Archive for the ‘optimize’ Category

Letting Your Search Engine Optimization Expert Do Their Job

March 22, 2008
I just don’t get it. Why do some companies pay lots of money to have an expert do a job for them and then not let them do it?

Before I sign on the dotted line with any new search engine optimization client, I always make sure they understand that the visible text copy on their current Web site will *have to* change in order to achieve maximum success.

That’s right, the visible text copy…the stuff that people see and read when they visit your site.

Can’t You Just Change the Meta Tags?

“What?” they often ask incredulously. “Can’t you just change the Meta tags?” “What if we make the new copy invisible?” “My nephew told me that there are ways to do all this in the background.”

Isn’t There Any Other Way?

Sure, there may be other ways, but like any successful professional, I use methods that have been proven to work for me: adding professionally written, keyword-rich marketing copy to the important pages of the site and optimizing them accordingly. This SEO method worked for me back in 1995, and it continues to work in 2002. Judging from the amount of email I receive from my long-time readers, it works for them also!

Why Do Search Engines Exist?

Think about it for a moment: search engines exist to guide people to pages that are relevant to their searches. What could be more relevant than a page that “discusses” the very keywords the person is looking for?

Once I explain it like that to potential clients, most will agree that perhaps their fancy Flash splash page should be moved off their front page. The bulk of them also agree that perhaps a rewrite of their copy with keyword phrases in mind is actually a good idea. And very often, once they see that the new keyword-rich copy not only helps them get high search engine rankings, but also enhances their visitors’ experience, they are very happy campers.

There’s One in Every Crowd

Unfortunately, every now and then I run across one of *those* clients. You know the type. They appear to “get it” and happily go along with all the necessary site changes. They participate in the copywriting, they make suggestions and edits and they even comment on how great their site is turning out. Everything is 100% perfect and you know that it’s only a matter of time before the rankings will be pouring in.

UNTIL…

A few weeks later, a look at the client’s site shows that all of the new text you worked so hard to create is gone! All that remains of your carefully crafted optimization are the Title and Meta tags. Even Alt tags were not spared the delete key!

If you think this could never happen, think again! Unfortunately, this happens to SEO consultants all the time.

Brainwashed By Meta Tag Hype

I’ve never quite figured out why some clients ask for help and then don’t follow through with it. One theory I have is that because so much is written about Meta tags and the like, there are still a lot of people who have been brainwashed into believing that Meta tags are the be-all, end-all to high rankings.

Perhaps these clients are simply looking for some professionally created Meta tags, and just go along with text changes to get what they want. If so, the joke’s on them because they’ll soon find out that their Meta tags were created for their site based solely upon the keyword-rich copy. The two must go hand in hand; without the matching copy, the tags will be useless. (Which is also why stealing a high-ranking page’s Meta tags will rarely do any good.)

SEOs: Spell it Out in Your Contract

You can’t stop rogue clients from changing their site against your best advice. However, you can protect yourself and your company by having a smart contract at the outset.

If you’re an SEO doing work for clients’ sites, be sure to clearly state the changes you will be making to their site in your contract, before any work has begun. If you don’t have a contract, get one now! Specifically state that the client must not change or delete the new copy and HTML coding for at least three months. If they sign up for continued monitoring services, ask to review any copy or design changes to ensure that they won’t affect the search engine rankings. If you really want to cover yourself, specifically state that you take no responsibility for the rankings if they change the pages without your knowledge and approval.

Clients: Trust Your SEO!

If you’re going to hire an expert to do something for you, whether it be search engine optimization or building a house, you’ve got to trust them to do their job correctly. Professionals do not make specific recommendations just for the heck of it. They have tried-and-true methods that they know will work. If you hire someone who has a good reputation and track record, then put your faith in him or her. If you have any inkling that your SEO is not trustworthy, look for a new SEO. Best results are always obtained when there is good communication between all parties. Once you’ve found an expert you can trust and are satisfied that their methods are in the best interest of your site, then whatever you do, don’t sabotage their best efforts! Your SEO wants high rankings for your site as much as you do. Give them enough latitude to obtain them for you!

Letting Your Search Engine Optimization Expert Do Their Job

March 22, 2008
I just don’t get it. Why do some companies pay lots of money to have an expert do a job for them and then not let them do it?

Before I sign on the dotted line with any new search engine optimization client, I always make sure they understand that the visible text copy on their current Web site will *have to* change in order to achieve maximum success.

That’s right, the visible text copy…the stuff that people see and read when they visit your site.

Can’t You Just Change the Meta Tags?

“What?” they often ask incredulously. “Can’t you just change the Meta tags?” “What if we make the new copy invisible?” “My nephew told me that there are ways to do all this in the background.”

Isn’t There Any Other Way?

Sure, there may be other ways, but like any successful professional, I use methods that have been proven to work for me: adding professionally written, keyword-rich marketing copy to the important pages of the site and optimizing them accordingly. This SEO method worked for me back in 1995, and it continues to work in 2002. Judging from the amount of email I receive from my long-time readers, it works for them also!

Why Do Search Engines Exist?

Think about it for a moment: search engines exist to guide people to pages that are relevant to their searches. What could be more relevant than a page that “discusses” the very keywords the person is looking for?

Once I explain it like that to potential clients, most will agree that perhaps their fancy Flash splash page should be moved off their front page. The bulk of them also agree that perhaps a rewrite of their copy with keyword phrases in mind is actually a good idea. And very often, once they see that the new keyword-rich copy not only helps them get high search engine rankings, but also enhances their visitors’ experience, they are very happy campers.

There’s One in Every Crowd

Unfortunately, every now and then I run across one of *those* clients. You know the type. They appear to “get it” and happily go along with all the necessary site changes. They participate in the copywriting, they make suggestions and edits and they even comment on how great their site is turning out. Everything is 100% perfect and you know that it’s only a matter of time before the rankings will be pouring in.

UNTIL…

A few weeks later, a look at the client’s site shows that all of the new text you worked so hard to create is gone! All that remains of your carefully crafted optimization are the Title and Meta tags. Even Alt tags were not spared the delete key!

If you think this could never happen, think again! Unfortunately, this happens to SEO consultants all the time.

Brainwashed By Meta Tag Hype

I’ve never quite figured out why some clients ask for help and then don’t follow through with it. One theory I have is that because so much is written about Meta tags and the like, there are still a lot of people who have been brainwashed into believing that Meta tags are the be-all, end-all to high rankings.

