SEO: I Make It Work For You

When I founded WhatsNet in 2008, I saw an opportunity to bring the techniques of direct marketing and offline marketing to the online world.

In college, I knew I ultimately wanted a marketing job that would test my creative abilities. After more than a decade in the corporate arena, with positions in a variety of executive retail settings, I taught myself programming, starting with the early days of DOS in 1991. I never looked back.

SEO is a process not a quick fix solution
With SEO, anyone that promises a quick fix solution is kidding you and themselves. Continue to SEO Strategy

Will Google Bring Back Meta Tag Keywords?

If you had to ask any SEO what one of the most overrated and useless SEO tactics of the last decade was, most would respond overwhelmingly: the Meta Keywords tag. The tag has continued to remain a completely useless relic of a bygone era in SEO when keyword over stuffing was the norm. Most people don't even include it in their pages anymore, and for good reason as it's generally a waste of time. But new evidence may suggest that the tag may not be completely ignored by Google as most have believed.

A recent forum thread on High Ranking Forum has discovered Google using the keywords in the tag to fill out internal site search boxes. According to Jill Whalen, she has caught Google filling out her internal forum site search boxes with keyword phrases contained with the Meta Keywords tag. In the case that she describes, Google pulled the entire string of keywords (commas and all) and used that string of words in the internal site search. These searches then generated search results pages which get spidered by Google and then show up in the index.

"Meta keywords contained on a given page does not influence the search results for *that* page. While yes, it may cause Google to do fill out your internal site search page for those phrases, which in turn they index and the resulting page can then be found in the search engines, that seems to be the extent of it." One of the other members in the forum asks whether the search result page that gets indexed is not just a case of some oddball human or robotic third party creating spammy links which Google then follows to find the search result page. Jill doesn't think this is the case, while not 100% she still thinks all signs point to Google here. It will be noted that over the last couple years the search engines themselves have declared the Meta Keywords tag dead on several occasions.

The PR Side of Search Engines

SEO -- search-engine optimization -- is a four-letter word to some, representing the dark arts of manipulating Google and other search engines through blog spamming, keyword stuffing and other odd-sounding activities. But SEO deserves respect, and recent moves by Facebook and The New York Times underscore why it can't be ignored.

Unlike paid search, in which marketers buy links through Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and others, SEO involves tapping into the "free" listings every search engine has. SEO is like PR for search-engine listings. You want a good review about you in a newspaper? A press release, a call to a reporter or other PR tactics can help. Want a good review in the search world in the form of top rankings and traffic? SEO can help. SEO can seem hard. How are you crafting HTML titles? Are you building with a lot of Flash? And some of the guerrilla tactics -- which aren't necessary -- can seem scary. Sure, you could just spend more on paid search -- and if you've got the money, do it. But most searchers are still looking at, and clicking on, the unpaid listings SEO influences. Ignoring SEO is like doing an ad campaign without a PR push alongside.

Still not convinced? Facebook is the current king of the walled garden, holding compelling content locked away from the prying eyes of search engines. Some have even suggested search engines might die as a result. But funny thing: Earlier this month, Facebook announced it had created "public-search listings" for all of its members. Why? So people searching on those soon-to-be-dead search engines will find listings leading to Facebook. Then last week, The New York Times announced premium content would no longer be locked behind a pay wall that search engines cannot penetrate. The Gray Lady was earning $10 million in subscription fees yearly by charging for the content but calculated there was more to be made from advertising if it let all that content be free. It explained: "What wasn't anticipated was the explosion in how much of our traffic would be generated by Google, by Yahoo and some others."
My good friend Marshall Simmonds was certainly anticipating this. He's headed the SEO efforts at The New York Times since he arrived as part of the purchase in 2005. He's generating all that free traffic that has completely changed the paper's business plan. Sure, you can ignore SEO. But you can bet your competitors won't.

The CMS and SEO

If you just read that headline and felt like singing, " CMS and SEO ,
E-I-E-I-O," you're not alone. Sometimes digital marketing is an acronym
factory that feels like you need a secret decoder ring just to
understand what is going on. And even if you know that a "CMS" is a
content management system and that "SEO" is search engine optimization,
you might not know how they relate to each other. Many Web site owners
struggle with the question of whether a CMS is a step that they need to
take, and many more wonder whether adopting a CMS would magically boost
their search marketing.

The truth is that a CMS can be a fantastic thing for SEO, but only if it is done right. If you screw it up, it can take a high-ranking site and turn it into a search ghost town. There are plenty of reasons to use a CMS that have nothing to do with SEO:

  • To standardize the pages of the site
  • To allow nontechnical people to update the site
  • To provide version control for your content
  • To implement an approval process workflow for every site change

These are but a few of the advantages of a CMS. Even looking at that list, you can see how SEO might be aided. Standardizing the pages of the site allows you to create the best template possible for SEO and use it on every page, and nontechnical people (writers) can update the site without screwing up the template. Version control allows you to roll back a change that messed up your SEO to the old version that worked. Your workflow can ensure that every site change is reviewed by the SEO person, so that mistakes in the use of keywords and other content can be caught before they go into production. These are all great things, but there is a downside, too. Many content management systems have perfectly awful default settings, when it comes to SEO. They don't include description tags in the template, or they force all pages to have the same title, or they create dynamic URLs, or they block content from crawling, or they produce duplicate content, and 20 other problems.So, when you make the decision to use a CMS, and it's still a good decision for all the reasons above, take special care to have an expert configure your installation so that you avoid these SEO problems and instead reap the benefits.


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