SEO What Is It And How Do You Do It?
This series of articles is an audacious and comprehensive look at the current state of play concerning Search Engine Optimization, hereafter just labelled SEO. This one area of the digital space represents a huge range of activity, opinion, professional conflict, online success & failure and could be termed the “Holy Grail” for all people who own a website, or build an online presence of any kind.
There is a massive volume of materials online addressing this SEO business. Rather than re-invent the wheel, and articulate the usual generic information that endlessly does the rounds of forums, presentations, social media & blogs I will make some assumptions about you, the reader: I will assume you are familiar with the basic definitions of SEO being a set of methods, practices, tools and techniques which all have the same objective: To maximize the visibility of any online entity for a targeted audience, and derive the most favorable position for specific context search. The outcome desired being: maximum possible relevant traffic.
Actually the reason SEO is such a persistent topic, and never seems to be concluded is because it includes everything that we can do online! What do I mean by this, and have I lost my mind?
The relationship between ‘search’ and publishing online is not the whole story. Certainly since the emergence of a single, major search business dominating the industry: Google, the online community has been single minded about needing to obtain ‘page 1’ positions for their sites, videos, social media profiles e.t.c; but this is obviously not the entire picture. People do not always search on Google (or Bing, Yahoo, Alta Vista for that matter), and now there are a multitude of possible ways published content can be syndicated, discovered and consumed.
So, you can see that everything we do with our published content will influence how that content behaves online, what makes one item more visible and available over another is not simply its ranking position in the Google index, there are a whole range of other variables which are not generally discussed in SEO materials, but are crucially significant to the outcomes for online content – which includes all that we publish online. It is all of these other variables that now strongly influence the visibility and availability of published materials online. So-called ‘social signals’ usually is applied to this ‘other’ dimension of optimization, but is this strictly accurate and is there a lot more going on? Certainly. This recent article addresses the ‘social signals’ issue very well, and brings in some important details that seem to be always left out of the mix!
Defining what is meant by this over arching label of SEO is so often the beginning of the problem. This is where any attempts to describe and reveal what SEO is invariably stand or fall. We are compelled to start breaking down our definitions into sub-categories: on-page SEO, off-page SEO, Video SEO, article SEO, site map & XML SEO…
To understand what is going on you have to take a wide-angle view: published materials online are organized and indexed by machines, but consumed and worked with by human beings. Therein lies the margin which SEO practices operate within. To consciously intend a specific audience to see, and obtain access to our published materials we have to be like an Architect. Like all good construction, foundations are key to whether your building stands, endures and succeeds in its purpose.
In this little project I am confronting the Leviathan, awakening the Kraken and eluding the Cerberus of the SEO gate keepers, I am adding my own experience and learning to that of a considerable body of established wisdom. I will refer to some contemporary wizards, and compile the present cutting edge insights from some very clever and talented exponents of the field. SEO is an essential set of skills for anyone who operates beyond the scope of a simple user of internet resources, it is not ‘dead’ because anything that we publish online can be optimized and built with a specific target in mind, and that is what SEO actually is, how we go about building and publishing online.
Myths And Persistent Mistakes
A lot of talk about Google algorithm updates has yet to really sink in. Panda, Hummingbird, Payday… – they have all impacted the way sites and other published media are ranked on Google’s index, the overall name Google engineers have given to the set of algorithms in use is ‘Hummingbird’, so this is not merely a single release (Page Rank was retired).
One persistent habit is in how people decide on domain names – for some reason exact match and keyword loaded domain names are still being considered and registered. besthamburgersohio.com type monstrosities still prevail. Forget keywords in domain names and aim for building a brand – this is the current advice from Google, and it makes complete sense. No search engine is going to give you an advantage by literally spelling out your business, or your keyword topic in your domain name.* While this is definitely good advice, exact match domains DO seem to work in some circumstances, so I am not going to be prescriptive about it, it is one of those ‘grey areas’ – being flexible and responsive about SEO is necessary, conditions change, so do opinions – so keep researching, keep testing!
Backlinks are always sought after, and sure having highly relevant links from authority sites provides a boost; link juice is still powerful! But of course we need to be very discerning when it comes to link building, quality definitely trumps quantity – and even no-follow comment links can still provide link juice, I have proven this on my own sites, but they need to be from sites with good metrics to gain anything from them.
So-called PBN’s have completely changed. It is now common knowledge that link-farms, and contiguous footprint site wheels have been vanquished and outed; you just do not do this any longer if you are serious about your optimization!