Perhaps these clients are simply looking for some professionally created Meta tags, and just go along with text changes to get what they want. If so, the joke’s on them because they’ll soon find out that their Meta tags were created for their site based solely upon the keyword-rich copy. The two must go hand in hand; without the matching copy, the tags will be useless. (Which is also why stealing a high-ranking page’s Meta tags will rarely do any good.)

SEOs: Spell it Out in Your Contract

You can’t stop rogue clients from changing their site against your best advice. However, you can protect yourself and your company by having a smart contract at the outset.

If you’re an SEO doing work for clients’ sites, be sure to clearly state the changes you will be making to their site in your contract, before any work has begun. If you don’t have a contract, get one now! Specifically state that the client must not change or delete the new copy and HTML coding for at least three months. If they sign up for continued monitoring services, ask to review any copy or design changes to ensure that they won’t affect the search engine rankings. If you really want to cover yourself, specifically state that you take no responsibility for the rankings if they change the pages without your knowledge and approval.

Clients: Trust Your SEO!

If you’re going to hire an expert to do something for you, whether it be search engine optimization or building a house, you’ve got to trust them to do their job correctly. Professionals do not make specific recommendations just for the heck of it. They have tried-and-true methods that they know will work. If you hire someone who has a good reputation and track record, then put your faith in him or her. If you have any inkling that your SEO is not trustworthy, look for a new SEO. Best results are always obtained when there is good communication between all parties. Once you’ve found an expert you can trust and are satisfied that their methods are in the best interest of your site, then whatever you do, don’t sabotage their best efforts! Your SEO wants high rankings for your site as much as you do. Give them enough latitude to obtain them for you!

What it Means To Be a Search Engine Marketing Professional

March 22, 2008
There’s a lot of stuff posted on search engine forums and newsletters around the world about how companies who spam the search engines are unethical, and that it’s important to hire only “ethical SEO consultants” or “ethical search engine marketers.”

But, if you think about it, ethics is not something that’s quantifiable. What makes any given SEO technique ethical or unethical? Isn’t ethics more of a way of life than a method for doing something? Is trying to trick the search engines really unethical? Sure, it’s stupid, in my opinion, but is it really unethical? I don’t believe that those who practice what I sometimes refer to as “shady SEO techniques” can necessarily be classified as unethical. Just as everyone who follows every search engine rule can’t automatically be assumed to be ethical.

What we should instead be discussing is which companies are *professional* and which are just out for a buck. This is true in every industry, not just SEO. If the people in our industry can remember this when trying to create a professional organization of SEOs (and there are many factions trying to do this), it will go a lot smoother. It’s really quite simple. My friend Alan Perkins, who is a champion of “professional SEO,” pointed out a definition of professional to me recently. It says in part:

What defines a professional?

A professional is a person who, by education, training, and experience, performs work, analyzes and solves problems, makes decisions, and promotes ethics associated with a particular field of study.” – A. Carol Rusaw, Learning by Association, HRD Quarterly, Summer 1995.

They go on to list some criteria for defining a professional. The one that really jumped out at me was this:

[The] Professional assumed to know what is good for the client better than the client.

That really hits the nail on the head. It would be easy for any of us to say, “Sure, why not, I’ll take your money and just tweak your Meta tags” when asked to do so by a client. Of course it would be easy money. But would it be right if you knew that doing so probably wouldn’t really help their site be found in the search engines? Not in my opinion; nor would it be professional.

So what about when a potential client comes to you saying “we know exactly what we need” because they read somewhere how SEO should be done. They ask you for a proposal to create 10 zebra (doorway) pages for their site. They don’t want you to touch the actual pages of their site, they just want pages that live on the “fringes” of the site. You know, the kind that only the search engines will find (because you added a link way down low on the home page to a sitemap of all the zebra pages). Once the user arrives at one of the pages from the search engines, they’re basically forced to click an extra time to finally arrive at the *real* site that they wanted to begin with.

Should you give the client a quote for this even though you know in your heart that it’s not necessarily the best way to optimize their site? Certainly, creating those pages that way couldn’t really be considered unethical or anything. But what if you see that their current site already has tons of great content pages? They really don’t need to add zebra pages, they just need to tweak their current content a bit to make sure they’re using words that real people use when searching.

Or perhaps they just need to make sure the search engines can easily spider through the site and find all that great content, e.g., turn dynamic URLs into static URLs.

What do you do if when you explain this to the client, they’re still set on using those zebra pages? They refuse to make changes to their actual pages (cuz someone told them they shouldn’t have to!), and even though the site will be much improved by making these changes, no amount of cajoling will convince them of this. So what do you do then? Do you do things the way they want you to? Do they really know better than you, the SEO professional?

If I were in this situation, and I couldn’t persuade them how wrong, unnecessary and shortsighted their preferred technique was, I’d have to turn down the job altogether. Yeah, it’s hard to turn down some decent money that a job like that could bring. I mean, you could probably even create those zebra pages using WPG’s Page Generator, and give them some fancy new name. They’re really not zebra pages…these ones would be giraffe pages! It could be good money for little work. And after all…it IS what the client wants, right?

There are plenty of ways you can justify it to yourself. But the bottom line is that it’s your job as a professional to do what you know in your heart is right. If it means you don’t get that particular job, then so be it. There will be other jobs. And there will be other clients that appreciate your looking out for their site’s long-term well-being. You can bank on that. Seriously. The money you lose from declining that type of work will be made up in so many different ways. You can bank on it!

Link Popularity

March 22, 2008

For years, “link popularity” and “Google PageRank” have been the talk of the town in the search engine optimization community. However, the definition of link popularity and how it differs from PageRank (PR), as well as how much effect these actually have on search engine rankings, is often misunderstood.

 

What is Link Popularity?

 

The theory goes something like this: The search engine Powers That Be have decided that if other sites are linking to your site, it must be a winner; therefore, it deserves a boost in rankings (when all else is equal). If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. People link to good sites, not bad ones.

PageRank Does Not Equal Link Popularity

It’s important to note that Google PageRank is not the same thing as link popularity. PR is actually a subset of link popularity. Whereas PR focuses strictly on the quantity and popularity of links, link popularity adds a “quality factor” into the equation. Unfortunately, many people mistakenly use the terms “link popularity” and “PageRank ” interchangeably, which has served to confuse the issue further.

