Search Engine Optimization
Firstly, for those new to this whole “let’s get a website” thing, the definition of SEO, as defined by me.
- Search Engine Optimization. An attempt to maximize where your site shows up in a search engine’s rankings through best practices in both code and content.
There you have it, short and sweet. You want your site to show up as close to #1 on Google’s search results pages as possible, for particular search queries. Reread the highlighted section one more time, and let’s proceed into the realms of “a little more detail.” Note that I’ll refer to Google quite a bit, as opposed to all search engines in general, but these are universal truths I’m talking about here.
What Factors Put a Webpage at the top of a Google Search?
You can read about all the millions of theories on what helps with search result rankings until you’re blue in the face. Websites run by people who make a living selling this advice will talk your ear off about keywords, meta tags, title tags, and backlinks. That’s all fine and well. There are, after all, a plethora of factors that Google applies to ranking a page. However, the majority of these are minutia compared to what really matters, the Big Three, we’ll call them.
This is by far the most important factor in getting yourself to the top of search results pages. You’ll hear it all over the web–“Content is King”–and that’s because it’s the simplest truth available. We all know what good content is, though perhaps we can’t all create it. That novel you just can’t put down, that magazine article you wished you could delay your doctor’s appointment for, or that TV show you never miss, they all get it. Above and beyond any other factor, creating interesting, relevant content to the subject matter at hand is key to what you’re doing. That doesn’t mean you have to be the best writer ever, you just need to be a decent writer, knowledgeable about your subject matter, and willing to create that content on a regular basis. That last bit is key: the more content you have, and the more often you update it, the better your site will fare. Google has always preferred sites with more content over those with less, but recently they’ve decided to place more emphasis on sites that update more regularly over those that simply have more archived content.
Think of getting to the top of a search result’s first page as an election; every link on the Web is like a vote for your site. The more votes you have (ie, the more people linking to your site or page), the higher you climb on the page. However, not all links are created equally: the more popular a site is, the more valuable it’s vote. If a wildly popular site like Amazon.com’s homepage were to link to you, for example, your results would skyrocket, whereas that blog your Grandma started last month to show off her rutabaga recipes and only updated twice before getting bored, if she links to you, it’s barely even a vote. And some links can actually be like negative votes…for example, if you pay certain SEO companies big bucks to “add your link to 250 websites”, well what they’re doing is submitting your site’s URL to a bunch of directory sites, and Google’s staff of geniuses (not to mention staff of robot geniuses) is well aware of when this is happening. Search engines are in the business of weeding out this type of “link SPAM” and they’ve gotten really good at telling the difference between real, organic links, and paid links. No only have they figured out how to tell the difference, they’ve also figured out well and clear how to punish sites for it.
The bronze prize goes to your site’s code and structure in general. With the right HTML, knowledge of how to structure your site’s pages, blog posts and articles, and correct use of XML site maps, you can make it easy on Google and their ilk. Let’s put it this way, when you go to a grocery store, they typically have signs above every aisle telling you what you’ll find in that part of the store. They’ll have the checkout registers clearly marked, most likely the bathrooms and entrances and exits as well. If you’re looking for milk, it’s typically a lot easier to find than “sushi ingredients”. They prioritize the more popular items to serve their customers the best they can. This is what good code does as well; it tells Google where to look for what types of information and the order of importance of that information. While definitely ranking way below content and backlinks in the grand scheme of things, the right code can go a long way, and I’ve personally watched clients’ sites move quickly up the ranks with just this one factor.
The Two Types of SEO: Black Hat and White Hat
While the terms Black Hat and White Hat have largely fallen out of fashion as SEO companies attempt to do whatever they can to get their clients to the top of the search results pages (and charging tons of cash all along the way), they’re still excellent descriptions of the two approaches to SEO.
- Black Hat SEO
- Similar to the “bad guy”, always dressed in black from head to toe in cowboy movies, the Black Hat approach to SEO is to “do whatever it takes to get the job done”, regardless of the ethics involved, and more importantly perhaps, the longevity of the efforts.
- White Hat SEO
- Using best practices to move a site higher in search results listings by emphasizing good content, valid code and following the search engines’ guidelines.
Black Hatters will submit your site to hundreds or thousands of sites at once. They’ll pay for backlinks. They’ll try and stuff your content full of keywords to the point where any human reading it would think it was as redundant as redundant. Sure, you may get a temporary boost in traffic as your site begins to climb in the ranks, but then Google figures out “wait, this site didn’t even exist yesterday, and now it’s #1”. They investigate, discover your trickery, and bada bing bada boom: you’re either severely penalized, landing you on page 1,037, or banned from Google altogether.
I only practice White Hat style SEO. I inform my clients of the three basic factors, take care of most of the other little factors that can be controlled, and provide guidance on how they can grow their site beyond that. The SEO services I offer are simple to understand: Basic SEO Tools and Content Creation.
My SEO Services in a Nutshell
I offer the following SEO services. Nothing more, and nothing less than “Basic” for each and every one of my clients.
Basic SEO Tools, Built into Every Site
This is included with every site I build. With just these, and the advice above, you can soar to #1 if you put the work into it. It’s a simple list:
- Web Standards-compliant, Valid Code. Your site will be coded according to the W3C guidelines and best practices as established by the web design and development community.
- Simple Tools. I build easy-to-use tools right into your site’s Content Management System, giving you control over
<meta description>tags and
- XML Site Maps. Your site will have an XML site map, which is essentially an atlas to let the search engines know where your site’s information is located, every page’s importance, and how it’s related to the rest of the site.
And every bit of that is absolutely free when you get a site built by ClickNathan.com.
I ended up in the wide world of Web Design simply through fate and fortune. It’s been good to me, and I plan to do it for as many years as it proves a fruitful career. That said, my true passion is writing, and I have a natural talent at that very thing. Something about combining nouns, verbs and all of the filler in between just tickles my buttons.
Content Creation is singularly my most popular SEO service. I have a multitude of options available, and more information can be found here.
Content creation services can be as simple as us working on a plan for how you’ll manage creating your own content, to paying me to write for you regularly or even manage it all via your social networks.