Search Engine Optimization Basics

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Search engine optimization in a nutshell
What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search Engines and Placement
How to Identify Fraudulent SEO Services
What to Look for in an SEO Service
How Do You Know If a Company Provides Helpful Search Engine Optimization?

Search engine optimization in a nutshell

Before you spend a dime on search engine optimization, try these five basic SEO steps. Or if you prefer to stay miles away from the process and have somebody else do it for you, read this page and then Contact Us:

1) Fill your website with as much USEFUL information as you possibly can. Be relevant, informative, and helpful.

2) Think about the search terms for which you'd like a good search engine ranking and include those search terms in your text. For example, if you want to show up when people search for "whale doctor in Boston" then use the words "whale doctor" and "Boston" in your text several times.

3) Try to get other sites to link to you. If there's a trade organization for your line of business and they offer website listings, then try to get them to list your name, address, and web address. STAY AWAY from sites that simply sell links to your site.

4) Get some good analytic software to track how your site is being used and how people are finding it. Google Analytics is free and very good. Use it.

5) Be patient. After applying these steps, give it a few months before you throw in the towel. It takes time for search engines to add you to their registries.

That's pretty much it. There's some other stuff you can do, like submitting to search engines (though you'll eventually get listed anyway) or discerning which terms are most likely to be searched, and you can read more about it in the section What to Look for in an SEO Service. engines are the final word on the placement of any website. Trying to cheat the system can get you booted from the search engine registry. So be honest.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

Search Engine Optimization is the practice of helping your site achieve the highest search engine placement possible for a set of search terms. The hope is that doing this will increase the number of visitors to your website.

WARNING: Search Engine Optimization is a dangerous combination of "highly desired" and "veiled in misinformation." So there are a lot of companies that prey on the misinformation to sell fraudulent goods. These companies have tarnished what could be a very helpful and honest service. There are plenty of helpful and honest SEO companies out there, but it's very hard to distinguish between the good and the bad.

If you're thinking about SEO service, then be prepared to hear horror stories about how your site will languish unused without search engine optimization. Take this with a few grains of salt and then take your time to make an informed decision. Talk to other website owners who have tried purchasing search engine optimization and find out how it worked for them. Take Your Time.

Search Engines and Placement

Search engines are designed to help web users find information. They're not designed for businesses who want to be found.

Search engines have BILLIONS of dollars riding on their ability to deliver relevant search results to web users. So one must ask ones self "Do search engines want Bob's SEO service to decide who gets top placement or do they want to decide that for themselves?"

Bingo...their placement methods and algorithms are highly proprietary and closely guarded secrets. If somebody doing SEO claims to know "secrets" about how a search engine classifies listings, they're either lying, misinformed, or sorely underpaid.

How to Identify Fraudulent SEO Services

See what Google has to say about SEO

  • Sends spam about SEO. A good rule of thumb is, if a service sends you unsolicited e-mail (spam) about improving your search engine placement, be wary. Unsolicited e-mail itself is considered an unwholesome (and in some states ILLEGAL) practice costing the recipients of the ad more in time than the actual sender of the ad. A company that engages in this practice is likely to have a similar philosophy about search engine optimization.
  • Uses long, obscure search terms to show results.If a company shows examples of success but uses long, obscure search terms in those examples, that's a red flag. This is a common parlor trick fraudulent SEO companies use to show their success. If you find the right combination of words, you can make just about any site seem like it gets high search engine rankings. This site is ranked high on Google and Yahoo with the phrase CMS adding content and pages to a website with little technical experience but it's very unlikely that anybody will actually search for that string of words. So it's meaningless.
  • Sells links on internet directories. If a company talks about creating a set number of links to your site, that's an attempt to trick search engines into thinking your site is more popular than it is. This can get your domain banned from search engines. It doesn't matter how it's done, automatically or "by hand," any attempt to defraud search engines is potentially harmful for your website. It's true that search engines claim to weigh your site's value by how many people have linked to it. And it's wise to try to get people to link to your site. But services that sell you a number of links are trying to trick the system, and that can get you banned.
  • Guarantees ranking. Ranking is in nobody's control but the search engine. A guarantee of ranking is a red flag.
  • Doesn't explain what they do. If a company doesn't disclose how they help you with search engine optimization, walk away.
  • Uses shadow domains. These are domains owned by the SEO that will redirect to your site. If the relationship with the SEO sours, they can redirect the shadow domain to the site of their choice, even one of your competitors as a way to threaten you into using their service
  • Uses doorway pages.This is another way to defraud the search engines into thinking your site is more relevant than it is and can get you banned. They siphon off any link popularity your site may accumulate over time and they are often loaded with hidden links to the SEO's other clients or to the SEO company itself, enhancing its own popularity on your dime, while you shoulder the risk.
  • Changes names frequently. If an SEO company frequently changes names, it's a bad sign.
  • Is overly aggressive. High pressure sales tactics are often used by fraudulent SEO companies, and they can even become mean. If they don't take the time to clearly explain what they do, if they won't give you time to make a decision, or if they insist that your site will fail without Search Engine Optimization, then walk away. There is no shortage of companies that can help you and be polite about it.

