Friday, February 16, 2007

Is SEO Really Dead?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not dead, but it is changing and not as absolutely crucial as it used to be. Early on, people used SEO to help drive their websites to high positions in search engines. The purpose was to exploit weaknesses in the algorithms of the existing major search engines (before Google arrived we depended on Yahoo, LookSmart, Excite and others).

There is much information out there about how to manipulate search engine results in today's market. For example, some people still hang on to the outmoded belief that META tags are important. Put that to bed, please. Some people think that using CSS will improve your ranking. Sorry to disappoint you.

Since then, search engines have become very much more sophisticated. The search engines learned to close the doors on the tactics to crack into a high ranking. Some of those tacticsincluded spamming the META tags and image tags. Some sites would make the text color the same as the background color to add keywords that were totally unrelated to the website's information. Thus, we would often get a porn site, for example, when searching for a site about website creation.

There is much information out there about how to manipulate search engine results in today's market. For example, some people still hang on to the outmoded belief that META tags are important. Put that to bed, please. Some people think that using CSS will improve your ranking. Sorry to disappoint you.

We need to stop thinking about how to "manipulate" the search engines. Google employs scores of PhD's to outsmart us. Any newfangled technique will quickly get smothered. Mainly, you need good, fresh content to get found by people searchers.

Some SEO companies will solicit your business. They claim they can get you on the first page of Google. That get's you excited. But ask them this question: "What search term can you guarantee for me?" This will cause a lot of hemming and hawing on the other side of the line because the person knows he simply cannot guarantee anything, especially very generic search terms like "candle" and "marketing."

To get Google's attention, you need each and every page of your website to be very unique in content. Designis not as important for search engine results, but good navigation is veryessential. That is why Google love site maps - it's bots can easily find your content.

Incoming links

I'll go on record as saying that incoming links are very important to your web presence. But maybe not for the reason you think. Yes, latest intelligence shows that incoming links DO influence results but my experience says that they are not as important as they used to be. This is based on my experience of not seeking links over the past two years. I used to spend a greatdeal of my time begging for incoming links.

Don't belittle the power of well placed links from good sites, though. I still get plenty of traffic to my website from other good websites. People do check out the linksections, especially if they trust the owner of the website.


Each page on your website should be focused on one major keyword. Having said that, I've learned that the search engines are getting so sophisticated that they
can evaluate related key phrases and give them significance.

For example, let's say your website is "How to make a good pizza." We used to target the single word "pizza" for optimization and forget other key phrases like "good pasta", "delicious pizzasauce", etc. I recommend a strong focus on a single key phrase (possiblea long-tail phrase) but interspersed with other, related key phrases.

Be sure to include your keywords or key phrases on your page. You don’t want to go overboard, but you will want your page title to be very descriptive.

There are a few good tools to find related keyword phrases:

1. Wordtracker - one of the earliest and the best

2. The Google Adwords KeywordTool is also worthy.


At this time I find only two META tags to be useful:

1. The Title Tag - that
is what people will see when they do a search in a search engine

2. Description Tag -
this will usually make up the text under the main text that they see in a search engine. A short description of the web page you are optimizing will be sufficient here. Using a couple of words from the Title tag is also recommended.

I learned early on that Google liked (loved?) the H1 tag for the title of your web page. I've seen at least one trusted and true expert say that you can scale down to an H2 or lower tag, but I don't have a problem maintaining the H1 tag since I am personally not overly concerned with the look of a page. So, if your website is about Internet Marketing, for example, and one of your inside pages is devoted to "Social Networking" then make sure that key phrase is surrounded by a nice, fat H1 tags.

My Recommendation

For the past year I've been recommending to my clients to spend their time learning about Google Adwords as the primary method to obtain targeted visitors to their websites, emphasison the word "targeted." This may sound strange coming from a guy who spends some of his time doing SEO for website owners.

Actually, once you understand the value of your time and the cost to hire people like me, I think you will gladly buckle down and learn how to use Adwords successfully. Just ask my friend, Alex. He sells a unique brand of European vitamins and other health products. I built his website one year ago and I warned him to not expect results quickly.

Rather than spending more time getting incoming links and other old-fashioned ways toimprove results that he go the Adwords route. I am happy to report that he is now selling over $7,000 a month from his site and that figure is rapidlyincreasing.

TIP: I take Adwords expert, Perry Marshall, seriously. His advice is to use Google Adwords as more of an email address collector than as a means to sell product. Think about this. If you get a 5% click-through rate on Adwords you will be congratulating yourself for choosing that advertising tool. That is, until you realize that you sell just one out of twenty visitors. You need to monetize the visitor presence by enticing him to give you his email address for, say, a free eBook or something else of value. Then you can probably improve your bottom line by learning to use your email list effective!

Overall, take care to be skeptical of all advice you see about SEO (and many other aspects of web marketing). Include the information on this page in your skepticism. Things are changing rapidly, almost by the hour.

Don't be transfixed by anything, including SEO and PR. There will always be a shiny new vehicle to take you for an exciting ride.

HOT TIP: If I were you, right now I would take a long, hard, close look at Web 2.0 and Social Network Marketing.


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