All major search engines place some emphasis on link popularity in their ranking algorithms. There appear to be 2 main types of links that work best to increase your link popularity: links from other sites that focus on the same keyword phrases your site focuses on, and links from relevant categories in major directories and industry-specific portals. “Free-for-all” (FFA) sites do not constitute quality links, so don’t waste your $24.95 submitting your site to 500 of them. Links from sites that focus on topics that have nothing to do with your site probably won’t help you win any link popularity contests, either (although they may temporarily boost your PR).

How Does Link Popularity Work?

Here’s an example of how I believe link popularity works:

Let’s say that Bob’s Pizza Palace Website has a link to Joe’s Men’s Clothing store site. If the link uses the keywords “men’s clothing store” in the anchor text (the clickable part), it may help Joe’s link popularity a little bit for those keywords. However, Joe would benefit a lot more if the same link came from a site that was more related to Joe’s site than a pizza palace. For instance, a more related link might be from a woman’s clothing store, a men’s shoe store or any other type of store that relates to clothing in some way.

An even higher-quality link for Joe might be from “Sam’s Clothing Store Directory,” which lists a whole bunch of clothing stores that can be found on the Internet. That is exactly the kind of link that the search engines would want to credit toward link popularity. Again, the key is in having that common thread between the sites.

Where Do Reciprocal Links Come In?

The other popular misconception floating around is in regards to reciprocal linking. Since so many people think that exchanging links with sites is the easiest way to get them (it may or may not be), new people learning about link popularity are under the mistaken belief that they must have links that are reciprocated on their site (e.g., “you-link-to-me-and-I’ll-link-to-you”-type links). Still others are saying that reciprocal links are dead and you won’t gain any benefit from them.

Both camps are wrong. You certainly don’t need to get reciprocal links, but you can if you want to. Remember, it’s links pointing TO your site that are the helpful ones. Links pointing FROM your site to other sites are wonderful to have because they help your visitors find related stuff, but if your site doesn’t lend itself to linking to other sites, then by all means, don’t do it. You need to do what’s right for your company and your site visitors, first and foremost.

Should I Care About Link Popularity?

In general, there’s no need for the average site to obsess over link popularity. Yes, you’ll want to keep it in mind, and yes you should make sure that your site is what I like to call “link-worthy.” However, from my experience (and contrary to popular belief), link popularity constitutes only a portion of most search engines’ ranking algorithms. Arguably, Google places more emphasis than most other engines on incoming links at this point in time. How much these actually boost a site’s ranking is debatable and truly depends on the site. It also depends on the words that are placed in the anchor text. I have found that just a few highly relevant links with strong anchor text can go a long way towards link popularity for many sites.

For sites that want to take it to the next level and are trying to rank highly with extremely competitive keywords, it may be necessary to actively seek out links from other relevant Websites. This doesn’t mean you should go out and create a whole bunch of domains yourself and link them all together because it sounds easier than getting others to link to you. (Yes, that trick has been tried before!) It simply means you should look for sites that are related to your site in some way, and see if they might be interested in promoting your site to their users.

Whatever you do, do not send automatically generated link requests to any site. Most Webmasters consider them a nuisance at best and sp@m at worst. Certainly, a personal email may be welcome, and it also doesn’t hurt to pick up the phone and begin a dialogue with a potential link partner. Remember, very often these links from relevant sites will bring more traffic to your site than a high search engine ranking will bring.

How To Get Linked Without Even Trying

My favorite way to get links (but the most time-consuming) is to simply have the best site on the Internet in your specific niche. Interestingly enough, if your site is well written, provides tons of useful information and is constantly updated, you often won’t have to seek out links at all. Other sites will link to yours of their own volition.

This has worked for me on my High Rankings site for many years. Without actively requesting any links (other than a few major directories), hundreds of highly relevant sites have added HighRankings.com to their list of recommended sites related to SEO. Some people link to my home page, others to the main newsletter page, and still others to my forum. Some will link directly to an article or newsletter they’ve enjoyed, and some will ask if they can republish some on their site, while also including a link.

This is the ideal, and not every site is going to have the time or inclination to get to this stage. However, I firmly believe that any kind of site in any type of business can use this method if they are willing to work at it. I know of no other method that can even bring links from direct competitors! Personally, I’d rather spend my time creating a link-worthy site than sending out repetitive reciprocal link exchange requests…but maybe that’s just me!

Your homework for this week is to think about how you can make your site so good that others will be only too willing to link to it — without your even having to ask for it. If you can figure it out and actually spend the time implementing the strategy, eventually you won’t have to worry about link popularity, reciprocal links or PageRank ever again!

The Meta Description Tag

March 22, 2008

The keywords and phrases you use in your Meta description tag don’t affect your page’s ranking in the search engines (for the most part), but this tag can still come in handy in your overall SEO campaigns.

What Is the Meta Description Tag?

The Meta description tag is a snippet of HTML code that belongs inside the <Head> </Head> section of a Web page. It usually is placed after the Title tag and before the Meta keywords tag, although the order is not important.

The proper syntax for this HTML tag is: <META NAME=”Description” CONTENT=”Your descriptive sentence or two goes here.”>

I used to believe that the purpose of the Meta description tag was twofold: to help the page rank highly for the words that were contained within it, as well as to provide a nice description in the search engine results pages (SERPs). However, today it appears that, similar to the Meta keywords tag, the information you place in this tag is *not* given any weight in the ranking algorithms of Google, and only a tiny amount of weight in Yahoo’s.

In other words, whether you use your important keyword phrases in your Meta description tag or not, it won’t affect the position of your page in the SERPs for the words that are important to you. In fact, you could easily leave it out altogether.

But should you?

Well, if you’re already happy with the “snippets” of text that the search engines post from your page in any given search query, then there’s no reason to have a Meta description tag on your pages. However, it’s important to note that the snippet the engines use will vary, depending on what the searcher typed into the engine.

Let’s take a step back and look at what the search engines show in the SERPs. It can get a little bit confusing, but if you try out your own searches in the various engines, you’ll have a better idea of what I’m talking about. The search engines are constantly changing this sort of thing, plus they all behave in slightly different ways, as you’ll see in my examples.

At Google, if you search for a site by URL like this: http://www.highrankings.com, the snippet you see is the first instance of text on the page. Interestingly enough, on my home page, an image alt attribute tag is the first instance of words “on the page,” and that’s what shows up as part of my “snippet” for this particular search. (The image is a clickable image, so this jibes with my other theory of Google indexing the words in the alt attributes of clickable images. See this forum thread from Dec. 2003.)

