Friday, October 28, 2005

Search Engine Optimization or SEO and You

It became apparent when I first built my web site that people doing searches had to be able to find it on the search engines using relevant keyword searches. That was almost seven years ago. I read all I could on the subject of search engine optimization or SEO. This included sites devoted to the subject, newsletters and forums.

Well what have I learned? If you want to be ranked highly in the organic or non-paid search results you had to follow certain guidelines to make your site search engine friendly. Seven years ago the search landscape was much different than today. Google was just an infant. Search engines came and went. They merged or used each others results. Change was, and still is, the norm. They eventually evolved into what we have today, the big three, Google, Yahoo and MSN.

What amazes me today is how little site owners and webmasters use proven SEO practices as part of their site design. When you mention search engine marketing they usually think of paid search or pay-per-click. You still have webmasters using all flash sites, title tags that say "Home", and who exhibit a total disregard for simple SEO practices. I have read recently that even when given recommendations by SEO marketers their advice is often not followed by site owners or IT managers.

Part of the problem might be that SEO is difficult and practices must be constantly adjusted to meet new challenges. One way to do this is not to put all your eggs in one basket. It doesn't matter whether that basket is a certain search engine or a particular group of keyword phrases. Also as many SEO experts say, "relevant and original content is king". This is true, however, off site practices are also important such as relevant inbound links and other marketing practices.

Something else that amazes me is that there is so much emphasis by the search engines on who has the largest data base or pages indexed. The problem here is that people generally only look at the first page of search results. Some even only the first listing on that page! Well that means that only the first ten sites out of millions are even looked at by potential customers. So what difference does the rest of the listed pages really make? Maybe searchers will become more sophisticated and use more than a two or three word phrase to search. Or maybe local search (using a place name in the query string) will become more popular with time. Both of these developments should be important to site designers.

The bottom line is that basic SEO is simple and should be used by all site designers. Simple SEO doesn't cost a thing. Also the search landscape is constantly changing. Sites need to be constantly updated not only for the search engines but for their visitors. Fresh content is important. Lastly I hope that organic search will remain a part of the Internet. If it is eliminated completely I think we all will suffer a great loss.

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