Rising Above the SEO ReputationWritten by Kalena Jordan
How many times have you seen an article referring to SEO (search engine optimization) as a "Black Art" or "underhanded", "manipulative", "sleazy", "deceptive", "sneaky" etc?. I could go on and on but you get my drift. The thing is - our industry has a pitiful reputation which is being reinforced on a daily basis by media and word of mouth.
This realization hit me between eyes recently when I read a comment in a search engine forum from an SEO who claimed he used his ethical SEO methods as a Unique Selling Point. Look what we've been reduced to - differentiating ourselves from masses because we DON'T break rules. What other industry could boast such a thing? Apart from used car industry, I can't really think of any.
So where did this nasty reputation come from and why has it been allowed to propogate? Well, it's mainly care of hundreds of cowboys out there who decide one day they are online marketing experts, announce themselves as SEO's and set up a backyard biz, deciding (naively) that fastest way to achieve high rankings is to break rules, "crack" search engine algorithms and undermine search indexes by generating pages and pages of search engine spam. They do this by creating doorway pages designed for search engine spiders rather than humans, complete with hidden text, hidden links, cloaking and lots of other "tricks" they come across as they surf Internet.
Problem is these self-proclaimed experts don't bother to do their research and learn that such spamming techniques have long been ineffective. Nearly all search engines these days have sophisticated methods of detecting and removing spam within days of receiving submissions. Penalties for spamming search engines differ from engine to engine, but can range from being "red flagged" and put on a watch list, to being hit with a ranking penalty, to having your site permanently banned from their index (in severe cases). The type of scumbag SEO's that would play Russian Roulette with their client's web sites in this fashion are well-deserving of scorn. It can take months for search engines to lift such penalties, if they decide to at all.
While ineffective, such search engine spamming techniques have defined reputation of search engine optimization industry to date. In turn, this reputation is eroding business for so-called "ethical" SEO's - a term I use loosely to describe SEO's that don't try to undermine search engine indexes when optimizing web sites. Actually, I'm not really comfortable with term "ethics" to describe SEO. Until industry establishes and accepts a standardized Code of Practice, we are just measuring others by our own personal standards and a set of arbitrary rules. But SEO's I'm talking about strive to keep search results as relevant as possible by revising visible site content and following guidelines set down by search engines in optimization process. Some SEO's call this "White Magic SEO" - a tongue in cheek response to "Black Magic" jibes I guess.
A Theme-Based Website, Part 2- Choose A Theme And Sub-TopicsWritten by Julie Georg
In part 1, I said that a theme-based website is a site based on a single theme or concept. Every page of site concentrates on a single topic that is related to theme. Each page delivers great content on it's topic. We know this type of site scores with search engines because it adds value to their search results. It also scores with visitors who are finding valuable information they were looking for. And it scores for merchants you represent because it will deliver ready to buy visitors to their sites. And, of course, you score with big commission checks.
I'm ready to build a theme-based site. What do I do first? Choose a theme, of course! For some, this may be very easy. But, some of us might not have slightest idea what we could offer that would be of value to others. Let's brainstorm a bit. Are you an expert in your field with lots of information to share? Do you have a hobby that you're passionate about? A favorite subject you love to read about? Work experience from a current or previous job? Think about your strengths. What do others come to you for? Do you, or could you, offer a service? Ask your friends and relatives. Others may see something that is not so obvious to you. Don't make mistake of thinking your theme must be something "big" and "important". Believe me, many more people are looking for information on "fly fishing" than "rocket science"!
Once you have an idea (or two!) for a theme it's time to think about related topics. Remember, your site is going to consist of pages that offer content, each on a specific topic that is related to your theme. Back to example of my "Italian cooking" theme. Possible topics included "Italian chefs", "Italian specialty foods", "Italian cooking methods", Italian cookware", etc. I want as many related topics as I can find. I want to build a substantial site, offering my visitors what they are looking for, lots of valuable content. And lets not forget search engines. I want to be sure their spiders are finding lots of related keywords so that I'm ranked high in their search results.
Now, I can come up with some topics off top of my head. But I've only thought of a few, and how do I know if these are topics that people will actually search for on Net? Luckily there are ways to discover both new ideas for topics AND if people are going to find you by searching for them. What I'm going to do is use a "keyword research" tool. These can be found at some of engines like Overture or 7Search. Some pay-per-click advertising providers also have a keyword search tool, like Brainfox and Google's Adwords. If I use SiteBuildIt! to build my site, I have Manager which does all keyword searching and brainstorming for me, as well as showing profitability for each keyword. (You can see screenshots of Manager in action by downloading free SBI! Make Your SitePresell.. http://freetrial.sitesell.com/assist3.html ).