For this type of search, Yahoo displays the Meta description info. It’s important to note that generally the only people searching using URLs are site owners trying to see if their pages are indexed. Therefore, you shouldn’t worry too much about what you see under those circumstances.

So let’s try something that a real person might search for when looking for what I have to offer — how about “SEO copy”?

In Google, my Nitty-gritty handbook page shows up second in the results with the following snippet:

“… techniques: Search engine optimization (SEO) consultants who need to edit the existing copy of their clients’ sites as a matter of course. …”

Not the best of snippets, to say the least.

In this case, I don’t have the phrase “SEO copy” in my Meta description tag, nor is it anywhere on the page as a complete phrase. Because of this, Google has simply found instances where the word SEO and the word copy were near each other, and used the surrounding text as the snippet.

Now, if I felt that “SEO copy” was a viable keyword phrase that people might be searching on, I may want to adjust my page accordingly so that the phrase appeared in my Meta description tag as well as somewhere in the body text. Again, this is not because it would help it to rank highly, but because I would receive a more suitable description that was more in tune with what the searcher was looking for. One can surmise that they might be more inclined to click on my listing in that case.

Let’s look at Yahoo for the same phrase. They’ve ranked the page at #3, and used the following snippet:

“Learn SEO copywriting with Jill Whalen’s special report — The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines.”

Now that’s a good snippet! Well, guess what? That’s my Meta description tag for that page. Even though the exact phrase wasn’t in the tag, and neither was the word “copy,” Yahoo still chose to display it for this search query. I’m guessing this is because that phrase is actually nowhere on the page, other than in the Title tag. So with Yahoo, having a decent Meta description tag was very worthwhile in this instance.

More Tests

I also recently discovered that when I tested a nonsense word in the Meta description tag of a page (with the word not appearing elsewhere on the page), Google did not find it. But when I added the word to the visible text copy on the page, Google would bring up the test page when the nonsense word was searched for. Not only that, but it displayed that part of the Meta description tag where the nonsense word appeared.

In Yahoo, my nonsense-word test page was found, even if the word appeared only in the Meta description tag and nowhere else on the page. Interestingly enough, however, Yahoo didn’t display the part of the tag where the word was placed. They displayed only the beginning of the description, and cut it off after about 45 words. I purposely placed my nonsense word deep into my description tag to see if it would get picked up. In this case, the word appeared as the last of 138 words in the tag. I’ll probably add even more words at some point to see if there’s any cutoff point where Yahoo will stop indexing.

Other Engines

I also tested a few searches at Teoma and MSN. Each engine is slightly different in how they display the Meta description tag. Teoma seems to find the words in the tag, but doesn’t necessarily display them. When I searched for a unique sampling of text from one of my tags, Teoma found the page, but chose to display the first sentence on the page instead. Not surprisingly, the current MSN search worked the same as Yahoo. However, MSN’s search technology preview (which is the new engine they’re working on) behaved similarly to Google on all tests regarding Meta descriptions.

My new recommendation for this tag is not to worry too much about it. If you have some great call-to-action statements utilizing your keyword phrases on your Web pages, they will probably show up in your snippets at the engines. But since it’s easy enough to create a compelling sentence or 2 that incorporates your main keyword phrases, you might as well do this for your Meta descriptions.

Certainly, the more control you have over your listing in the SERPs, the more clickthroughs you should see. If your Meta description tags can help with that, then it’s certainly worth the time to create compelling, keyword-rich ones.

SEO and the Zen Factor

March 22, 2008
I don’t get a chance to read much that isn’t related to search marketing these days, but since I’m traveling more, I’ve been using those long plane flights to read different types of books. One of my favorites has been Dr. Wayne Dyer’s “The Power of Intention,” which I bought after seeing him speak on public television.

In the “The Power of Intention” every sentence has a powerful meaning that really needs to be pondered in order to get the most out of it. When I read a book that is packed with such deep concepts, I find that the best thing for me to do is read through it once without trying to grasp everything that is being said. At that point I find that I have understood the information at only a very basic level. I may know what the author is talking about, and I may not be confused by it, but I really can’t verbalize it to anyone else. I’m now on my third or fourth read of Dyer’s book, and am a bit more at home with the concepts he presents, but I find that with each read I get more and more out of it.

Currently, I’m reading another book on a similar topic, but it’s presented in a totally different manner. This book (“The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle) has helped me further understand Dr. Dyer’s book, just as Dyer’s book has helped me understand this book. I’ve also realized there is so much to learn on this subject that I’m sure I could read a hundred books and never understand everything.

By now, I’m sure you’re totally confused and wondering what the heck my personal reading habits have to do with SEO. Stay with me, as I do have a point! When I think about the vast information that *any* subject contains, be it SEO or personal growth, I realize that when people first get interested in something, there’s a steep learning curve involved. Every day I hear from people who are just learning SEO, and they’re simply not grasping what I consider the very basic concepts. For those of us who live and breathe SEO, it’s sometimes difficult to step back and remember what it was like when we were first learning.

Even though SEO isn’t as complicated as Zen Buddhism, it’s still going to take most newbies a lot of time and study to truly understand things at a fundamental level. For those of you just starting to learn SEO, you may read some of the more ethereal stuff written on the topic (such as my “Art of SEO” article) and simply not be able to grasp it — yet. But don’t despair! If you immerse yourself in the topic, you will find that every day you understand more and more.

When practiced at the level of those of us who’ve been in the game for 5-10 years, SEO is in fact very Zen-like. We can look at a website and know exactly what needs to be done to make it the best it can be for the site visitors and the search engines. Often, it’s easiest for us when we can just roll up our sleeves and do what we know needs to be done, rather than try to explain the whys and wherefores. Many times it’s not even possible to explain exactly why we are doing a specific thing, because it simply comes from the gut. Unfortunately, many clients and even more budding SEOs aren’t cool with the explanation “it just feels right”!

There will always be SEOs who need to do their work based on some logical, formulaic reasoning. These people may never be able to simply trust their own instincts. To them, it can’t just “feel right,” because search algorithms and how to beat them have got to have a logical explanation. However, as time marches on, search engines are becoming ever more sophisticated. The logical among us have all kinds of theories and acronyms (e.g. LSI) that supposedly explain how the engines will be determining relevancy in the future. Personally, I prefer to believe that they’re simply adding a “Zen factor” to the mix!

