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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Search Engine Optimization

Not a week goes by that I don't get a call at the office from some robot claiming that they can "put my website on the front page of Google search".   This is of course, pure bullshit.  My page is indexed by its content, and trying to trick Google into thinking it's something it isn't is a one-way ticket to the blacklist.  Which leads me to a question.

Look: like all of you, I want my site to get noticed. I try to use words and phrases that clearly state what services I offer so that someone searching for what I offer may see it.

What is SEO?
Ideally, SEO is the art of creating a concise, well-stated description of your product or service.  But years ago, some sites started including - what's the technical word - CRAP - in the meta tags to draw more hits in the hopes of creating traffic.  They loaded their meta tags with stuff that was not relevant to their site, but that was currently trending in searches.  So you'd have say, a clothing store with meta tags including every porn search word, every celebrity's name, every city, state, province, etc.  And way back then, the Google crawler just indexed it all.

Of course if you were selling shoes, and you got a million hits from people searching for "naked porn stars" or "free money", then you know you never got any sales from those people. Your site just became more and more hated and blacklisted.

But things change.  Google edited the crawler to recognize this and ignore it.  A while back I read that Google doesn't even read a page's meta keywords anymore.

Also, Google ranking depends on links.  How many people from other sites link to your site?  Some sketchy characters found that if you register 1000 domain names, point them all at a single page, and sell people a link, they could boost your ranking.  That's why there were all these sites that were just pages full of nothing but random, disorganized links.  That no longer works, either.  The Google crawler can see these sites a mile away and nothing gets indexed.

Organic SEO
There is some good advice about SEO here, on Google's own site.  You don't need to hire an expensive consulting firm to trick search engines into promoting your page.  The trick, if there is one, is to make your page clear and relevant to your potential clients.  Organic SEO is the practice of making what you say in the text of your site deliver your message clearly, and without subterfuge.

There are reasons to hire an outside firm to help with Organic SEO.  They can help you fix grammar and spelling errors (do you want to be indexed under "women's fashoin", or "web desing"?).  They can look at your text with an outsiders eye and help you make it clear and concise.  They can help you pick a decent domain name and avoid the kind of problems that Experts Exchange had when they registered 

But consultants can't guarantee you a #1 ranking and they can't gin up massive traffic that will generate sales. Any firm who claims they can are looking to scam you.


Bryan Valencia is a contributing editor and founder of Visual Studio Journey.  He owns and operates Software Services, a web design and hosting company in Manteca, California.

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