I’ve had just about enough of these companies swindling money from gullible and naïve companies that they could otherwise use to hire decent programmers and designers to improve their web sites.
And just because you may not understand how Search Engine Optimization works, doesn’t mean it’s magic that must be tamed by hiring an expensive Wizard. Here’s a handy list of things to consider so you won’t hit the bottom of the barrel on the indexes.
You can’t buy rankings.
And the reason is quite simple… Search engines rely on relevancy and their bottom line to survive. One is directly proportional to the other since no one knowingly uses an engine that pulls up nonsense leaving their carefully targeted advertising ignored.
You can buy ads on said engines, but then why would you also need an SEO company?
SEO, as it’s being marketed these days, is basically Snake Oil. Some poor suckers spend thousands of [insert-denomination] trying to get to the top of Google, when they could have saved that money for methods that actually work like AdWords.
The only way to ensure that you’re a candidate for being listed under the keywords being searched is to make sure your content is about said keywords. Rely on quality content to ensure you’re linked back (usually manually by humans on their sites) and you can’t go wrong.
Being linked on a busy site is still the best way to get indexed, but only your content, which is hopefully interesting enough, will help you rise in the rankings.
It can be tough sometimes to entice links back to your site, but the worst possible method to make it easy is sticking links on every comment.
A lot of CMSs have adopted the no-follow attribute on all submitted links anyway and if your comment is thought-provoking, interesting or just plain amusing, you’ll be far more likely to bring human visitors than bots who are the most likely to buy what you or your advertisers are selling anyway.
Try to keep URLs short.
I know this can be difficult depending on your CMS of choice, but the benefit is two-fold actually. Truth be told it really has nothing to do with a search engine’s ability to index long URLs. But this is where the money you saved by not hiring an SEO company can be used to hire a decent programmer or two (there are plenty around these days out there) to make changes to your site.
I often take a look at the URL for additional hints on what type of page I’m about to visit and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. If your URL is long and has no relation to the content (which can be the case if they’re numeric) it may get truncated and you lose out on another way to tag your content.
Some search engines do look at the URL for additional hints these days because keywords are such a spam magnet. If you can’t make the URL descriptive, then stick to numbers so you’ll at least keep them short to make it easy to copy. Not everyone will use bit.ly or other shortening service if they’re lazy and this is especially handy with Twitter. Make it easy on us to share your site and bring in more hits.
And lastly, don’t flood your page with junk.
I’m not referring to your content (which can be just about anything that’s searchable), but an unnecessary amount of HTML and on-page gibberish.
Keep the content very close to the top of the page source as that’s the most likely place any visitor would scan to see whether your site is interesting enough to stay and a search bot would index. Many search engines still limit the amount of content they will cache (to save space and improve speed) and if your content is on the floor, they sure won’t be bending down to pick it up.
There are also ton of articles out there that insist you need to have the navigation on the top of your page. While this is useful for accessibility, it also means too much “stuff” is up top. Try to include at least a paragraph about your content before sticking in a navigation, but try to put it on a sidebar or limit to a single bar on top if possible.
And don’t flood your site with ads and banners. I know this is a hot button topic with a lot of publishers, but by flooding your page with ads, you’re only encouraging ad-blocking which will cut into your bottom line. I don’t want to enjoy your content without giving anything back, but try to make the giving back part less annoying for me and I’ll be more inclined to do it.
Arrange the ads in an unobtrusive way and try to keep them relevant. Also try to avoid flash ads.
This will also help ensure that your site won’t take a dive with a Digg hit since your server would actually need process and to send all the extra “stuff” on your site besides just content. Remember, speed is also an important factor to stay on top.
And try not to use tables not because search engines don’t like them, but because they do tend to add more bulk to your HTML and that’s more you can save for actual content. This will also help you find any tag closing/validation errors that search engines are picky about. It also couldn’t hurt to make your site more accessible (thereby find more people to link your site) by sticking to good design practices.
But if you are avoiding junk already, don’t think avoiding or ignoring your site altogether (like I’ve been doing lately :P) will bring in any hits either. You’re more likely to be on top if you’re actually active on your site, publishing new content, making sure the search engines are aware that you don’t run a dead site.
If anyone you’ve come across is “selling” SEO, run like the plague is after you.