Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Simple 'Secrets' for Affordable SEO

The post isn't a must-read. You and your business may succeed if you never follow the link to "5 Content Marketing Goals for Your Website & Blog - and One Big Challenge, Patsi Krakoff, Writing on the Web.

By devoting a few minutes to signing up for the next get-rich scheme, instead of reading Patsi Krakoff's post, you may even make your in-home business into a multi-trillion-dollar global megacorp. But I doubt it. Very much.

I read the thing and - confound it - now I'll have to think about something besides creating content for my blogs and websites. I really need a marketing team. And a technical department. And an executive secretary. And a seaside office complex. No, I don't "need" all that.

What I really need is a break - which I'll take, as soon as I finish this post.

Getting to the Point: 5 Content Marketing Goals

Here's what got this post started:The five content marketing goals are the sort of thing that are 'obvious' after you've read them, maybe not so much before. Here's what P. K. says you should want your blog and/or website to do:
  1. Impress visitors and showcase your business expertise
  2. Engage, educate, entertain & persuade visitors to short-list you
  3. Capture interest and convert visitors into leads
  4. Generate new business from current clients
  5. Attract visitors from search engines
Sounds good. And, more importantly, practical. In my view, unless you're just out for the thrill of having something online: you'll need to have a goal in mind, to justify the time and expense you're sinking in the thing.

Point 2 - and particularly 3 - tell me that Patsi Krakoff has a fairly traditional business in mind: one that started with a brick-and-mortar presence and has a presence on the Web as a sort of add-on. No problems with that, but it's not what I'm doing. I'll get back to that.

SEO: Search Engines and Being Smart

Then there's #5, about SEO. I'm not entirely on the same page with the author, but she made pretty good points. And, for someone who apparently thinks that what I'll call 'artificial SEO' is a good idea, she's remarkably candid:
"...There are those who say 'forget SEO, just write a lot of content for the people who's problems you can solve.' The search engines will catalog your keywords and you'll rank high based on 'organic search.'

"This can be true to a certain extent. I am living proof of that. This blog has been blessed with quality traffic and ranking and search results based on a long history of publishing plenty of content using a few keywords...."
(Writing on the Web)
Or, in my case, writing plenty of content using a whole lot of keywords. Not all in the same blog, of course.

A bit after that excerpt, there's this:
"...Search Engines Are Stupid, You're Smart

"I don't want to be a nag, but I'm going to repeat myself from here until Wednesday: search engines are stupid, so if you're a smart professional, you can learn how to attract search traffic to your blog and web pages. Forget throwing money at the problem. This is something you can and should be doing yourself...."(Writing on the Web)
And then, promotional copy for an upcoming online/phone seminar. It might be worthwhile: but do your "due diligence" before signing up.
Search Engines, Artificial Intelligence, C3PO and Street Smarts
Okay, let's start with that heading: "Search Engines Are Stupid, You're Smart." It's true, as far as it goes. Search engines are AI developed by some of the better programmers on the planet, but their intelligence is artificial. We're still quite a long way from a convincing equivalent of HAL 9000, Skynet, and C3PO. So, yes: search engines are "stupid." At least in the 'street smart' sense of the word.

And, by comparison, just about anybody is, in the 'street smart' sense, smarter than a search engine. Honestly, it doesn't take much.

On the other hand, I think it's debatable whether your typical entrepreneurial wannabe is smarter than the search engines' programmers.
Being Clever isn't Being Smart
Part of my position, or attitude, comes from my memories of the 'good old days' of SEO, when experts (just ask them: They knew everything) told folks that the smart thing to do was load your keywords tag with every naughty word you knew; cloak parts of your website; and - a favorite - put lots of those naughty words right on the page, in a font that's the same color as the page background.

I still run into that advice, from time to time. It strikes me as being 'clever,' rather than smart. It takes a certain amount of technical know-how to figure out how to scam the early search engines. Whether it's smart to be that clever - I don't think so.

