The Click #19
I have always shied away from writing about Search Engine Optimisation. (Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, is work done to make your site come higher up in the results of Google or other search engines.)
It takes a long time for SEO work to have an effect and you can not predict how beneficial it will be. Combine these two, and it makes for a murky world full of dodgy "First p1ace on GOOGLE!!" promises.
However, recently a couple of clients boosted their businesses dramatically through improving their visibility on Google. This made me think I should share what little I know.
Then I thought, better to get the opinion of a real expert. Richard Day came first in an SEO competition organised by .Net magazine. He is a
true professional. Here is how he answered my questions:
1. What is the easiest way to improve your search engine
Get some links of the right type. That is links from pages on
other sites that are both highly regarded by Google and on a
similar subject to your own site.
2. How long does it take to see any beneficial effect from
Sometimes just a few days in Yahoo and MSN, but often many
months in Google.
3. There is lots of chat about link swaps. Some people say
Google will see through it if you link to a site in return for
that site linking back to you. What do you think?
Link swaps can be good, if the sites have related content, and
will not be bad unless your site links to a "bad" site (that
is a site that Google suspects of trying to manipulate search
engine rankings unfairly). Link swaps between wholly unrelated
sites are probably worth little. If a link provides benefit to
your visitors, then it is a good link.
4. With SEO work, I have always worried that you are at the
mercy of Google changing the way it values sites. Is this a
If you have content good enough for other sites to want to
link to you without reciprocation, then no. Otherwise, you are
always at the mercy of changing algorithms to some extent. But
Google will always need to look inside your site to see what
it is about - so "optimising" your site so that its subject
area is clear to Google will always be good. And if sites
which are "authorities" in your field link to your site - that
will always be good.
5. What do you eat while doing SEO work?
6. Hypothetically, if you were hiring a company to help you
with SEO what would you look for?
There are a whole bunch of things to watch out for [check this
for the full list http://www.beaufortweb.co.uk/article-3.htm]
but in short an SEO should not try to "cheat" the search
engines. For example they should not create deceptive or
misleading content and they should not create hidden links.
Both of these were once effective but now may well get a site
7. By how much should a SEO be able to improve your rankings?
It depends how competitive the chosen keywords are. In some
cases it may be more cost-effective to spend money on
sponsored links (like Google AdWords).
8. How do you discover what SEO techniques work? Is it trial
There are some good forums (especially
http://searchenginewatch.com/webmasters/) and some good books. Also, we have learned through experimentation.
My conclusion: ride to victory with the good guys
There has always been a crooked side and a honest side to SEO. The crooked side - trying to manipulate search engines with fakery - does not really work anymore. The virtuous side is winning hands down. This is great news for everyone except the SEO Cowboys.
Honest activities include making your site clear for search engines and trying to persuade authoritative sites in your field to link to you (this is what worked for our clients mentioned at the start). However, paramount - as search engines get cannier - is to make your site worth visiting. Now, apologies for the extraordinarily blatant plug, but who better to help you with this than Mint Digital?