However, the practice of acquiring expired domains that possess good metrics, and then placing quality content on them – often from using the ‘Wayback Machine’ and copy/pasting original content, if it is relevant and of acceptable quality-is very current and effective. Place your target site link on this type of site and gain the benefit. The trick with this method being that you need to use non-SEO hosting, as in just ordinary hosting, separate the sites with different IP’s, use any kind of WordPress or commonly used template – ‘Natural’ is the keyword and also quality. You can’t expect to retain ranking with poor content and badly written articles. Avoid ‘spinners’ if at all possible, but if you absolutely must use them, edit the results to make sure human beings can make sense of it!
One of the big tendencies among webmasters, or people who build website property for a commercial reason, is to look for short-cuts and magical software. Tools and tricks can certainly assist if used sparingly and mainly for analysis, but the strongest results are definitely gained from solid, high quality site building, and content creation – if human beings find your stuff of value and of interest your SEO will see strong returns. Blackhat legends and myths continue to attract a percentage of onliners, this is simply the way of things, but their results are seldom consistent and are also fraught with peril, why take the risks – it is better to gain incremental, but solid results you can rely on, surely?
Different Schools And The SEO Clever List
The internet has always been a medium that produces ‘legends’, ‘Heroes’, ‘Villains’ and of course ‘Genius’. Most often it is those personalities that quietly build their own empires, methods and discoveries, the ones who simply get on with things and don’t tend to lurk in forums and make a lot of noise about themselves who can offer the most value – the trick, as with any private club, is knowing the right contacts and possessing the acumen to recognize the ‘real players’. Many people believe they are ‘in the know’, and in fact this is an old marketing trick; how many high ticket masterminds have been maxed out using this old chestnut of ‘secret inside know-how’? Too many to count 🙂
Regardless of this internet cult of personality, the measure of any practice is always Results; gaining the desired results has to be the determining metric.
With SEO the results are pretty easy to determine for all. Your web properties either do well in search results and syndication, or they do not. As a further result your business either flourishes online, or less so.
One of the really big advantages of using WordPress is the range of plugins available – and in terms of ‘SEO’ there are many options that enable adding ‘Meta’ information, ‘Schema’ and all kinds of on-page optimizations – many are free, like the All-In-One (my particular favorite) & ‘Yoast’; there are also some highly effective paid options which can really provide a boost, investing in something like the ‘Project Supremacy-SEO’ plugin can make a big difference!
As with any sphere of learning and practice, SEO has its ‘mainstream’ body of information – generic SEO proliferates online, and also its more esoteric aspects, or the more inner-circle information which is not widely broadcast. However, the times have changed, and much of SEO is really about the details that most people are too impatient to persist with. Results are seldom rapid, and your average dabbler in SEO just doesn’t stay the course. But results can indeed be won for the diligent and the receptive student.
For example, the technical information for performing the removal of a large brain tumor is no secret, you could find out from text books in a library, and of course online – but not many of us would be willing to offer our services to a living patient as their surgeon after reading this information (there are famous stories of people who have done just that), because it requires a lot more than simply knowing what is required to successfully carry out such an operation. We need experience and the development of practical skills, a wide list of attainments.
Of course being a skilled practitioner of search engine optimization is not quite the same as being an accomplished surgeon, but I think the analogy is a sound one, we live in times where finding things out is not hard, in fact we all have access to the entire body of human knowledge if we take the time and effort to engage with it! What is difficult is acquiring skills, putting into practice what we discover, and thereby becoming expert in our field. There is just no short-cut for this, unless we gain the co-operation of those who already have this skill.
Links are the most basic elements of all online traffic, the link occurs as a result of how the ‘WWW’ is built. The ‘web’ aspect of the internet is made up of published content being inter-connected to other, relevant publications. There is a lot of activity around link building, people seek to gain an advantage by creating the ‘right kind’ of links. What are the ‘right kind’ of links then? This has changed enormously over time, and with the various modifications to the search engine algorithms which seek to refine and exclude obvious ‘tactics’ – the gamesmanship involved with this can be insane; here we find a lot of those ‘legends’ and ‘mavericks’ referred to earlier. This article recently published is among the best surveys of the current state of play regarding link building, the problem being that conditions are liable to change, and change significantly!
SEO being such a vast subject has many such specialists. As a student and provider of SEO services I have encountered a lot of different approaches from various people, many changes have taken place over the past couple of years, more and more people have come online, and many more have understood the big opportunities now available to us all. Among the many SEO educational offerings that are presented you can actually learn a huge amount without needing to pay, it depends how motivated you are, all learning demands our time and attention – with SEO you also need to practice and implement; many students seem to get caught up in the technicality and theoretical angles and treat it like a form of religion! Heck, the whole point is that your sites obtain traffic, right?
One of the most valuable sources of SEO training I have come across is Source-Wave, the founder Alex Becker is now pretty well known among internet marketing circles as he is both successful, and a positive dynamic personality with a genuine sense of humor.
While the price of entry to the Source~Wave University is @ $47 per month, they also provide plenty of free training videos which are on their YouTube channel.
