SEO Truth – Apparently I’ve Written A Book On SEOPosted: December 5, 2007
As usual I’ve been spending a horrendously long time without writing anything on my blog – and for that I apologise. However, I have spent some of my time writing an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) handbook, covering the importance of next generation techniques and practises.
I’m sure there are those of you who are all too familiar with the increasingly backwards approaches used by a few ‘special’ SEO agents and individuals out there and perhaps for you this will merely reinforce what you already knew to be true. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about -then please read the book and have a good laugh at yourself for being such a silly.
You can order print copies of the book – just not yet… more details on that coming soonly! I’ll be publishing online chapter by chapter (honestly I have finished writing it, but as an SEO, if I didn’t serialise it then it would look bad).
Enjoy the read and let me know what you think, if the first edition is terrible and you order, of course it’s going to be valuable in 200 years!
First off, I’d like to introduce myself. I’m a Search Engineer, a developer and programmer. I’ve worked with clients throughout the advertising industry at many different companies. My specialty is developing software that works with the search engines of companies like Google, Yahoo and MSN and attempts to influence the rankings of my client’s websites, as well as report on those ranking changes. I’ve never been to a lecture on computer science, read a book on development methodology and yet I’m in demand. My skills lie in understanding the technology of a search engine and how to capitalise on their ranking algorithms, web crawlers and content filters and it’s the ideas I generate in this area which have kept me in gainful employment.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) used to be a fairly simple task where you’d make sure every page on your client’s site had Meta tags, descriptions and content unique to that page. You might then try to analyse the keyword density of your key terms to keep them somewhere between 4 and 7 percent. More often than not most SEO companies wouldn’t even attempt that.
What most SEO companies would never tell you, and this is the industry’s most well kept secret, is that they’re intrinsically lazy. If you had a good client, with good content and a product of interest then their SERs (Search Engine Rankings) would climb entirely naturally to the top spots, you’d have nothing to do but sit back and reap the benefits of your lack of work.
This is of course a sad state of affairs which no real SEO company would allow and part of this book will help you to spot the difference between a professional outfit and rank amateurs and define the widening gap between the two camps.
As the title suggests I’m writing about the next generation of SEO. It’s becoming more difficult to increase the rankings of a particular website and it will only get more difficult to manipulate a website’s ranking without any understanding of how new search engine technology works. Lucky for you, my field is semantics (how to correlate the relationship between one word and another essentially) and you’re in for a whole chapter in manipulating a semantic index similar to those increasingly used by the major search engine players.
Chapter 1 – The Past
In order to proceed correctly in the future, the most important lesson is for us to understand what happened historically. There’s no shortage of information on the internet and amongst SEOs and webmasters about how Google’s original PageRank system worked. This is in large part thanks to a paper written by Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, whilst they were still studying for their PhDs at Stanford University. Not long after that they received their first investment from a company called Sun Microsystems which enabled them to build upon the hardware they had in their university dorm room and create the international phenomenon we know today.
PageRank was essentially a very simple system. It counted each link from one site to another as a vote for the destination site. By voting for another site the original gave away some of its own PageRank. The idea came from Salton’s Vector Space Model, which is a mathematical principal known to most Computer Science graduates today. This simple method of calculating which websites had the most votes, and therefore deserved higher rankings, is key to all search engine algorithms as it’s extremely fast to calculate. The most important factor in any search engine is its speed in returning and ranking results, especially when you’re dealing with an index of billions of pages.
The Anatomy of a Search Engine, based on the work of Larry Page and Sergey Brin whilst at Stanford.
If you understand that all calculations undertaken by a search engine must be as fast as possible, it allows you to draw logical conclusions:
· Thinking about a page as a machine would (which struggles to actually understand rather than just read), rather than as a human, is key to analysing your websites content for SEO value.
· Is every single underlined heading, keyword color, font size, image location, keyword relationship and page title length analysed when a page is crawled? It’s highly doubtful that anything too in depth is going to be indexed, when the crawler has another hundred thousand pages to visit and rank as quickly as possible, use some common sense here. Of course as processor speeds and bandwidth increase more in depth analysis will become possible in a shorter space of time.
· The search engine needs to maximise two things: the speed of its calculations and its measure of quality relevancy. Occasionally one is going to suffer at the importance of the other, if you were going to choose between indexing a page poorly – or not at all – which would you do?
SEOs in the past were able to capitalise on this speed issue by choosing to concentrate on areas of a page such as the Meta tags, description and page title. The content itself gradually became more important as time went on but still was subject to the speed of indexing. SEOs quickly realised that keyword density (how many times a keyword appears on a page out of the total number of words) was a very quick way to determine some kind of relevancy, and that the search engines were using it too.
Once the search engines got wise they implemented filters that stopped SEOs from flooding a page with keywords. Arguments in the SEO community followed over exactly what was the ideal keyword density for a term, and this usually settled somewhere between 4 and 7 percent.
Of course the PageRank model meant that agencies were keen to build as many links to their client websites as possible. To make matters worse however they were after links that already had high PageRank values to gain the maximum ranking as quickly as possible and this sprang up a cottage industry of people generating high PageRank links, purely to sell on. Google of course were unhappy about this and their anti-spam team began its work. Blacklisting of websites which ‘farmed links’ was becoming fairly common and this moved on to other aspects of ‘black hat’ SEO behavior – where an unfair advantage was being made by some nefarious companies and individuals.
Most SEO agencies at this stage relied heavily on staff who’d be subjected to some extremely tedious and repetitive labour. Going through page after page of a website and adjusting the number of keywords on a page, slightly changing each page title and Meta tag was a boring job and not well paid.
Directors and CEOs didn’t have a whole stack of problems though, if they kept building up link relationships with ranking websites and making sure their Meta tags were in place, their job was done. Often enough they’d have clients who already had an interesting product which did most of the work itself, spreading links around the internet as people registered their interests.
This natural traffic increase was what Google was looking for as they wanted sites which progressed on their own merits rather than trying to beat the system.