to start a club or registry for these little guys, they are very popular, but completely unorganized as a 'breed'.
I am so starting from scratch. I don't think I will turn commercial, so maybe my needs are different? I have only a few pages, so far, so perhaps I can get them as good as possible before I add a whole bunch more. Maybe I should interlink my own articles, because the blog goes backwards when people read it and my earlier stuff is last.
I am willing to be a public example and be 'criticized' publicly- heaven knows how much 'crow' I have eaten on just this site, so I can take it. Perhaps some people with actual pearl sites will also join in this thread with questions. I do usually like to write in short paragraphs, but not put a heading on each one, but a cute photo every 4-5 paragraphs, in some posts. Others are all words.
to all readers who click through to my blog to check it out, report back here. Also I would SO LOVE it if you subscribe, even if you don't read it. I need to start building subscribers and I don't know how, except to ask friends to help me out.
Last edited by Caitlin; 03-20-2012 at 06:31 PM.
Hi Caitlin! How do we get to your blog to sign up?
Just to directly answer this question in a little bit more detail.
Originally Posted by kojimapearl
There's absolutely nothing negative with other websites posting excerpts from your site (such as what is done in many news and informational articles). However, the amount that can be "copied" needs to be monitored carefully.
As a general "rule of thumb" (I hate using that grotesque dark ages phrase), exact copies of text content from your website should be limited to no more than 50-75 words...at the most..and should include explicit credit/reference to your site as well as a link to the page the content originates.
We hear you, Caitlin, yes where?
Originally Posted by lisa c
I put the link in the word techichi. First paragraph. Thanks!
The Absolute Basics of SEO - Content Part 1
It's been said before, not only on this forum but also many others, that the content of your web pages is the primary driver (or reason) for traffic (visitors) coming to your website. But what kind of content?
Now, just so we're clear, "content" refers to all of what appears on each individual page of your website; the text, images and links. Content does not refer to how the page is laid out or where it appears on the screen, or even in what order it appears...that is "layout and design".
The content of each page performs an important role for you (as the website owner) because it informs, sells, or directs the visitor. Informative websites (such as Pearl Guide), contain mostly informative content, while the links (such as at the top of the page) provide direction to access more pages. For a commercial website, most of the content will focus on the selling of products or services.
Unfortunately, just as there are a lot of shady pearl sellers, there's also a lot of shady SEO sellers. And depending on where you look, different "SEO Websites" and "SEO Books" will have varying opinions, tricks, tips and secrets with regards to the "best" SEO approach...but in truth, most of what you will read will fall into three categories;
1) Loophole, Black Hat and Pressure Tactics
2) Advanced Advice
3) Relevant & Useful General Information
For someone starting out with a brand new or 'still new' website, the absolute best place to get the best information regarding guidelines for content, is from the search engines. Why? Because the focus of search engines is to provide people searching for information, with access to websites that are as closely related as possible to what they are seeking. The only way to do this effectively, is to provide website owners with guidance on how to present their websites so that it is easier for people to find them.
For instance, Google provides a wealth of free information in their Webmaster Guidelines section for website owners.
But without getting into all of that, since this is supposed to be a post dealing with only the 'absolute basics', to start out with, website owners need keep only one single rule in mind when it comes to putting content onto their webpages;
"Make your web pages primarily for the people visiting them."
Original content that is informative and serves an actual purpose will always continue to rank better over time. Websites that use duplicate or copied content, that attempt to deceive the visitor or the search engine, that display more advertising then content, or do not actually serve any purpose to the visitor will eventually and always rank lower and lower (if not black listed completely).
Don't fall for promises or promotions of "SERP Page 1 Secrets", "Killer Keyword Tricks" or "Secrets That Search Engines Don't Want You To Know". There may be some good information in these types of publications, but for the most part, the advice will most certainly hurt your website in the long run.
One of the best ways to know if your website is designed from the visitor's point of view is to ask friends or yourself "Does this help my visitors? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?"
The Absolute Basics of SEO - Content Part 2
The most common questions regarding webpage content is;
1) Is it okay for someone else to put my content on their website?
2) When is it considered "duplicate" content and how does that affect me?
3) What if someone else "steals" my content?
4) Can images be considered duplicate content?
5) What about "re-written" content?
6) Does the name of my images really matter?
Is it okay for someone else to put my content on their website?
Short Answer: "Yes", but only with your written permission.
Long Answer: You have to be careful about allowing other websites to place a 'copy' of your content on their website because search engines don't like duplicate content. Excerpts of your content is okay (similar to how newspapers may include quotes or excerpts in their articles), but copied content should not exceed 50-75 words and should include a direct link and reference to the page the content originates. Where the copied content is an image, again, reference and a direct link to the original page should be present (such as "pearl image used with permission of Pearl Guide"), in addition to the image name being changed. The general rule however is that you want your content to remain as original as possible at all times with no other copies existing elsewhere.
When is it considered "duplicate" content and how does that affect me?
Duplicate content refers to text or images that have been copied from one website, and is hosted on another. For text, it may be considered duplicate content if the number of words exceeds 50-75; for images, at the present time, it's the exact same image with exact same file name and/or image name. Where two or more websites (specifically different URL address), have the exact same content, the search engine will attempt to determine the original owner of the content and give that webpage priority in ranking. For commerce websites, the rules about duplicate content are slightly more relaxed because of the fact that more than retailer can and often does have the exact same item for sale...but that does not mean duplicate content is "okay". If a large portion of the commerce site consists of content found elsewhere (such as on re-seller websites), this could and often does, negatively impact their ranking with the search engines.
