Welcome to my series of notebooks on Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. No, I am no expert- I’m just a regular dude trying to understand this entirely new craft. These notebooks are for fellow “newbies” at SEO. I’ve compiled these notes, partially from what I do at work (developing content and optimizing sites for an Australian-based online retailer), but more from personal research, and to a lesser extent, what I have observed thus far.
Comments and questions are welcome. I will do my best to answer them, or at least point you to where you can get your answers.
Our previous post dealt with a brief overview on Search Engine Optimization. This is Part 2 of the ongoing SEO Notebook Project, which will cover a brief history of SEO, and SEO as a marketing tool.
A Short History of SEO
It used to be that webmasters submit their pages or URL’s to various search engines, which would then send a spider to “crawl” the page, then come back with the information and get everything indexed.
After a while, site owners then recognized the value of having their sites highly ranked and visible. So in order to boost visibility and to gain better placement in search engine results pages, white hat and black hat SEO practitioners were then employed.
Now you have to remember that back then, search algorithms mostly relied on webmaster-provided information (meta tags), so many early SEO practitioners abused this particular dependence to artificially increase page impressions (and therefore increase ad revenue). But now, search engines have become a lot more sophisticated, developing ranking algorithms that take into account other things that webmasters can’t readily manipulate.
Then came the concept of page rank: an algorithm that rates the prominence of web pages based on the quantity and strength of inbound links: links coming into your site from other sites. It is all about discoverability– the likelihood of some surfer randomly surfing the web to check out your site, because he followed links from some other site.
Google entered the picture, considering not just PageRank and hyperlink analysis, but also other on-page factors. In fact, the true formula to coming up with the page rank can change from time to time, and usually without the knowledge of the general public, even SEO practitioners.
In any case, Google, Yahoo and MSN Live don’t fully disclose any of these other considerations and on-page factors, so schemes like link farms don’t have much of an impact anymore.
If you want to read up on notable SEO’s, you may want to look up these guys: Rand Fishkin, Barry Schwartz, Aaron Wall and Jill Whalen. Look them up, and check out their forums and blogs.
A Note On Webmasters and Search Engines
There seems to be a developing relationship between Search engines and the SEO industry, with a push towards more responsible optimization activity. In fact, some search engines have already provided information and guidelines to help with site optimization.
Check Google’s Sitemaps Program. Also, Yahoo! Site Explorer lets webmasters submit URLs, determine how many pages are in the Yahoo! index and view link information.
SEO as a Marketing Strategy
Fact: Researchers scan a SERP from top to bottom, and left to right. So placement is key.
But the number of search engine referrals does not guarantee sales. In fact, SEO might not be an appropriate strategy for every website, so other Internet Marketing strategies may actually be more effective- depending on your goals.
Successful Internet Marketing campaign uses a mix of organic results + paid advertising on search engines/other pages + high quality content + keeping tech issues to a minimum + good analytics program.
In addition to generating traffic and boosting page rank for your site, there must be an effort to always improve your site’s conversion rate- so it really is all about being able to engage your incoming traffic into getting them to do what you want them to do: sign up for a service, purchase something, leave a few posts, click on a few links, etc.
Website operators should liberate themselves from dependence on search engine traffic (because many do), because in reality, their main sources of traffic are links from other websites.
SEO and International Markets
Take note: While Google, Yahoo and MSN may be your top 3 search engines, other search engines could actually be better in some regions in the world.
We all know that Google remains the dominant search engine worldwide as of 2007, with more than 75% of all searches. But did you know that…
- In Russia, Yandex controls 50% of the paid advertising revenue.
- In China, Baidu leads in market share.
When tapping international markets, you may consider translation of web pages, registration of a domain name (with a top level domain in the target market), and web hosting that provides a local IP address.
Otherwise, the fundamental elements of SEO are essentially the same, regardless of language.
More SEO topics for discussion later on. Part 3 of the ongoing SEO Notebook Project will cover SEO basics, or How To Improve Your Page Ranking.