While I did not expect much in the way of news here in the U.S. due to the Thanksgiving holiday, it appears that Google took the opportunity to update their web master guidelines regarding paid links. The changes essentially reveal that buying or selling links that pass PageRank can penalize a site not only in its Google Toolbar PageRank status, but also in Google search results. What does this mean for those that consider themselves “white hat SEOs?” Better go shopping for a new hat – a nice black one.
Automating the SEO process has been a hot topic of late. Loren Baker stirred up the conversation with his post “Can SEO Be Automated?” where he talks about the fact that search marketing agency, Commerce360 is developing proprietary software to automate SEO. As of today, his post has received 41 comments, mostly from people defending the fact that SEO cannot be completely automated. I agree! Then Lisa Barone published an excellent post defending the fact that SEO still needs the human element. This leads one to wonder if search engine optimization can actually be accomplished with software or in other words, can monkeys do the jobs of humans?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of enhancing your web site with the goal of increasing your visibility in the top search engines when specific keywords or phrases are searched for. Every web site that wants to be found in the organic search results of engines like Google, Yahoo!, MSN, Ask and the like need to incorporate some type of SEO strategy. Some take it to far though as in an example I recently found with a national computer services chain.
Test your SEO knowledge with a new 75 question quiz put together by SEOmoz. It will probably take you anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to complete the test but is a worthwhile endeavor. By scoring wrong on some of the questions, I was able to add to my knowledge. One of the questions, “what is an acceptable way to show HTML text to search engines while creating a graphical image to display to users” has two answers that are correct, at least in my opinion, however I chose the wrong one according to the quiz.
I started my Monday off with a strange phone conversation. I had put together a proposal for a potential client for both SEO and paid search management. The SEO portion of the proposal involved an initial cost which would allow us to develop and implement a strategy to optimize their site so that they could improve their visibility for organic search. Following up today with a phone meeting, my point of contact said they had just spoken to someone at Google who said that “Google” themselves would optimize their site for nothing – no initial investment, no set up costs, free. The potential client’s next question – “Why would we pay you to do something that Google will do for free?”
There is an interesting debate going on over at Small Business Ideas Forum where forum member, Dale King, starts a thread entitled “The Truth About Flash Websites” where Dale lays out his arguments as to why Flash and SEO together are not a good idea. He summarizes by stating that while Flash may look fantastic and can admittedly add a lot to any presentation from an accessibility and SEO standpoint, it should be used very sparingly and only for non-crucial content.
I’ve always had a problem with the hard fast rule of “don’t use hidden text.” Even though it is technically against search engines guidelines, there are valid reasons to hide text. Sites that are developed completely in Flash, pages that are graphic heavy and web designers who want complete control over font styles are just a few examples. Whether for one of these reasons or possibly something not quite so ethical, webmasters have always been warned by both search engines and white hat search marketers that is is risqué. “Go ahead and do it but do so at your own risk.”
My thinking for the last few years now is that static search engine ranking reports hold little value in and of themselves. These are reports typically run by a software program in which a list of keywords is added along with the main URL of the site(s) you wish to check and the software then queries pre-selected search engines, creating a report showing where your site ranked for each term. This may have been a suitable way of measuring the success of an SEO effort (although traffic should always be measured as well) a few years ago but nowadays with the personalization of the search engines, not to mention all the other sources of traffic that can be derived including social media sites, press releases, blogs, etc., static ranking reports no longer paint an accurate picture.
During the recent Search Engine Strategies conference in New York, I had the opportunity to attend the “In House: Big SEO” session and listen in on how in house SEOs handle their search engine optimization strategies for large corporate sites. While the actual SEO techniques between small sites and large sites do not differentiate that much, the hurdles one has to clear are worlds apart.
How do you get the search engines to recognize the content of a site when it is all Flash? That was the topic of a late night discussion some of us search marketers were having in the Hilton bar last night . I won’t disclose the exact details of the site we were discussing. I have written before on the problems that Flash sites impose as far as a site’s search visibility. Because flash is composed of highly compressed graphics and/or video, the text that is often contained within the Flash elements are invisible. Furthermore if a site is completely Flash, meaning everything is contained with the Flash object – the graphics, the navigation, the content, even the interface, then engines have a difficult time understanding the topic of the site and is some case experience difficulty in crawling pages (if they exist in the first place).
Having worked with companies both large and small for almost a decade now, I have learned that there are fundamental principles that both parties must follow if they are going to have a successful SEO relationship. And that is what SEO truly is – a relationship or better yet, a partnership between the two parties. Like any partnership, there are do’s and don’ts that each party must practice if the relationship is to be a success. While not a complete list, I have put together ten important things to practice in order to have a successful SEO relationship.
I came upon such a question today on Search Engine Watch Forums. It is not the first time it has been asked – “Can I include my competitor’s names in my SEO strategy? Will I find myself in any kind of legal trouble?” Or even, “Is it ethical?” Sure you can do it. It is your site – you can do what you want with it. Yes, you may find yourself receiving one of those nice little cease and desist letters. As for ethics, that would depend on what your ethics are.