Part 1: Your Guardian Angels
Part 2: The Virtues
Part 3: The Temptations
The Fallacy of the SEO Saint
We all strive for it, but it’s hard. Being a search engine optimization (SEO) saint takes dedication, fortitude, and often a significant other to remind you that you’re not as cool as you think you are. Those of you who have ever attempted to sell a product online, dabbled in website design, or even just written a blog post may understand the internal yearning for attention that comes with it. “Why aren’t people all over this?” you ask your screen. “I just want to be famous,” you tell your pet. “Maybe everyone’s still sleeping,” you reason into the mirror. And who can blame you for wanting your pride and joy, after hours (upon hours) of work, to be recognized for its awesome-ness? Keeping these proven virtues close to your SEO-loving heart, and avoiding these juicy temptations, will help to keep your website or blog from falling into the deep, dark depths of Google hell (aka “everything past page 5”).
Meet Your Guardian Angels
These popular search engines are more than just miracle-workers. Beneath each of their hoods lay a unique search algorithm. These secret algorithms are the key to your happiness and each search engine’s success, fighting by your side to make sure that you get what you ask for, no matter how vague or specific, and that the low-quality content and SEO demons (read: cheaters) are kept out of sight. You cannot see them – they spoil you so much that you may have even forgotten about them, but rest assured that they are there, and that you definitely don’t want to be put on their naughty list.
Back when these guardians were still young, the goal of every search engine was simple: give the user what they ask for. To aid in this task, website designers came up with a multitude of ways to let the search engines know what their webpages represented. “The websites can provide keywords in their html!” someone no doubt exclaimed. “And alternative, readable text for their images too!” they probably cheered. Individual search engines were left to come up with their own crafty ways of using these resources, like analyzing word order or prioritizing sites with more inbound links (links from other websites). Some did it better than others (anyone remember Ask Jeeves or Dogpile?), but the land of the internet was a searchable utopia, nonetheless. That is, until…
The Rise and Fall of the SEO Demons
As websites fought in their own crusades for page rankings, slowly developing the in’s and out’s of ancestral search optimization, malevolent domain owners – SEO demons – began to rise. Disguised as simple cyber-folk, they assured the rapid spread of mental plague across the once peaceful, malware and pornography filled land. Mischievous individuals began to hide keywords in every html nook and cranny possible, self-proclaimed geniuses threw walls of keyword-stuffed text behind page elements and onto backgrounds of the same color, and immoral entrepreneurs founded “link farms” and accepted cash in exchange for adding links to their surplus of purchased domains. The worst part is that many of these methods worked.
While the façade of many search engines never changed (like Google), their algorithms evolved, growing more complex, wiser, smarter. One by one, internet demons and their methods were condemned. Gone were the days that searching “dog food” resulted in “food that is dog.” Rather, doing so gave you ample webpages about dog food and access to pictures of dog food. Accurate, rich content rose to the top, along with the popularity of search engines that made it happen best and the idea of SEO being a full-time profession.
Despite the inevitable evolution of their algorithms, search engines and – more importantly – the people who use them will never cease to value high-quality content. Thus, as a web designer or copywriter, content should be your highest priority, not page rank or keywords. The temptations of an SEO saint are more than just shortcuts; they are a sure-fire way to get knocked out of first page heaven (if not now, later).
Stay tuned for Part 2: The Virtues and Part 3: The Temptations.
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