Why should you care about Search Engine Optimization? Because organic traffic from search engines is free. Organic traffic refers to traffic that results from real searches on a search engine as opposed to pay per click ads or other paid placement on that search engine’s pages. Getting your site is in the top results for a popular search term can send loads of free traffic to your web site, that’s why you should care.
How hard is it to get top placement for a particular set of keywords or phrase? The more competitive the search term, the harder it is to get top placement. By competitive, I mean more sites are trying to rank well for that search term. For example if you have 500 sites that are trying to rank well for a phrase, it’s not all that difficult to get your site on the first page of results from a search, however, if you have 1.5 billion web sites competing, it’s a different story!
Who do you trust for advice? Now that’s the $100,000 question! There are so many people claiming to know the secret to getting your site on the first page of results, and most of these people have no clue that what they’re selling, teaching, or preaching is wrong. Ok, some DO know their advice is wrong and they simply don’t care, they only want your money. For most people, it’s a trial and error process to find advice that works. That’s the path I took. I bought products and courses, and read blog after blog after blog. I tried this and I tried that. I believed people who said only trust someone who can show proof. But their advice was wrong too. You can spend ludicrous amounts of money to find out that what you’ve purchased sounds great, and the research looks impressive, but when you put it into practice your search engine placement get worse, not better. Everyone is screaming “Buy My Product”, Buy My Product”, “I’m the only one telling you the truth”. So why should you believe ME? Because, I’ve been where you are, and, I’m going to tell you what I’ve learned that works and I’m going to tell you for free.
Why would I tell you this for free? Won’t I ruin my own placement by doing this? No, because most people will not take action on it. In fact, most people won’t take action on advice they pay for or courses they purchase. It’s human nature. People want to improve, but rarely follow-through with the actual steps required.
Some popular myths:
You need to submit your site to all the search engines and do so on a regular basis. There are even sites that you can subscribe to (yes, I mean pay them a monthly amount of money) that will do this for you. There are also scams that send you official looking snail mail for “search engine submission”. It’s completely useless, a complete waste of money. Why? Search engines spend a great deal of money, time, and effort finding and analyzing every web site that they can. They want their results to be better than their competitors.
All you have to do when you have a new web site is get its URL linked on a page that is already indexed by the search engines, and the search engines will find you. It’s best to also use the Webmaster Tools from the major engines such as Google, Bing, Yandex, etc, and if you do, you can submit your site’s sitemap.xml file. But you don’t have to, as long as you get a few links to your site on other sites you’ll be found. You can do this with forums, blogs, other sites you own, etc. Once a search engine has your site in its database, it’s there. It’ll keep checking your site. You don’t have to resubmit it over and over (don’t get this confused with blog updates and pinging, that’s something different). You may ask, what about the No-Follow Tag? Well, because search engines want to find every site that they possibly can, if a link contains the no-follow tag, it does not mean the search engine’s spider will not add the linked site to it’s list of sites to crawl, all it means is that the search engine will not count a link with a no-follow tag as a link with regard to ranking placement of the linked site.
Google Sandbox: One other thing you hear about is the “Google Sandbox”. This theory states that a new site will not rank well for competitive search terms for six months to a year after launch, that Google quarantines new sites for that period of time before including them in their search results. I’ve had new sites start getting search engine traffic almost overnight. There is no sandbox. Why would a search engine want to suppress returning a valid result for a search? It makes no sense. The likely source to this theory comes from that fact that the more competitive your targeted search term or keywords, the more legitimate, organic, inbound links you’ll require to rank well. Building those links takes time, sometimes months. In a very competitive situation, until you get a similar number of inbound links as the sites you’re competing with, you’ll never place well in the search engine rankings. Update 2017: Search engines are really good these days at knowing if inbound links to your site are genuine or part of a scheme to boost your site. Don’t pay for links, just don’t do it, it will sink your rankings most of the time.
Keyword Density: The third myth I’ll cover is that you need a particular keyword density, or, number of keywords on your page, header, or other various parts of the page. If you put a lot of occurrences of your keyword(s) on a page it’s called “stuffing”. Stuffing is bad on web pages; it’s good with turkey, but bad for SEO! You don’t need to count your search phrase keywords, just use natural sounding language. Some SEO tools and plugins for WordPress give you keyword density based on what you set as your target keywords. These days (2017) search engines use very sophistacted language analysis and simply counting the occurrences of a word, or phrase, is rudimentary when compared to what they do. It’s like the difference between a Dr. feeling your hurt arm vs. looking at an MRI of your arm. I actually think keyword counting and keyword density worked in the past, but because of abuse, the search engines are way past that simple analysis now. Google will definitely penalize you if you even remotely appear to stuff your keyword(s).
