Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How To Do Your Own Search Engine Optimization and Avoid Being Taken To The Cleaners By Search Engine Optimization Scams

As a web site designer, search engine optimizer and owner of several large, successful pet-related web site directories for more than 10 years, I've seen many, many changes with search engines over the past decade.

The Evolution of Search Engines in the 21st Century
In the early days of the Internet, when the general public was just starting to go online, getting your web site ranked high on the search engines was fairly easy; just plunk in a few meta tags and keywords and you were off to the races.

Unfortunately, as more and more web sites started vying for the top search engine positions, many web site developers began using underhanded tricks to get top listings, such as "keyword spamming" (loading each page with hundreds of instances of the same search words), hiding search word text on each page by making it the same color as the page background, creating "doorway pages" to rank high on the search engines, but with no useful content, using automated redirection scripts to ping visitors from an optimized doorway page to their actual page, and other tricks too numerous to mention here.

This created problems for people searching for information online; the search results returned were often irrelevant to what they were seeking. The top search positions were being held by the web site with the craftiest webmaster, stuffing his or her web site with every possible search term related - and often not related - to their web site.

As a result, the search engines, in order to keep their visitors happy and deliver relevant information, have become more sophisticated, and webmasters need to be more sophisticated in their search engine optimization measures if they want to obtain - and keep - a high ranking on the search engines.

Fortunately, good search engine optimization is not "rocket science". It does not require a degree in computer science, and it is definitely something that everyone with a web site, a few online tools, and patience and perseverance can achieve.
Good search engine optimization is simple; provide a web site that is easy to navigate, has a clearly defined hierarchy of internal links, provides useful, well-written content, does not include humongous image files, java scripts, or other bells and whistles, and follows a few rules for proper search engine optimization.

Search Engine "Snake Oil Salesmen"

Unfortunately, most well-intentioned web site owners do not realize that achieving a high search engine ranking is a non-technical aspiration. This common goal of almost every web site owner has spawned a huge industry unto itself; the Search Engine Optimization Industry. Like any industry, this one has it's honest members, and it's not-so-honest members (to put it lightly).

The honest ones will usually tell you up-front, pretty-well everything I've mentioned above, but the dishonest ones (who shall go nameless, since they are scamming people for so much money they could easily afford to sue my pants off) would have you believe that you need to pay them hundreds of dollars per month to "put" your web site on the search engines - and keep paying them money if you wanted them to "keep" your web site on the search engines.

As an example, an elderly client of mine who breeds purebred Cavalier King Charles Spaniels as a hobby received a telephone call from just such a service. A very pushy, ill-mannered woman called my client to inform her that her web site "was not listed on the search engines". She had my client go to a few of the major search engines and type in "Cavalier King Charles Spaniel". Obviously my client's web site did not show up in the top 20 listings, which put her into something of a panic. The "search engine optimizer" then informed my client that she could "put" the web site on the search engines for an initial start-up fee of $299.95 and "keep" the site there for a monthly sum of just $129.95. My client signed up on the spot, and gave the woman her credit card information.

What the search engine optimizer failed to tell my client, was that her web site was listed in the top 5 on Google, Yahoo, MSN, Infoseek, AOL and other search engines for the search terms "Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Puppies", "Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Breeder", "Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Dogs", "Cavalier Puppies", "Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Puppies For Sale", "AKC Cavalier King Charles Spaniels" and a bunch of other more specifically targeted key word phrases. (These are what I had optimized the web site for when I created it). Fortunately, the "search engine optimizers" had to go through me to obtain my clients web site login and password in order to "optimize" her web site, and I told them "where to go and how to get there", without mincing words. They reversed the charges on my client's credit card, and she was saved from throwing away more than a thousand dollars a year for nonsense.

I've heard this same scenario over and over again from new clients who have fallen victim before they met me, and I shudder to think of how many people, who can ill-afford to, have thrown away hard-earned dollars on this scam.

Hopefully by reading this article, you will not become the next statistic. Forward this article to everyone you know who has a web site and should be aware. I'm going to outline the most common myths about how to get your site ranked high on the search engines, followed by 5 simple steps you can take to greatly improve your search engine position.

10 Common Myths About High Search Engine Rankings

1. Only a professional search engine optimization company or search engine submission company can get your site ranked high on the search engines.
Nonsense! You can do this yourself by making sure your website is a quality resource for your visitors.

2. Your web site needs to be submitted to the search engines by a search engine submission company using an automated system.
Bupkiss!!! The search engines, especially Google, do not want you to do this. Search engines crawl the internet constantly, and will visit your site without you having to submit to them. The best way to get your site crawled faster is to have other related, quality sites link to you.

3. You have to pay to be included on Google, Yahoo, MSN, Infoseek, Dogpile, and other directories and search engines.
Untrue!! All these engines do offer "pay per click" services where you can pay to be instantly listed at the top right of the page, but you do not need to pay to have "organic" (free) inclusion in their regular results, which most visitors look at.

4. You need to rank high for the top 1-word search term related to your web site.
It's easier and better (I think) to rank high for more targeted keyword phrases related to your web site. For instance, if you were a breeder of Burmese cats, you would be better served to target "Burmese kittens for sale" "Burmese cats for sale" & "Burmese cat breeder" than simply to target the word "Burmese" (which might bring you visitors looking for Burmese pythons, Burmese cooking, etc)

5. You need to have hundreds of web sites linking to your site to get a high search engine position.
False. It's better to get fewer links from high quality, related web sites than a ton of links from questionable sites with unrelated content. Build your link relationships slowly, making sure you only exchange links with sites that complement your own and are of good quality.

