Hello, my name is Brian and I’m new to the SEER team and new to the world of SEO. I first stumbled upon SEO while contemplating web design as a new career. However, with each website idea, the same problem kept arising, “even if I created the most beautiful website ever, only my friends would see it. How do I get strangers to find it?” Well, now after just 6 weeks with SEER Interactive, I believe I have my answer, the secret, the special ingredient every lonely website has been hoping would magically find its way to them. I'm happy to share this "secret" and will reveal it in this post, but first it's important to explain the events that led me to it. Oddly enough, it didn't happen in the office or even in front of a computer. It came to me when I was forced to explain what, in my opinion, I believed to be the most basic SEO principles, which I've listed below. It came to me over holiday break...
This December 25th I was at my family’s annual Christmas party. This isn’t just any Christmas party. My last name is Donohue, which means my father was 1 of 10. So, with about 30 cousins and countless offspring, this is one massive group. With any large group of extended family or friends that you only see a few times a year, the same questions are bound to arise in each conversation as you attempt to catch up on everyone’s lives. Here is a paraphrased conversation, with my responses omitted, that I had multiple times over the holidays.
“Heard you got a new job? SEO, what’s that? Hey I have a website I’ve been working on, how do I get it to be #1? I’m not sure, I never thought about that, what does that mean? Oh, ok… well there must be something. Just give me the 3 things I can do right away when I get home later that will put me on top. I’m confused. Ok, how about the one thing, like the secret one thing I can do? Oh, that’s not what I was expecting. So much for my dream to get rich quick. Let’s get some more eggnog!”
If you’re an SEO professional, you may have had a similar conversation before and can easily remember how you responded to the same questions. Perhaps, with more experience and better salesmanship, your answers were better than mine. With time, my responses will improve, but the situation got me to think about what I’ve learned thus far. Here are a few basic principles that I’ve come across while learning SEO. Some of this may seem simple to a seasoned SEO professional, but these are actual things that your neighbor or friend with no SEO knowledge hasn't even considered.
- Treat your backlinks like your children. Would you send little Ralphie outside in the middle of winter without a coat? No! So don’t do it to your backlinks! Dress them up in the warmest anchor text you can find. Your link won’t be as valuable if you have “click here” as the anchor text. You want your children to succeed, be happy and healthy. The same goes for your backlinks. Know your target keywords and use those as your anchor text. Once they’re out there, don’t forget about them. Check up on them to make sure they are still active, still followed, and are pointing to the right page. You’d make sure your children are safe, healthy, and pointed in the right direction, wouldn’t you?
- It’s ok to peak at your classmate’s test answers. In school we would be punished if we were caught looking at any exam other than our own. This isn’t school, this is the internet. Your competitors already took the time to do research, find backlinks, and optimize their websites. Save yourself some time by looking at what they’ve done and then copy them. If they have a backlink from a valuable blog, maybe you can get one from that same blog. Once you have leveled the playing field, you’ll also be able to point out what your competitors did wrong or haven’t done yet. Pounce on those opportunities so you can get ahead, and then you’ll be the smart kid in class everybody wants to sit next to.
- Have patience, manage your expectations, and be practical. Let’s pretend you started holding on to your friends’ money for them, even gave one of them a small loan, and decided to make a website for your services. If you really believe that your day-old website deserves to out-rank financial giants like Bank of America and Wells Fargo for the keyword “bank” then you’re going to have some frustrating days ahead of you. It’s great to dream big and go for the top, but be realistic and start small. Try more specific long tail keywords. Once you’ve built up your brand a bit, then perhaps you can start thinking about those primetime keywords.
- Stay fresh. If you’re looking in the refrigerator and there are 2 cartons of milk, one brand new and the other 3 months expired, which one are you going to drink? Google likes freshness too. Just because you finally got your website up, it doesn’t mean your work is done and your website is good forever. Your competitors are adding new content regularly, updating their strategies, tweeting about every new blog post, and 301 redirecting defunct pages to new ones. If you want to beat them then you need to keep up. Nobody is searching for your event from 6 years ago and the more times I visit your blog only to find the same old post, the more likely I am to stop visiting. Keep it fresh!
- Be who you say you are. Google wants to provide the most relevant websites for the keyword you searched. If you keep blogging about surfing on your auto parts website, people will be confused why Google has brought them surfing stories when all they wanted was to buy new tires. They will immediately leave your site and then Google will realize you’re not relevant for that keyword and you’ll drop in the rankings. This same principle applies to who you are getting your links from. A link from a well-known car enthusiast’s blog will be more valuable to your auto parts website than a link from Nana’s Blankets or Tom’s Turtle Farm. Be consistent. Decide who you are and stick to it, Google will appreciate it.
These are only 5 principles. There are many more, but at this point you may be drowning in analogies, so I’ll get back to the answer that I ultimately gave to many people over the holidays asking for THE SECRET TO SEARCH ENGINE RANKINGS. Drum roll please…..in just 1 word, the secret is….
Sorry folks, I know you’re disappointed, but the sooner you come to terms with it, the sooner you can wake up and go get yourself some rankings. This is a new year, a time when we make resolutions, reposition our focus, and get back to grips with reality. We finally stop waiting for that magic pill that will make us fit and beautiful (cake doesn’t make me skinny?) and instead reacquaint ourselves with the gym. We stop day dreaming about what we will do when we win the lottery (this is the winner, I just know it!) and actually figure out a budget and ways to save money. Basically, we have to stop waiting for good things to come to us. Sure you could be the lucky winner, but if you want something, you can’t sit and wait, you need to go get it. SEO is the same way. You may find some quick wins for links (directories?), but there is no secret formula that will vault you to the top of the rankings by week’s end. The search engine landscape changes every day. You have to put in the time to research, implement, and research again. So make it your new year’s resolution to put the work in, remember the basic principles, and earn your way to #1.
As for that old friend that won’t settle for your “hard work pays off” answer, just hit him with one of the 5 basic principles above. They’re simple enough for anybody to understand, yet important enough that it will actually improve their website. They get their answer and you can get back to your eggnog.
Happy New Year! Now, get back to work.