Do I need SEO? –Greg W.

I spend a lot of time around my seven-year-old, so I’m going to employ a little imagination for this answer. Try it with me:

Pretend you are Google–or any other search engine. Someone sits down at their computer, opens your search Captain Super Searchwindow, and types. You spring into action and get to work! Within a fraction of a second, you need to scan millions of websites to return the best results for this person. So, let me ask you, Captain Super Search: what are you looking for? In a millisecond, you went from 4 million pages to 100 and now you need to give your waiting person 15. What will make you pick those 15? Keywords that have been sitting still for the last four years? The title of the page?

The answer is simple: you will return the most recent and relevant sites in the database. While in the past this was performed by using things like keywords in title tags, meta tags, bold text, and other little tricks, today’s Captain Super Search is far too savvy for that and you will mostly ignore those.

My belief is that standard SEO techniques will give you only marginal advantage and bare nudges in search engine rankings. I will go as far as to say that Google will even skip the title tag and go straight to the content. If that passes muster, then it will check the site for valid links to other validated content. Only when that is completed will it grab the tag to add to the listing.

The bottom line is that you want to write sincere content that contains the proper information for your readers. Magically, your keywords will come to life in your text. If you are writing about cookware, you will “naturally” talk about the pots and pans (feel free to change the example) and thus take care of the keywords without having to worry about it.

So if you want to spend a lot of money on SEO techniques, call me and I will gladly apply those for you. Otherwise, just write sincere and on-target content, comment on other blogs about the same topics, create conversation on your blog, and your page ranking will take care of itself. And, Captain, that frees up your time to fight other content crimes!

I have hidden several keywords in the code of my webpage. Shouldn’t I be up higher in the search engines by now? –Nathan L.

In a parallel universe where it is still 1999, yes.

Keywords open door for visitors
Keywords open doors for visitors

Search engines have become far more sophisticated since the early days. We can especially thank Google for this major change. Since they are now the most common search tool, and at the forefront of web analysis, what Google does most will follow. And Google says hiding a list of keywords in the same color as your background is a no-no. To see authentic results in a search engine, you must be using the correct words authentically. (See Google’s policy on this topic) Content is king.

(Side note: Years ago I remember starting to purchase vitamins online and at the bottom of the page was a giant block of emptiness. It seemed a little odd and, on a whim, I opened up the “view source.” There, at the bottom, was an enormous list of words that had absolutely nothing to do with the company, vitamins, or even health. The web master had simply found a list of the 100 most commonly-searched words which, of course, included a dozen pornographic words. As my son would say, “Cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater.”)

Now this leads us to the more interesting issue: what ARE my keywords?

To answer this, you absolutely must step out of your business brain and into the minds of your visitors. What do customers call your product or services? What are they looking for? What is another name for what you do or sell? You might be an attorney, but people search for lawyers. Your store sells adhesive tape, but my wife wants scrapbooking glue. The post office calls it postage, but I usually buy stamps. Once you have developed a comprehensive list of words and phrases that people use, work those into the actual text of your pages. Use them in the headlines, sub headlines, and picture captions. Don’t try to trick the search bots–beat them at their own game. Be sure to use Web Analytics to validate your keyword research and content.

There are many free tools and tutorials out there to help you understand SEO, keywords, page rankings, etc. I have added a dozen articles on this topic in my Chatter links. If you sell something, it is also a good idea to check out eBay. I know that sounds like an odd suggestion, but think about it: ordinary people sell their items on eBay and they are the best at describing ordinary things using ordinary language. Their listing titles pack in as much information as humanly possible in order to cover all of their bases.