What’s What With SEO?

Ever since the Internet was born, search engine optimization (SEO) has been regarded as the holy grail of online success. With it, a website owner can generate a position on the search engines and get down to the business of doing business online.

Before the year 2000, the process of SEO was relatively simple, since everything the search engines used to determine who came out on top was contained on your website. However, since the advent of such tools as social networking, blogging, podcasts and online video, the definition of SEO has radically changed.


The Good Old Days

462419815Way back in the dark days before 2001, it was relatively simple to generate page-one rankings on search engines sporting colorful names such as LookSmart, Infoseek, HotBot, and Excite—in as little as 24 hours.

All search engines relied on embedded Meta and Alt tags to tell them what your site was all about. They also glossed over the text and links that adorned your homepage to determine your search-worthiness.

Back then there were no such things as blogs or social networks. Not only was video a non-starter, since most web surfing was still being done via dial-up connection, it was also a non-player. In 2001 you had to be careful your website wasn’t too graphically intense, since this could cause it to load like molasses in January.

The search engine spiders themselves weren’t all that smart back then either, and the algorithms they used were rudimentary at best. This opened the door to optimizers who could use underhanded tactics such as keyword stuffing, invisible text, and link farms to make their clients’ sites seem more search worthy. Thus was born the first wave of black hat tactics.


The Shape of Things to Come

Today’s search engine spiders aren’t so simplistic. Not only can they read everything from websites to blogs and social posts, they can also understand what they have read. (The only things they still can’t understand are graphics or videos.) More importantly, search engine operators have made it their mission to search out and destroy black hat operators.

Today, search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing are mostly concerned with quality content, delivered on a timely basis. This content needs to be diversified (web pages, blogs, social media, videos etc…) and it needs to be highly relevant to the keyword or phrase that is being searched.

If you meet these criteria you will be rewarded, assuming your competition is not better at it than you. If you ignore these items then your chances of showing up on page one are slim at best.


Is On-Site SEO Dead?

With all these changes, I am often asked, “Is web page optimization still important?” My answer is: “Absolutely.”

Many search engines still care about properly formatted Meta and Alt tags. Although this only accounts for a small portion of the overall score, it is still important due to relevance.

If this on-site information is incorrect, missing, or doesn’t match the content, search engines will either ignore or misinterpret your site and rank it low or not at all. Either way it means bad news for your ability to work the web.

Make sure your on-page tags and text are formatted to match the content and keywords you desire. Make sure all images and embedded videos are tagged as well. Otherwise your quest to be on page one will end before it begins.


SEO is a Misnomer

Search Engine Optimization has changed so radically over the past five years that it deserves another term. I call it SEM for Search Engine Marketing.

101790897SEM includes your website plus your blog posts, social posts, online PR posts, podcasts and videos. In essence, SEM encompasses all of your web content combined.

SEM is designed to provide high-quality search content in order to achieve a high ranking. In other words, your success or failure online is predicated on doing what the search engines want, not trying to trick them into giving you a better ranking.

Gone are the days when you could easily trick the search engines in order to get a high ranking. Google, for example, now employs a multi-tier approach to detect most trickery.

Google’s new algorithms penalize anyone that uses black hat techniques. On top of that it has hired website evaluators to manually check any sites, posts or back links that are flagged by the bots.

If Google catches you cheating it can do anything from downgrade your ranking to remove you from the search engine. (This can also happen with YouTube videos.)

Cheating Google no longer means just a slap on the wrist. It can mean banishment!


How Can SEM Help You Gain the Upper Hand?

A decade ago, posting a properly optimized website was all it took to achieve ranking. But today’s Internet audience is far more savvy and sophisticated. Today’s web surfers prefer video, podcasts and photos to text, provided they can find your content at all.

If you have a video buried on page three of your site or buried below the fold, it is unlikely that it will be viewed. That’s a shame since videos have an 80 percent probability of being viewed as long as they are highly visible.

Blog posts can also garner strong position in Google rankings. (This is particularly true if you use Blogger, the free blogging platform owned by Google.) Google also loves web pages that receive lots of positive ratings, especially on Google Local.

So, while SEO is not dead, it has changed so radically in the past few years that it is practically an entirely different organism. If you absolutely positively need to be on page one you need to adjust your approach. Create compelling content that both the search engines and the public want to view.


carleadshotCarl Weiss is CEO of Working the Web to Win, a digital marketing agency in Jacksonville, Florida. You can interface with Carl every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern when he airs his radio show on Blog Talk Radio.


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