I know: today there are people who have spent a great deal of time establishing the image of someone who knows the 'secrets' of SEO. They've probably got some useful skills, since they keep getting contracts from big companies. That implies that there are measurable advantages to using 'professional SEO.' On the other hand, big companies can do stupid things. Remember the Big 3 Automakers meltdown?
I'm No "Expert:" But I've Learned a Little
I'm no "expert." I'm just some guy in central Minnesota who spent two decades in a small publishing company's marketing department: one as an advertising copywriter/graphic designer the other as the list manager. And, when the company (finally) got a website, I was the website's designer.

It's not all that impressive, since the company downsized - drastically - a few years ago; and I got an opportunity to explore other career goals. Best thing that's happened to me in a long time, in terms of 'career,' by the way.

So, I'm no expert - but I do have 20 years' experience in marketing (it was a small company, and I had opportunities to share and present ideas) - and have been spending part of my time, since then, learning how to promote myself on a shoestring budget.

And I think I am smarter than a search engine.

Which is why I won't try to be 'clever' with SEO. I've got reason to believe that search engine programmers are interested in connecting their users with pages that the users may be interested in - not in funneling traffic to some hotshot expert's page.

SEO: It's Brains, Not Bucks

So, SEO is useless?

Not at all. But I think that, at least for sole proprietorships like what I have, smart SEO is what I can do on my own, following a few principles. I didn't come up with these: they're a sort of distillation of what I've learned by testing - and by reading articles by people who seem to know what they're doing.

This probably won't seem very 'smart,' and almost certainly isn't 'clever,' but I think it works:
  • Write tight
    • Tell the reader what you're writing about
      • In the title
      • In the first paragraph
    • Eschew obfuscation
      • Use simple words
        • Unless your subject demands complex, technical terms
      • Keep sentences short
        • And simple
    • Stay on topic
      • This is a hard one for me
        • I tend to wander when writing
        • On the up side, I've gotten separate posts written that way
        • I'm being tested for ADD this fall
          • See what I mean?
            • Back on-topic
    • Use keywords as you write
      • If you're writing about cars, say 'cars' when appropriate
      • Don't struggle with synonyms
        • Unless you think your readers would be bothered by the 'car - car - car' repetition
      • Use keywords in your headings
  • Code smart
    • Keep your code simple
      • It's easier to debug
      • Short code loads faster
        • Your visitors like that
        • Scuttlebutt is that search engines are biased for fast-loading pages
    • Use the "Keywords" tag
      • Scuttlebutt is that search engines aren't using it anymore
        • There was too much abuse by 'clever' SEO 'experts'
        • Scuttlebutt can be wrong
          • And adding the keywords tag takes - what? five minutes tops?
    • Put your verbal content in text format
      • Scanning in that brochure and using the graphic
        • May look nice
        • Could be faster than creating a text/graphics page
        • Can't be 'read' by search engines
          • Remember: search engines really are stupid
          • They only read text
            • So far
I don't subscribe to the 'build it and they will come' philosophy of website SEO. On the other hand, I don't see the wisdom of spending thousands of dollars - which I can't afford - on 'SEO professionals,' when I've very good reason to believe that a combination of remember-your-readers writing techniques and no-nonsense website design can have a similar outcome. Without the expense.

Getting intelligently 'chatty' on social networking sites like Twitter helps, too.

But that's another topic.
A tip of the hat to Steveology, on Twitter, for the heads-up on this post.


Patsi aka The Blog Squad(tm) said...

Brian, I loved your post, especially the bulleted list of tips, especially your advice to eschew obfuscation. Thanks for stopping by my blog, next time say 'hello'...I'm curious ... it's interesting that you got the impression that I had a traditional bricks and mortar business, since I've only ever been self-employed and working online for last 10 years. You never know how you come across to others, thanks. Hope to see you 'round the web...

Patsi aka The Blog Squad

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...

Patsi aka The Blog Squad(tm),

Thanks for talking time to read & comment.

About the bricks and mortar impression: That's probably my background and biases at work. Now you've got me interested: I plan to go back and see *how* I got that impression.

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