What if someone else "steals" my content?
Content is considered "stolen" when another site duplicates your content without your expressed written or verbal permission. In search engine lingo, this is often referred to as "scraping". Controlling duplicate content on other sites is critical to your website ranking. Therefore if someone has stolen your content, you take the following steps;
a) Send a polite and professional email to the webmaster, site owner clearly stating that you have not given permission for them to use your content and you want it removed immediately.
b) If that fails, send an email to their host (the company that hosts the website) as most hosts have clear rules about stealing content.
c) If that fails, file a DMCAwith the search engines (if they feel your claim is valid, the website could be blacklisted from the SERPs).
The good news is that in many instances, the first step will result in your stolen content being removed.
Can images be considered duplicate content?
Yes. At the present time, simply changing the file name and image name seems to be all that is needed to avoid an image being considered duplicate content, but search engines are currently developing ways to be able to identify images based upon what they actually look like.
What about "re-written" content?
A lot of people fall victim to this one. They see content on another site, copy and paste it into Word, make a few changes to the words used and figure this is all that is needed. Wrong. Simply changing around a few words might work, but most likely will not. If you absolutely must post text content on your site that already exists on another (or even only exists in a book), then the best course of action is;
a) Read the content, then close webpage (or book).
b) Then, based upon your memory and understanding of what you have read, create your own version of the content so that it is completely in your own words.
Again, it's best to avoid duplicate content altogether.
Does the name of my images really matter?
Yes. At the present time, search engines cannot "see" what your images actually look like...so if your images have no names (or numbered names like "12345.jpg"), then the search engine cannot properly index the image for searching. Both the file name and the "alt" name should relate directly to what is in the image, thus allowing the search engine to make your image available for searching. For instance, if you have an image of Tahitian pearls on top of a Black Lipped oyster, then name the image "tahitian-pearls-on-black-lipped-oyster-shell". Now the search engines can index the image properly and when someone searches for images of similar name, your images are now pointing people to your website.
The Absolute Basics of SEO - SEO Scammers
Normally I immediately block the sender of such messages, but I thought before doing so this time, I'd post it here as an example of the type of SEO scammers lurking out there;
Sounds like a great offer right? This guy is going to put links to your website all over other websites, which in turn will drive traffic to your site...what could go wrong?
Originally Posted by Some Scammer
Well what this guy is not telling you is that he is trying to get you to pay to join a link farm. A link farm refers to a group of websites that serve no real purpose other than to display links to other websites with the purpose being to falsely increase the rankings of the sites. A link farm can be direct (all links point to other sites) or reciprocal (links on sites point back to each other).
Most people have encountered link farm websites (even if they don't know what they are called). These are the websites that at a quick glance, appear to be useful sites, but then you quickly realize they are usually filled with just links to other sites - almost like you stumbled upon a mini-search engine. These link sites usually have no real content other than links to other sites and are usually packed full of ads for you to click on.
So, this guy is going to take your website name and plaster it all over other websites...purely for the purpose of fooling the search engines into thinking that your website is more important than it currently is.
Link building is important this is true...but if you join link farms, you're asking for nothing but trouble down the road.
Morphius, you are an absolute wealth of information. I'm keeping an eye on this thread in the remote possibility that I set up shop one day
Wow, more great info, thanks again!
Morphius, many thanks for the valuable information you've shared. I'm in the process of building my website from scratch, so every piece of info is a gem.
I received Google adwords coupon from my hosting, which I'm planning to use once the website is ready. I realize a $100 coupon won't get me much on ppc, but do you have inputs on how to get the most of it? About the keywords and all that... I'm really new with this kind of stuffs.
Adwords (whether by Google or any of the other search engines), is the entire world of online marketing...basically similar to paying for ad space in a newspaper, on the radio, or on TV.
Originally Posted by perlinda
The $50, $75 and $100 adword coupons are simply meant to get you into online marketing without having to put your own money upfront...and they're a great resource to use. However, if you're totally new to online marketing, then you really need to exercise a lot of caution because if you're not careful, you could wind up owing thousands of dollars.
Before you get into online marketing however, step #1 is to get your website up and running. Please note that I'm not referring to website space like an Etsy or eBay shop...but your own personal website with your own unique domain name (like "pearl-guide.com").
Once your website is "up", or while it's being built, create search engine accounts (like a Google account), and add the 'analytics' app to your account - this will provide you with a tracking number which you embed into your web coding - which in turn will provide you with analytical information about the people visiting your website.
The 'analytics' information is important because, among other things, it tells you what words people are using in search engines to find your website. And without getting too deep into this topic, it is this information that will form the starting point of your online marketing efforts. The longer the time frame of information you have to reference, the more refined, and more valid, the information you are provided with...so if your website is brand new, you will most likely want to wait and collect 6-8 weeks of data before moving into search engine marketing.
Once you have this initial information, you can decide to hire a company or do this yourself. When first starting out, it's actually a good idea to try and do it yourself - unless you've got money already, in which case, go nuts. It's not hard to do it yourself, but it will require time; at least a couple weeks of you time to learn the basics and get a clear understanding, then a couple of weeks for hands-on experience.
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