In fact, I think I’ll go meditate so that I can manifest the best title tags for my latest client’s site. 🙂

Ten Tips to the Top of the Search Engines

March 22, 2008
Having a website that gets found in Google, Yahoo, and MSN, etc. isn’t hard to do, but it can be difficult to know where to begin. Here are my latest and greatest tips to get you started:

  1. Do not purchase a new domain unless you have to. Due to Google’s aging delay for all new domains, your best bet is to use your existing domain/website if at all possible. If you’re redesigning or starting from scratch and you have to use a brand-new domain for some reason, you can expect to wait a good 9-12 months before your site will show up in Google for any keyword phrases that are important to you.
  2. Optimize your site for your target audience, not for the search engines. This may sound counterintuitive, but hear me out. The search engines are looking for pages that best fit the keyword phrase someone types into their little search box. If those “someones” are typing in search words that relate to what your site offers, then they are most likely members of your target audience. You need to optimize your site to meet *their* needs. If you don’t know who your target audience is, then you need to find out one way or another. Look for studies online that might provide demographic information, and visit other sites, communities, or forums where your target audience might hang out and listen to what they discuss. This information will be crucial to your resulting website design, keyword research, and copywriting.
  3. Research your keyword phrases extensively. The phrases you think your target market might be searching for may very well be incorrect. To find the optimal phrases to optimize for, use research tools such as KeywordDiscovery, Wordtracker, Google AdWords, and Yahoo Search Marketing data. Compile lists of the most relevant phrases for your site, and choose a few different ones for every page. Never shoot for general keywords such as “travel” or “vacation,” as they are rarely (if ever) indicative of what your site is really about.
  4. Design and categorize your site architecture and navigation based on your keyword research. Your research may uncover undiscovered areas of interest or ways of categorizing your products/services that you may wish to add to your site. For instance, let’s say your site sells toys. There are numerous ways you could categorize and lay out your site so that people will find the toys they’re looking for. Are people looking for toys to fit their child’s stage of development? (Look for keyword phrases such as “preschool toys.”) Or are they more likely to be seeking specific brands of toys? Most likely, your keyword research will show you that people are looking for toys in many different ways. Your job is to make sure that your site’s navigation showcases the various ways of searching. Make sure you have links to specific-brand pages as well as specific age ranges, specific types of toys, etc.
  5. Program your site to be “crawler-friendly.” The search engines can’t fill out forms, can’t search your site, can’t read JavaScript links and menus, and can’t interpret graphics and Flash. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use these things on your site; you most certainly can! However, you do need to provide alternate means of navigating your site as necessary. If you have only a drop-down sequence of menus to choose a category or a brand of something, the search engine crawlers will never find those resulting pages. You’ll need to make sure that you always have some form of HTML links in the main navigation on every page which link to the top-level pages of your site. From those pages, you’ll need to have further HTML links to the individual product/service pages. (Please note that HTML links do NOT have to be text-only links. There’s nothing wrong with graphical image navigation that is wrapped in standard <a href> tags, as the search engines can follow image links just fine.)
  6. Label your internal text links and clickable image alt attributes (aka alt tags) as clearly and descriptively as possible. Your site visitors and the search engines look at the clickable portion of your links (aka the anchor text) to help them understand what they’re going to find once they click through. Don’t make them guess what’s at the other end with links that say “click here” or other non-descriptive words. Be as descriptive as possible with every text and graphical link on your site. The cool thing about writing your anchor text and alt attributes to be descriptive is that you can almost always describe the page you’re pointing to by using its main keyword phrase.
  7. Write compelling copy for the key pages of your site based on your chosen keyword phrases and your target market’s needs, and make sure it’s copy that the search engines can “see.” This is a crucial component to having a successful website. The search engines need to read keyword-rich copy on your pages so they can understand how to classify your site. This copy shouldn’t be buried in graphics or hidden in Flash. Write your copy based on your most relevant keyword phrases while also making an emotional connection with your site visitor. (This is where that target audience analysis comes in handy!) Understand that there is no magical number of words per page or number of times to use your phrases in your copy. The important thing is to use your keyword phrases only when and where it makes sense to do so for the real people reading your pages. Simply sticking keyword phrases at the top of the page for no apparent reason isn’t going to cut it, and it just looks silly. (Purchase and read our Copywriting Combo for exact tips on how to implement this correctly.)
  8. Incorporate your keyword phrases into each page’s unique Title tag. Title tags are critical because they’re given a lot of weight with every search engine. Whatever keyword phrases you’ve written your copy around should also be used in your Title tag. Remember that the information that you place in this tag is what will show up as the clickable link to your site at the search engines. Make sure that it accurately reflects the content of the page it’s on, while also using the keyword phrases people might be using at a search engine to find your stuff.
  9. Make sure your site is “link-worthy.” Other sites linking to yours is a critical component of a successful search engine optimization campaign, as all of the major search engines place a good deal of emphasis on your site’s overall link popularity. You can go out and request hundreds or thousands of links, but if your site stinks, why would anyone want to link to it? On the other hand, if your site is full of wonderful, useful information, other sites will naturally link to it without your even asking. It’s fine to trade links; just make sure you are providing your site visitors with only the highest quality of related sites. When you link to lousy sites, keep in mind what this says to your site visitors as well as to the search engines.
  10. Don’t be married to any one keyword phrase or worried too much about rankings. If you’ve done the above 9 things correctly, you will start to see an increase in targeted search engine visitors to your site fairly quickly. Forget about where you rank for any specific keyword phrase and instead measure your results in increased traffic, sales, and conversions. (You can sign up for a free trial of ClickTracks, which easily tracks and measures those things that truly matter.) It certainly won’t hurt to add new content to your site if it will really make your site more useful, but don’t simply add a load of fluff just for the sake of adding something. It really is okay to have a business site that is just a business site and not a diatribe on the history of your products. Neither your site visitors nor the engines really give a hoot!

