As a one-woman-band trained primarily in client side coding, I was hesitant to dive into the rabbit hole that is search engine optimisation (SEO) when asked by several colleagues and clients about whether or not I could do it. Not because I have no experience in the field, but because of the nature of my experience in SEO.
It’s story time
One of my first agency jobs was unfortunately for a place which I – in hindsight – call “the spam place”. I don’t advertise that I worked for the spam place, anywhere, and I regret not looking closer at their business model when I applied. The job was offered to me as a role in “advertising”, the manager stating “we make websites, write articles and sell advertising space; like a magazine.”
What the company actually made money from was affiliate marketing. Not the simple, harmless affiliate marketing done my many legitimate bloggers, who write long, beautiful articles, openly disclaiming that they have affiliate links in their article but that their opinions are their own, but an agency of some 20+ people who wrote spammy articles, geared toward capturing a fleeting moment of glory on page one of Google and directing, confusing and swindling users to click on the ads to get (something like) 70% commission from the advertiser.
Anyway. My role at the spam place quickly went from designing and coding websites with a handful of other coders for these spam-writers to fill with garbage, once the websites were completed, to spending my days over-engineering and search-engine optimising the sites; first using legitimate and fair “white-hat” techniques. Which was okay.
But later came the push for black-hat techniques to be implemented; so far as to encouraging me to create fake personas in different countries in order to carry out conversations with legitimate magazines and newspapers in said countries and to manage (paid) link exchanges in order to build the website’s link profile in a horrible, spammy way.
I found a better, proper web development job at a great agency not long after things began to deteriorate into the realms of black-hat SEO.
But this horrible, demotivating job was an eye-opener for me, and taught me an invaluable lesson in what is possible when it comes to SEO; what works and what doesn’t – and what Google penalises and doesn’t. And as with all experiences, you take what you can from them, once you are far enough away to sit back and assess what you learned.
User is key
What it taught me about SEO is that Google, put plain and simply, rewards websites that focus on the user, and that SEO – proper, white-hat SEO – is a long game. It’s something that must be done over time, and your results will not appear over night.
Nicely-worded content; clean, optimised, properly-marked up code; and useful updates/blog posts weigh far more, in the long run, than the passing moment on page one that you may attain by keyword spamming other people’s websites or paying for links (which is penalised, once Google finds out you’re doing it. So just bloody well don’t do it).
As Google’s algorithm constantly changes, to become more and more human-like in its ability to tell the spam from the legit websites, black-hat SEO engineers chase their tails and fight to be removed from blacklists, while the white-hat SEO engineers move on to their next project, confident that the techniques they have used to prepare their sites to rise through the SERPs (search engine result pages) will continue to serve their users – the real live people visiting the website and reading it. White-hat SEO in essence is all about ignoring the Google algorithm, and focusing instead on how best you can deliver information to the real people behind the keyboard.
But as with all things web related, there are many factors that legitimate website owners aren’t even aware that they should be considering in order to make it easier for Google to deliver their site to their intended user base.
So to assist with demystifying these factors, I’m making available a short SEO-report template that I use when asked to assess the SEO-readiness of any site.
I’ve built this report up from years of experience with SEO techniques, but bear in mind – I don’t scan Matt Cutt’s blog for the latest tips. I just use tried and tested techniques, which after implementing, have enabled some of my clients (such as Pterodactyl Helicopters) to get onto – and more importantly, STAY, on page one.
Hope you find it useful! When you have a minute, why not conduct an SEO audit of your own website, using the guide? You’ll be surprised at what things you can fix, without needing to know any code.
For the more technical factors, feel free to contact me about updating them, if those items concern you.