So, what does work? What are the facts?
One thing to understand is that what you do to get good ranking in Google IS the same as for Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, and Yandex. FYI 2017: Yahoo is about dead but I think they actually use Bing’s engine and DuckDuckGo uses Yandex . Some pages will rank well across all, but it requires a huge number of inbound links and quality content.
Quality matters: Search engines are generally smart enough to detect pages that you’ve copied or loaded with crappy content. They’re not always correct; after all it’s not a human reading the page, but rather a computer scanning the text of a page. This works in both directions too, sometimes a relevant, well written original page will not rank as high as it probably should, but most of the time, the crappy pages get detected as being crappy and the good pages are recognized as being good. So spend you energy and time building something worthwhile vs. trying to beat the system: it’ll pay off in the long run. Update 2017: quality is still the King (more than ever).
Keyword usage: Use your keyword phrases sparingly: a few times in the header area, in the title, and Meta tags, and a few times in the text on the page. Back when this article was originally published I would have said: “build tons of inbound links with the keyword(s) in the link text or title tags”, but today, in 2017, that’s not the case. Don’t do it! What you want are quality, organic (meaning you didn’t pay for them, nor trade links for them) inbound links to your site. They’re hard to get, hence the “Quality is King” mantra. Note that it can take a few weeks for Google, or the others, to update their rankings for each change you make. SEO is a long term operation, your don’t see results overnight, it can take months.
Outbound and Inbound Links. We know that search engines likes sites with lots of organic inbound links, or legitimate links pointing to your site from other sites. So how about outbound links on your site that point outbound to other sites? Do they hurt you? The simple answer is No. I’ve read articles that say outbound links hurt your rankings, but the authors are wrong. Unless your site is in the following list of categories, you don’t want to have links pointing to these kinds of sites: spam sites, hate sites, sites that feature or promote illegal activities, pornography, etc. Having outbound links to these types of sites will hurt your ranking placement and in some cases get you removed (de-listed) from the search engine results. You don’t want the reverse either; you don’t want those kind of sites pointing to you. However, that’s not completely in your control (like the links on your own site are) so it’s not going to hurt you if one or two decide to link to you for whatever reason. So, as long as your outbound links don’t point to these types of sites, they won’t hurt you. After all, that’s how the Internet works, one site linking to another.
You also do not want large lists of links on your site, it will appear as if you may be selling or trading links. Of course lists of links can occur naturally in your site, but they generally are a small portion of the page, or pages.
One Way, Two Way, and Three Way Linking. I agree with those that say the best kind of link to get is a one way link to your site from another site. This means that they’ve linked to you, but you’ve not linked to them. These types of links occur naturally as you add more and more content to your site. But, in most cases, they take a great deal of time to accumulate in any significant numbers. You can exchange links with other sites, this is called two way links. In this case, you have a link to them and they have a link to you. This is not weighted as strongly by the search engines as a one way links is, but still, it’s a link, it still counts. You can also do something call 3-way linking where your site (site A) links to site B, which links to Site C, which links back to your site (site A). This appears to the search engines to create inbound, one way links. There are services and products that help you setup and create link exchanges on your site – DON’T DO IT – it marginally worked back in the day (because most of the sites in the services that did this were crap), but it will sink you now.
SEO is both science and art. If it was all science, a person could create a program to analyze a page and determine how it will rank. Some have come close to doing this, but most programs that claim to do this aren’t even close. Why, because it involves factors outside of what’s on the page and search engines have spent countless dollars creating the technology they use to rank pages and return results, it’s very sophisticated now. It’s a competition between your page and thousand, even millions, of other web pages. There are things that work and things that don’t, and lots of people willing to take your money and run. You can spend thousands of dollars a month for their “secret” knowledge that will only make your sites rankings drop and your pockets empty. Don’t let that happen to you.
Watch this blog for more info. In fact, signup to my email list and I’ll send you my SEO Brain Dump report!
Until Next Time,