Realistic Search Engine Optimization Expectations

March 22, 2008
Those who’ve been in the SEO biz for a number of years know how much more competitive it is these days as compared to a few years ago. The number of webpages indexed by search engines has doubled, tripled, and quadrupled in past years. On top of that, a good portion of site owners and webmasters know just enough SEO to be dangerous. In the golden age of SEO, the vast majority of websites hadn’t given a thought to the search engines, and when they did, it was only to place some keywords in their Meta tags. (Which, incidentally, didn’t help then either.) Those were the days when anyone who knew even the slightest bit about SEO could easily rank highly in all the major search engines, with very little effort. Even competitive areas were doable with just a little more work than their non-competitive counterparts.These days, it’s almost the exact opposite. Even keyword phrases that nobody’s searching for can sometimes be difficult to obtain high rankings with unless you really and truly know what you’re doing. And even then, those rankings may be here one day, and gone the next. The problem is magnified for new businesses and new websites. If your site isn’t at least a few years old, your SEO efforts will be less likely to provide the results you want. This is one reason why your website optimization should always be seen as a long-term proposition.

As we move forward in this industry, webmasters, site owners, and SEOs need to shift their focus from that of asking how they can get this keyword to this position in this engine to how they can get more targeted traffic and convert it into customers. Unfortunately, a large portion of those looking into SEO services are still seeing the small picture. For instance, on the contact form on my site, I ask people to tell me a little bit about their “business goals.” A good portion who fill it out want something like “top-5 rankings in Google and Yahoo for this keyword.” Huh? That’s not a business goal! A business goal is more like “Bring more people to my website who are searching online for the types of products we sell.” (As a side note, soon after writing this, I got an email from someone whose goal was to have their Flash site be “#1 in all the search engines for the word ‘spring.'” I kid you not!)

Don’t get me wrong, I very much understand why people would love to move their rankings up from #11 to #1 for a highly sought-after and targeted keyword phrase. I’m quite sure it would very much increase their targeted traffic and their sales (assuming they’re doing everything else right). My frustration lies in the fact that there are people who believe that somehow an SEO company can magically snap their fingers or wave their magic wands and make it so. They probably found my site at #2 in Google for search engine optimization and expect that I can just do to their site whatever it was I did to my site, and voila — instant rankings!

Even the best SEOs are not magicians. They can’t simply place a site at the top of the engines when there are hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of others that offer basically the same thing, and provide basically the same information. If they could, you’d see a whole lot more millionaire SEOs.

Does this mean that SEO is dead?

Absolutely not! But SEO that focuses on rankings for the most highly sought-after keywords in any given space is most definitely dying. This doesn’t mean that you have to settle for keywords that receive few searches. It just means that you have to broaden your horizons and see the big picture.

Almost every time I review one of those “put me at #1” prospects’ websites, I see tons of opportunities for fixing the site in general so that it will work better for both their users and the search engines. They are almost always so focused on their “money phrases” that they completely neglect many areas of their site. Instead they put their special phrase on every page and never research the thousands of others that are being typed into search engines every day.

Another trend I’ve been seeing a lot lately is the creation of content simply for the sake of creating content. What’s that all about? SEOs certainly throw the words “good content” around a lot, but why is it that nobody seems to know what that means? We now have a whole cottage industry of companies who will allegedly write “good content” for you. Worse, there’s even one that will *rent* you content! Newsflash…good content has nothing to do with the history of your products. Nor is good content a bunch of madlib spam pages where you simply substitute keyword phrases from one page into the other. Good content isn’t stuff you write for the search engines.

Good content is unique. Really and truly unique. It is creative ideas that simply popped into your head which nobody else in your space has thought of yet. The key to good content is creativity. Unfortunately, creativity itself seems to be a dying art. Being creative isn’t looking at what your competitor is doing and copying them. It’s being a leader, not a follower. It’s having your own voice and your own opinions and expressing them, regardless of what others might think. It’s pouring your heart and soul into your website, not looking for the next quick fix. And it’s (say it with me) making your site the best it can be for your site visitors AND the search engines. It’s what’s made my site rank highly for the most competitive phrase there is (among thousands of other phrases), and it’s what will make your site rank highly for whatever phrases relate to it. But it’s not easy, and it’s not fast. And it can’t be done with the flick of a switch.

So please…if your pet phrase isn’t ranking highly enough, don’t call me and don’t email me. In fact, don’t call or email *any* SEO company. Instead of calling, you need to reassess your goals. No SEO company in the world will be able to help you unless you are ready to forget about what you think you want, and learn more about what you really need. Read that last sentence again until you really understand it. Forget about what you think you want, and learn more about what you really need.

And remember, there are plenty of companies that will say they can do whatever you want them to do. You want to be #1 for spring? Sure, no problem. They will happily take your money, do some work, and promptly get no results. Don’t blame them though — they were just telling you what you wanted to hear.

Those who’ve been in the SEO biz for a number of years know how much more competitive it is these days as compared to a few years ago. The number of webpages indexed by search engines has doubled, tripled, and quadrupled in past years. On top of that, a good portion of site owners and webmasters know just enough SEO to be dangerous. In the golden age of SEO, the vast majority of websites hadn’t given a thought to the search engines, and when they did, it was only to place some keywords in their Meta tags. (Which, incidentally, didn’t help then either.) Those were the days when anyone who knew even the slightest bit about SEO could easily rank highly in all the major search engines, with very little effort. Even competitive areas were doable with just a little more work than their non-competitive counterparts.

These days, it’s almost the exact opposite. Even keyword phrases that nobody’s searching for can sometimes be difficult to obtain high rankings with unless you really and truly know what you’re doing. And even then, those rankings may be here one day, and gone the next. The problem is magnified for new businesses and new websites. If your site isn’t at least a few years old, your SEO efforts will be less likely to provide the results you want. This is one reason why your website optimization should always be seen as a long-term proposition.

As we move forward in this industry, webmasters, site owners, and SEOs need to shift their focus from that of asking how they can get this keyword to this position in this engine to how they can get more targeted traffic and convert it into customers. Unfortunately, a large portion of those looking into SEO services are still seeing the small picture. For instance, on the contact form on my site, I ask people to tell me a little bit about their “business goals.” A good portion who fill it out want something like “top-5 rankings in Google and Yahoo for this keyword.” Huh? That’s not a business goal! A business goal is more like “Bring more people to my website who are searching online for the types of products we sell.” (As a side note, soon after writing this, I got an email from someone whose goal was to have their Flash site be “#1 in all the search engines for the word ‘spring.'” I kid you not!)

Don’t get me wrong, I very much understand why people would love to move their rankings up from #11 to #1 for a highly sought-after and targeted keyword phrase. I’m quite sure it would very much increase their targeted traffic and their sales (assuming they’re doing everything else right). My frustration lies in the fact that there are people who believe that somehow an SEO company can magically snap their fingers or wave their magic wands and make it so. They probably found my site at #2 in Google for search engine optimization and expect that I can just do to their site whatever it was I did to my site, and voila — instant rankings!

