SEO : Billco Style!

A huge portion of the blogosphere out there is dedicated to SEO : Search Engine Optimization, aka tweaking your site to get better ranking on Google and friends. Well here’s the thing, most of them regurgigate the same half-truths, very few people really know what works and what doesn’t, and frankly the bulk of it is just common sense. The sad reality is that common sense ain’t so common, and most people on the internet are, by virtue of the bell curve, terminally stupid. Here’s my short and sweet take on SEO.

  1. Fix your template

    The Problem: When a person surfs the web, they see structured pages with paragraphs, images, and cute little CSS embellishments. When a search spider surfs the web, they see the HTML code behind that page. At this point I don’t think they bother even reading the CSS, they just want the actual text. They look at your paragraphs, any H1/H2 headings, metadata in the <HEAD> section, ALT tags on images, and that’s about it.

    The Solution: Make sure all your titles are tagged as H1, and your subtitles as H2 / H3 and so on. Try to push the actual content near the top of the HTML file, and move the functional or decorative bits of code to the bottom. You can reposition them with CSS later. This also counts for fancy navigational menus – get those piles of links down to the bottom so that Google can see your topical content near the beginning.

    Why: This is how I code my stuff, most of the time. With this step alone, many of my clients’ sites get good ranking because it makes the pages “easy to read” for a spider so they get the gist of it and don’t miss anything important.

  2. Don’t write bullshit

    The Problem: Search engines look at keywords and phrases on your site, and they also look at who links to you and what they say in/around those links. For example, if I search for “inbred swine” and your page is called “inbred swine”, things are looking good. If someone else links to your page and the link is called “A page about inbred swine”, well Chuck we have ourselves a winner. But if the page is called “top 100 SEO blogs” and people link to you as “another fuckin’ 3rd world spam blogger”, chances are your page will never be found.

    The Solution: Write about what you know, and try to make it interesting so that people who do stumble across your site will think “hey I really liked this article”, and bookmark it, link it from their blog, submit it to Digg/Reddit/Delicious/Facebook etc. Your online reputation has a significant impact on your search rankings, and the algorithms to decipher that rep are very sophisticated. Don’t think you can game the system by copying other people’s content and shoving a ton of unrelated keywords in your page – modern spiders are way smarter than that.

  3. Stop reading SEO blogs

    The Problem: They fill your head with ideas, tricks and cheats. Some of them are clever and useful, but the catch is that spiders are constantly evolving. The tricks that worked last year probably don’t help anymore today, and they might actually hurt your ranking if the practice was deemed sneaky or dishonest. Do you think Google sits around all day letting their search technology rot ? No, they’re tweaking the algorithms every day, like a cat and mouse game with the evil SEO cheaters.

    The Solution: Google wants the quality sites to rise to the top, and the bad guys to fuck off and die. This means you should focus on writing quality content. DUH! Just do what you do best. If you write good material, and make it machine-accessible, the spiders will take care of you for years to come. If you rely on dirty SEO tricks, you might get a high rank this week, but next week you just might fall off the results page entirely.

Now, was that simple enough ? I seriously do not bother with all this talk about keyword density and whatnot. If I know a page isn’t getting the results it deserves, I might slightly alter the title to be more descriptive, but I won’t spend more than 5 minutes on it. If you’re willing to spend hours each week monitoring your keywords and stuffing your pages with crap, I’d rather see you spend that time writing fresh content for me to read. Ideally, once you’ve scored a search visitor, you want them to stick around and bookmark you (or your RSS feed). I don’t use Google to find sites I already know about, I just search my massive list of bookmarks.

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