For these reasons also his presentations tend to attract a big mix of people, those who are seriously committed to learning, and those who just enjoy trolling and commenting whenever large groups of people are involved. If you are just starting out with studying SEO, and online business in general, you can do a lot worse than to sign up for the free training from Source-Wave. These guys also offer a lot of paid options if you want to take it much further, and the products and tools are of a high quality. The beginning point that Alex Becker had was with another provider of online skills training, and this is OMG.
‘One Man Gang’ is the full title behind this organization, names associated with SEO & OMG are: Kotton Grammer, Stephen Floyd, Gregory Morrison, Joe Marfoglio. The business has an almost underground image and is the brainchild of two long-term online campaigners: Mike Long & David Mills. Joining OMG is not cheap, but the training and most importantly the support members receive is of a very high standard. The crucial element in any training is the student, it makes no difference just how fantastic the training is if the student has a lousy attitude or unrealistic expectations. It is one of those common internet sayings that no information is ‘new’ and that you can find out anything you want IF you know where to look; all true but the devil is in the details and if you have good guidance and help your learning outcomes are going to be accelerated. The community angle is very valuable with OMG and if you are deadly serious in your intent to learn and succeed this is among the best available internet marketing training currently available – but not cheap, as in around $6000 to join @ 2016.
The Real Guys
Another good quality source of online training, including SEO is provided by three guys who have been in the business for a long time: Eric Holmlund, Paul Counts & Jeff Wellman. A very good way of introducing yourself to internet marketing training especially if you are a complete ‘Newbie’ is to sign up for ‘Eric’s Tips‘ – this is completely free of charge and delivers an episode covering each aspect of setting up your online business from ground zero each week, in all about 80 episodes. I can personally vouch for the quality of this, and for free is actually amazing value! I do not have any personal relationship with these guys, I am simply passing on my own experience. The Real Guys promote themselves as being ‘Christian’ and men of good intent, which I accept as being sincere, but this does not mean they push their beliefs down your neck either, it does not seem to have done their careers any harm!
Hailing from Cheshire in the UK, Matthew Woodward is something of a maverick and all round good-guy, he had his start as an online game geek who developed lots of skills. Matthew worked as a corporate SEO guy but left it all behind to follow his own path, and he built his now famous blog in 2013. SEO is Matthew’s true passion and he is extremely generous with his information, I strongly advise you to subscribe to his blog and dig in to the materials if you want to learn some cutting edge SEO. I have a soft spot for Matthew because he is from my home county in the U.K and he is just a very clever and well intentioned chap-he has also gained considerable personal success. However I have no commercial or personal connection with Matthew beyond being reader and subscriber of his blog, in fact I have been inspired by his blog to push forward with my own projects-highly recommended!
A truly valuable resource for learning practical everyday SEO that is genuine – and lots of advice and case studies from people in the trenches who are building their own career paths from their skills online. I personally derive a lot of help from these guys who generously post a lot of free materials on their YouTube channel. These guys also offer products if you wish to take them up on it.
The stalwart source of all that is good and proper about SEO, this resource is often used as THE authority to back up methodology – this would have to be one of the best accounts for what is involved with SEO available, and it is absolutely free of charge so if you have always wanted a clear, well written account of search engine optimization here it is!
Blog Tyrant is the title of a well established and very useful blog. The author Ramsay is an Australian young man with considerable talent and insight. Ramsay offers some straight up value on his now pretty famous blog he has a good sense of humor (always a positive sign of intelligence in my book) and some impressive connections, if you want to see how to build a successful blog, explore SEO, explore many aspects of eWriting in these times, ‘Blog Tyrant’ is highly recommended!
Josh is a computer science student at Toronto University, he is very interested in SEO and he publishes some very useful videos – the standard of information is very high and he gets up to some interesting projects. If you are interested in solid, long-term SEO (not ‘churn&burn’) take a look at his vids. Also he has a blog and some associates who are also involved with experimenting and implementing SEO.
Concluding Thoughts For This Section
It is pretty clear that optimizing all that we publish online is the way to go, why not derive the very best results that we can? It is also clear that SEO is alive and well regardless of what you see and hear, a lot of people have entirely the wrong ideas about what SEO is, many myths and bad practices from the early 2000’s still remain in-use by the worst practitioners and bogus agencies. SEO includes a lot of different elements, and indeed all that we do.
It is no secret, you can learn how to do a lot of SEO if you take the time to study a few good sources and there are plenty of good people out there who can assist you with all you need to know; tools and resources also are widely available. In the next section I will provide a sure-fire way of ranking videos on YouTube for geographical & keyword/niche terms – with this approach you can get your video to rank highly without expense, but you need to know how to do it-I have been using this and it works 100% but it should not be abused. Catch you in the next SEO post for getting your videos ranking 🙂