6. Your current web site position will fall if you stop paying your current "search engine submission" service to submit your site to the search engines on a regular basis.
Very unlikely. Having your site submitted to the search engines is no longer recommended, and can even cause your site to be banned from Google. If you are currently having your site submitted, save yourself some money and cancel the service. You would be better to spend that money on pay per click listings through Google Adwords or a similar program.

7. Hiring a search engine optimization service will cost a fortune.
Not necessarily! Although some search engine optimization services do charge a hefty sum, there are many knowledgeable professionals who can provide affordable search engine positioning services for $100 or less. (Like me, for instance! Click here if you want to hire me! :-)

8. You need a flashy, animated, music-filled web site to catch the attention of visitors and the search engines.

Wrong again! Unless these elements really add to your web site, it's best not to have them. Most visitors do not like music on a web site, flash animations are generally a nuisance to visitors, and most browsers now have security settings that will prevent java applets and other programs from loading. Additionally, all these unnecessary bells and whistles create a lot of "html shrapnel" that makes it difficult for the search engines to find the actual text in your site's html code. The best web sites offer informative, well-written text that is displayed in an intuitive format, clear, interesting, fast-loading images, and a simple, prominent and easy-to-navigate page hierarchy.

9. Search Engine Optimization techniques are trade secrets that only professional optimizers are privy to.

Total myth! The fact is that there is a ton of information available online about how to optimize your web site for search engine success. Some is free, some can be purchased for a reasonable price. The Internet is like a massive university where everyone is a student. I learn something new almost every day, and there are a lot of good newsletters about search engine optimization that you can subscribe to for free, or for a modest fee.

10. The more domain names I buy - the better my search engine position will be.
Mistake! All you need is 1 domain for any given web site. Having more than 1 domain can actually hurt your search engine rankings by creating the appearance of "duplicate content" from the search engine's viewpoint. Unless you just want to buy up domains to keep them from your competitors (but not direct them to your web site), save your money. 1 domain is all you need.

Five Simple Steps To Increase Your Website's Search Engine Rankings

1. Discover the right search phrases (keywords) to focus your search engine optimization efforts on.

There is a service called "Wordtracker" that keeps a database of actual searches performed on a variety of search engines. Using this service, you can pinpoint the EXACT search word phrases you want to optimize your site for - instead of guessing, and possibly missing the boat.

2. Hone your "Title", "Description", "Keywords" meta tags and your page text to make use of your three focused search term phrases. There are many free online resources that will help you learn how to do this in a few simple steps.

3. Submit your site by hand for inclusion in the Open Directory Project (http://www.dmoz.org)

4. Create a "links" page and begin exchanging links with quality web sites that are related to your own.

5. Maintain your web site regularly! Check for broken links, links to sites which are no longer there, and other problems and correct them! Share your knowledge about the subject of your web site by writing short articles - and link to them from your home page - and from your home page to your articles. You can find ideas for topics to write about by looking at Wordtracker search term suggestions for the subject of your web site. This will help you to pinpoint topics that people are searching for information about.

There are many other things that you can do to improve your web site's search engine position, but these 5 are a great place to start, and, I think, demonstrate that you really can be your own search engine optimizer!

The search engines have changed greatly over the years, and will, no doubt, continue to change and evolve to provide their visitors with the best possible search experience. You can ensure that your website gets indexed and displayed by the search engines for relevant search terms by providing a quality web site that offers the visitor an informative, enjoyable and relatively bug-free online experience.

Follow the tips listed above, and try to keep abreast of the ever-changing search engine landscape, and you should see a steady - and relatively permanent - increase in your web site's visitorship. Rome wasn't built in a day, and your web site traffic won't increase dramatically overnight (regardless of what the "snake-oil salesmen" mentioned above would have you believe!) Keep your nose to the grindstone, delivering a quality, informative web site, avoid employing cheap tricks, and your web site is sure to succeed.


Fantasia Weddings said...

Thank you God for the Warning!

I almost signed up for Main Street Host again after my current SEO guy stoped calling me and kept billing me $250 a month. Could never get in touch with him, I got discouraged and thought I would go back to Main Street Host...at least they talked to me instead of avoiding my calls and texting me nonsense. Doug Stark seemed professional and I was going to write him a Testimonial about comming back which he asked me to do. He said It would cost me $500 to get a "Jumpstart " to get back on top again and if I had stayed with Mainstreet Host, the three years I left, I would be on top, but he would get me there again with $500 to start and a Gold Package. I gave him my credit card number and my passwords and my partner saw this site and I freaked out!!!

Please please tell me how do I manage my web site SEO, so many many sharks out there...I cannot keep my mind in my head. Small business are going under with the competiton and with the pirates.

Can you please give me the name of someone reputable?? I just listed my wedding business for sale because of all of this SEO mess and social networking. All I wanted to do is be a wedding planner in the islands, and now I have to be a computor nerd! This business has gotten out of control! Please call me if anyone has a solution to this SEO nightmare! 1-800-326-8272. Thanks, Debra
You can also visit my web site at: www.fantasiaweddings.com and let me know your feedback.

Shawna Schreckhise said...

Thank you so much for this information!! Mainstreethost contacted me and before I purchased I wanted to do some research and thank goodness I found you! I also wanted to speak with you about my website but when I tried to click on your link "hire me" within your post it was not there!

I own Schreckhise Weddings in Fort Worth, Texas

Thank You AGAIN!!!!!