Even the best SEOs are not magicians. They can’t simply place a site at the top of the engines when there are hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of others that offer basically the same thing, and provide basically the same information. If they could, you’d see a whole lot more millionaire SEOs.

Does this mean that SEO is dead?

Absolutely not! But SEO that focuses on rankings for the most highly sought-after keywords in any given space is most definitely dying. This doesn’t mean that you have to settle for keywords that receive few searches. It just means that you have to broaden your horizons and see the big picture.

Almost every time I review one of those “put me at #1” prospects’ websites, I see tons of opportunities for fixing the site in general so that it will work better for both their users and the search engines. They are almost always so focused on their “money phrases” that they completely neglect many areas of their site. Instead they put their special phrase on every page and never research the thousands of others that are being typed into search engines every day.

Another trend I’ve been seeing a lot lately is the creation of content simply for the sake of creating content. What’s that all about? SEOs certainly throw the words “good content” around a lot, but why is it that nobody seems to know what that means? We now have a whole cottage industry of companies who will allegedly write “good content” for you. Worse, there’s even one that will *rent* you content! Newsflash…good content has nothing to do with the history of your products. Nor is good content a bunch of madlib spam pages where you simply substitute keyword phrases from one page into the other. Good content isn’t stuff you write for the search engines.

Good content is unique. Really and truly unique. It is creative ideas that simply popped into your head which nobody else in your space has thought of yet. The key to good content is creativity. Unfortunately, creativity itself seems to be a dying art. Being creative isn’t looking at what your competitor is doing and copying them. It’s being a leader, not a follower. It’s having your own voice and your own opinions and expressing them, regardless of what others might think. It’s pouring your heart and soul into your website, not looking for the next quick fix. And it’s (say it with me) making your site the best it can be for your site visitors AND the search engines. It’s what’s made my site rank highly for the most competitive phrase there is (among thousands of other phrases), and it’s what will make your site rank highly for whatever phrases relate to it. But it’s not easy, and it’s not fast. And it can’t be done with the flick of a switch.

So please…if your pet phrase isn’t ranking highly enough, don’t call me and don’t email me. In fact, don’t call or email *any* SEO company. Instead of calling, you need to reassess your goals. No SEO company in the world will be able to help you unless you are ready to forget about what you think you want, and learn more about what you really need. Read that last sentence again until you really understand it. Forget about what you think you want, and learn more about what you really need.

And remember, there are plenty of companies that will say they can do whatever you want them to do. You want to be #1 for spring? Sure, no problem. They will happily take your money, do some work, and promptly get no results. Don’t blame them though — they were just telling you what you wanted to hear

No Quick Fixes Where Search Engine Optimization is Concerned

March 22, 2008

Wouldn’t it be great if we could simply edit Meta tags and get high rankings?

 

Many years ago I read Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” One thing Covey discusses is the glitter of the “Personality Ethic.” He mentions how some people try to find some “quick and easy way to achieve quality of life … without going through the natural process of work and growth that makes it possible.” Then he goes on to say, “The Personality Ethic is illusory and deceptive. And trying to get high quality results with its techniques and quick fixes is just about as effective as trying to get to some place in Chicago using a map of Detroit.”

 

What Covey says is nearly identical to what I’ve been saying for years regarding search engine optimization: There are simply no quick fixes.

 

I wish I had a dime for every potential client who came to me and said, “We just need you to fix our Meta tags so our site will rank highly with search engines.” These people don’t realize that if it were simply a matter of fixing Meta tags, they could probably do it themselves!

 

Why Not Meta Tags?

 

Search engines don’t have a whole lot to work with when trying to figure out which sites to show in their list of results for any given keyword search. Considering this, it’s actually quite amazing how relevant most search results tend to be, given the sheer number of pages on the Internet these days.

 

For an internal search engine that just searches through pages or products on your site, the information provided in the Meta keyword tag can really help to narrow down the most relevant pages that one of your site users might be searching for.

 

Unfortunately, the differences between an internal search engine and a public one such as Google are many. For instance, with an internal engine, there are only a relatively small number of pages or products to search through to find a relevant page. Plus, the content and Meta tags on the site are trustworthy, since your goal and that of your internal search engine is to help people find exactly what they’re looking for on your site.

 

On the other hand, with major search engines, their database contains basically every page on the web that they know about. They can’t necessarily trust the Meta tags they find since a site owner’s goals may not necessarily be the same as the major search engines’ goal (i.e., you would like your site to show up in the search results as much as possible for as many keyword phrases as possible, but the search engine would like to show the most relevant pages, whether those are yours or someone else’s).

 

This makes changing or adding Meta tags on your site neither a quick fix nor a slow fix. It won’t fix anything and it won’t have any effect on your search engine traffic.

 

What About Content?

Sure, you can add all kinds of content to your site and hope that will be a quick fix, but writing lots of good content cannot be done quickly. It will generally take years of writing a little bit every day or every week, to eventually end up with a genuine archive of truly useful information. It’s highly doubtful that if you’re somehow generating 100 pages a week, you’re actually creating good content. You’re either stealing from elsewhere, auto-generating it from some sort of icky software program, or you’re some kind of robot with too much time on your hands!

 

How About Links?

It is true that links are very important to helping your site gain visibility and search engine traffic. But quick-fix link schemes are not going to result in long-term high rankings for your site. Everyone knows to avoid “link farms,” but nobody seems to quite know what they are. No worry, because it doesn’t matter whether something is a link farm or a link scheme or a link popularity bonanza software extravaganza. If you set out to get links for the sole purpose of increasing your search engine rankings, you’re already thinking backwards.

 

Forget about link popularity and instead think about your target audience and how you can let them know your site exists. It’s really just marketing, plain and simple. You have a website and a business that presumably is [better] [more unique] [cheaper] [friendlier] than the others out there and it needs to be marketed. You may even have to <gasp> spend a little money to publicize your site. Good, old-fashioned newspaper, magazine, and even TV ads that mention your website can really get your site noticed. The more visible your site is, the more it will be talked about in the right circles, and the more links it will obtain just because. Even PPC ads can help, because they put your site in front of people looking for what you offer. The point is that people have got to find your site one way or another while you’re waiting for your SEO campaign to kick in. It’s your job to figure out how to get it in front of them as often as you can.

