The Tao of Search Engine Optimization

Oct 26th, 2009 | By | Category: Recommendations

If you own or are con­sid­er­ing a web­site, you’ve prob­a­bly heard the terms Search Engine Opti­miza­tion or SEO about a thou­sand times. The term (so long as you know what the let­ters stand for) is self explana­to­ry. Opti­miz­ing your web­site for search engines sounds like a good idea, as most peo­ple still find what they’re look­ing for using a search engine. SEO is as much an art as it is a sci­ence, and the experts are usu­al­ly not that far above the folks who do com­mon sense things as far as results. This makes it con­fus­ing, and more than a lit­tle intim­i­dat­ing to new folks in the web realm. Before you pay the pos­si­ble $50,000 to an SEO pro, let’s talk about how to make sense of it, shall we? Here are four sim­ple rules (or sug­ges­tions).

SEO isn't as confusing as it's made out to be

SEO isn’t as con­fus­ing as you might think

Rule 1: Search engines read text. If your site has no text, search engines don’t know how to find you. Exam­ples? OK, any site done entire­ly in Flash is an exam­ple of a dif­fi­cult to opti­mise site (notice I didn’t say impos­si­ble). Flash, while pret­ty and cool look­ing when done prop­er­ly, is prac­ti­cal­ly use­less when it comes to search engines. I’m not say­ing not to use flash, I’m say­ing to use it spar­ing­ly. More on that in anoth­er post.

There is also a seg­ment of web artists who try to be all things to their clients, yet lack the skill set of writ­ing CSS. They tend to leave but­tons as images and / or embed text in images. This is fine if you do it prop­er­ly but if you do it wrong, no search engine traf­fic. It’s far bet­ter to use style sheets and text in every place you can.

Rule 2: Search engines have cus­tomers too. Odds are, you have a web­site as an exten­sion of your busi­ness. If so, you have cus­tomers (or want some). As a busi­ness, you pro­vide your cus­tomers what they want. If you didn’t, they wouldn’t stay cus­tomers for long. Search engines are the same. Searchers come to them to find the page most rel­e­vant their search. If engines sent searchers to pages that had noth­ing to do with their search, you guessed it… The searcher wouldn’t come back to that engine.

How does this infor­ma­tion help or hurt you? Well, Google, for instance, puts a lot of time and ener­gy into mak­ing sure the results to search­es are accu­rate and rel­e­vant. This means that they find all the ways peo­ple cheat the sys­tem and make their search engine ignore those peo­ple (or active­ly shun them). That way, the searcher finds his 18th cen­tu­ry Amish swimwear and not a site about how to make a bil­lion dol­lars in ten min­utes on the Inter­net. Make your con­tent match your audi­ence (after a few weeks, this post might rank for Amish swimwear).

Rule 3: Get your link out there. Every blog post you read, com­ment on it (includ­ing this one). Every forum you vis­it, leave a com­ment (con­struc­tive). In the com­ments sec­tion of most blogs and forums, there is either a slot to type your web­site, or a sig­na­ture block in which you can type your address. Put your web address in your e-mail sig­na­ture, on your busi­ness card, carve it into a tree… Just get it out there. What does this have to do with SEO? Search engines count the num­ber of links back to your site. More = good, and your rank goes up the more you post. Enough said.

Rule 4: Don’t stress about SEO. Take a more Taoist approach to it. If you want more organ­ic search traf­fic, write more about your top­ics of inter­est. Noth­ing is more rel­e­vant to search engines than a well writ­ten arti­cle on the sub­ject a searcher is look­ing for. What this means is, if your web­site does not have a blog, you’re wrong. Blogs are the best way to get free traf­fic, and I’d go so far as to say build­ing your site on a blog engine is one of the smartest things you could do. Word­Press han­dles 90% of the SEO stuff for you, so why not take advan­tage?

This is a cur­so­ry overview of what I do for SEO, and I get a lot of first page Google results for very lit­tle time invest­ment. I do it as a part of all the sites I design, and on what­ev­er CMS my client uses. What do you do? I’d love to hear about it (even if you think I’m an idiot, and I’m doing it wrong). If you have any­thing to add, feel free to do so in the com­ment block below.

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  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Yours is the first blog on SEO I read that held my inter­est (nice writ­ing job) gave me the info I was look­ing for, and last but cer­tain­ly not least, gave me real time tips I could actu­al­ly under­stand and feel I could imple­ment.



    Aaron Reply:

    No prob­lem. I like help­ing, and would love to hear what else you need to know. I’m the kind of per­son who would rather peo­ple tell me what to write about than fig­ure it out on my own (read: lazy). It’s also good to see you read the last para­graph. Many web users just skim. Kudos.


  2. […] This post was men­tioned on Twit­ter by Aaron Nye, Jules Nye. Jules Nye said: RT @anogy 4 Sim­ple Rules For Bet­ter, Sim­pler SEO | theAkka­di­an […]

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