What to Look for in an SEO Service

Many honest SEO services have their own way of working their mojo. They may not do all of the following, and they may do more than what's listed here. (Note that if a company engages in even one of the negative practices listed above, that should override your decision to use them no matter how many of the positive practices they use.)

What follows is simply a list of common practices that are considered "good."

  • Provides a report of common search terms. Many SEO companies will provide a list of search terms that might be relevant to your organization. The list will indicate how many times web users searched for each phrase during a period of time. You're looking for the right mix of relevant search terms, common search terms, and search terms that aren't overly competitive or too general.
  • Talks about using desired search terms in your web site's content. Search engines are much smarter than they used to be. Once upon a time they classified your site based on its Meta Tags (a list of desired search terms in the HTML code). Nowadays they look at the actual content of your site to determine placement. So it's a good idea to use the desired search terms in the body text of your site.
  • Talks about relevance. Put simply, if your site is about coffee, then talk about coffee.
  • Helps you get real links to your site. Get as many honest links to your site as possible. If you're a member of the local chamber of commerce, then ask them to link to your site. If you're a member of any associations, ask those associations to link to your site. If you're partners with other companies, ask those companies to link to your site. But remember, don't try to defraud by creating or hiring a set of fake sites that exist for the sole purpose of linking the to your real site.
  • Doesn't guarantee results. An SEO service will acknowledge that only the search engines themselves have power over placement, so an SEO company can't guarantee results. There's enormous pressure on them to guarantee results, and they very much WANT to guarantee results. But they can't.
  • Talks about submitting your domain to search engines. Many search engines will eventually find your URL and list it. To expedite this process, it helps to submit your domain to search engines. In most cases, this is something you can do yourself for free if you want to do the footwork. Often, a company can submit your web address to search engines and request that it be classified under a set of search terms. Whether search engines grant those requests is entirely up to them.
  • Offers progress reports. An SEO company can generate regular reports to show how your site fares with a set of search terms. Reports will often show your site ranking for each term and for a set of popular search engines. If you receive regular reports they can often tell you if you've gone up or gone down in rank since the last period. Remember that your SEO is competing with other like-services worldwide, so it's not uncommon to see your ranking go up and down.

Remember...Search Engines are designed for web users who are looking for stuff. They're not designed for businesses that want to be found. If you're looking to increase traffic to your website, there are other practices that will deliver more results for a lower investment than search engine optimization. Search engines aren't the end all, be all of generating web traffic. In fact, direct navigation (typing your web address into the browser) is consistently found to be a significant source of web referrals.

How Do You Know If a Company Provides Helpful Search Engine Optimization?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can help increase your site's visit rates. But there's a lot of mis-information about SEO and a lot of companies that charge for unhelpful or even harmful SEO practices. Harmful SEO practices can cost you a lot of money with no hope of benefit, or could even get your site dropped from search engine results altogether.

Let us help you weed the good from the bad. This is a free service we offer as a courtesy to our clients and the web community to protect them from fraudulent or harmful services. If you're considering purchasing Search Engine Optimization, contact us first for a free evaluation of the company you're considering. We don't comment on the company's pricing and we don't suggest companies that you should use. We simply review the SEO practices of the company you're looking into and make a recommendation.

We don't do Search Engine Optimization, and we don't have partners that offer SEO services. Why? Because our clients and others need a resource that will give them unbiased information about search engine optimization.