Regardless of how you market your site, don’t count on becoming an overnight sensation.

This brings us back to Covey’s Personality Ethic. Sure, someone can edit your Meta tags quickly and submit to 50 billion search engines and trade links with 90 million useless sites. However, if you haven’t invested the time up front to create a website with great content that speaks to the reader in plain language that real people use (in other words, without technology buzzwords), you will not see good long-term results.

How To Achieve Long-term Results

You may achieve high rankings very quickly for words that nobody is searching for, but as Covey so aptly put it, these will be illusory and deceptive results at best. If no one uses those words in the engine’s search box, all the #1 rankings in the world won’t keep your business afloat.

It’s imperative to think of the search engine optimization process as a long-term investment for your site, so here are 5 tips to help you invest in your future success:

  1. Thoroughly research your keyword phrases using the paid versions of Wordtracker or KeywordDiscovery. Keyword research is completely and utterly the key to everything that is search marketing.
  2. Make sure your site is not made up of graphics alone, as these cannot be read by the search engine spiders that come a-crawling. (This is especially true of graphics that look like text — these are often used when a particular font is desired.)
  3. Be sure to use natural, easy-to-understand language that conveys the message of your website and includes keyword phrases you’d like your site to rank highly for.
  4. Make sure your Title tags and link anchor text all jibe with the visible content on the page.
  5. Be patient! You knew I’d end with that one, but with Google’s aging delay in place for new sites, patience is more important than ever. It’s most likely going to be a good 9 months before you start seeing much (if any) traffic from Google’s natural results. Don’t be discouraged, but instead use that time to constantly make your site better than the other guy’s.

Remember, you are working toward the future. Good placement achieved by doing things the right way will have staying power over time with very little additional effort. Like everything in life, if you spend the time and money to do it right to begin with, the long-term results will always be impressive.

The Evolution of a Search Marketer by Jill Whalen

March 22, 2008
Today I thought it might be fun to look at the stages people go through in their quest for SEO knowledge.

As with anything you set out to learn in life, you don’t get from point A to point Z without touching upon all those letters in between. This is why every day for the past 7 or 8 years I see the same search engine optimization questions asked over and over again by people in the various stages of learning. The search engines may change through the years, but people just finding out about SEO all tend to go through a similar growth process.

The Submittal Stage

Generally you get interested in search engine marketing after you have a Website created; you’ve got something looking good and open for business. You pay your designer, and suddenly it hits you…now what? How do I get people to actually find and use my site? So you turn to your designer who directs you to your server control panel, which comes with an automated search engine submit button.

The Meta Tag Stage

 

The next day <grin> you wake up and still have no visitors. So you do some research and find out that you need to add keywords to something called Meta tags. You find some automated Meta tag generator online, add its output to your site, and then crank up the automated submissions.

 

Then you wait, and wait, and wait some more.

Hmm…you still have no hits to the ole hit counter (except the daily one from your checking it, and the one from when you sent your old college roommate to see what a great site you have), let alone any sales. So you email your designer again with more questions.

The “It’s Impossible” Stage

Now the designer starts to get all defensive and says, “Oh….you wanted high rankings in the search engines? Well sorry, that’s just impossible, and out of the scope of my services.”

 

You are nearly ready to give up at that point, but you’re no quitter. You decide it can’t really be impossible since somebody’s gotta rank highly in the engines; so you begin your quest for more information. You look up “meta tags” and “submitting to search engines” at Google (because you figured you probably just did yours wrong), and find all kinds of articles that talk about something called “search engine optimization,” aka SEO.

The Confusion Stage

Problem is, you have no idea what these articles are telling you. One of them says you need to make sure you use Meta tags, and another one says that Meta tags are dead. You read that you need high-quality links to your site, but you don’t even know what that means or how you can get them. One article says you need keyword-rich content, but that means about as much to you as the linking thing. Some advice says you absolutely have to pay to be found in the engines, other stuff says it doesn’t cost a thing.

The Trick-the-search-engines Stage

 

The more you read, the more you start to think that there must be some sort of trick to this whole SEO thing. Somehow you have to force the search engines into pulling your site up. You have learned that you need to think about keyword phrases as opposed to keywords, but you’re still not clear about what to do with these phrases.

 

You remember reading about “keyword-rich content” and suddenly it clicks that you need to actually put your phrases on the page somewhere. But you have found so many phrases that you want to rank highly for, and can’t quite figure out how you can get them all on your home page. You wonder if you should just list them somewhere. At the top? At the bottom? In a tiny font size, perhaps? Maybe you should make them blend in with the background of the site, because you really don’t like the way it looks with all those phrases listed like that.

At this point, you’re starting to think you’re pretty smart for figuring that little trick out, and decide to tell some people you met on an SEO forum. Ouch! Apparently, you were not the first to think of this trick, and you got called all sorts of names, like “spammer”! You didn’t even know there was such a thing as search engine spam, but you know that spamming anything can’t be a very good thing to do!

So you start thinking that maybe tricking the search engines isn’t the best way to attack things.

The Learning Stage

You decide to brave the forum again, to see if you can learn what other people do if they’re not tricking the engines. By now, you’ve become intimately familiar with many of the terms people use, and some of the stuff they tell you is beginning to actually make some sense.

What you learn at this point is that you don’t need to put all 50 phrases on the home page, just two or three! Now that seems doable. You also learn that you should use your phrases “naturally” when writing about what you do on every page of your site. Slowly but surely, things start making more sense, and each new tidbit you learn builds on the last one. You learn that the Title tag is also a good place for keyword phrases, and are embarrassed when you look at yours and see that it says, “Welcome to Our Home Page.”

The Quick-fix Stage

You also learn that the search engines prefer to rank the most “popular” sites before the least popular ones, and you learn that they figure out which sites are the most popular by how many sites are linking to them. It makes perfect sense.

You really have no idea how you will get other sites to want to link to yours in order for it to be popular, but you know you’re going to have to come up with some sort of a plan for this. You’re a bit disheartened to think about how much time and effort it’s going to take to become a popular site, so you ask your forum friends if there’s a way to speed things along a bit…like maybe you can all link to each other’s sites?

Ackk…they yell at you again and call you a link farmer.

The Hard-work Phase

Eventually, you reconcile with the fact that you’re gonna have to work hard, just like you did when you first built your business offline. So off you go to make your site the best it can be for the search engines as well as your visitors, and a mature search engine marketer is born!