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What is search engine optimization (SEO)?
The Basics of SEO

So…you have a Brand New Website, it looks good, scratch that…it looks GREAT!  You have worked hard on it and poured your heart and soul into this new and exciting business idea.  Or, maybe you have had a web site for a while and just can’t figure out how to get more people to notice you and visit your site.  Don’t panic, you’re not alone.  In fact, you are in the 75-80% range of what most people do with a new web site.  They spend a lot of time and money building this awesome web site and then sit back and scratch their heads when the visitors and purchases don’t start rolling in the day after they launch it.  The truth is that they just don’t know that they need to market and promote this new site if they have any hope at all of ever being found on the internet.

“Having a good idea and a good web site is not enough anymore.  You absolutely HAVE to market your web site and earn those coveted clicks.”

So what happened?  Where are all those visitors and clicks the internet promises?  Back in the day, if you owned a dynamic, cutting edge web site with quality content or a product/service that people needed, you automatically went to the top and stayed there.  So what do you do now when you build that GREAT web site and have a GREAT product/service and still can’t seem to get noticed?  You might have even searched Google and found your web site on page 12 (YIKES!).

“Getting found in today’s internet is tougher than ever.  Google really is doing a good job of cutting down on the SPAMMERS and fly-by-night marketers but believe it or not, that just makes it that harder to try and position a legitimate web site at the top of the search rankings.”

Here is where SEO (Search Engine Optimization) comes into play.  Search Engine Optimization is the “art” of crafting and marketing a web site so that it appears high in the SERP’s (Search Engine Results Pages) for the major search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo) for a specific keyword or phrase that is related to the site.  Ok, so know what?  Maybe you have done your research and found out what the basics of SEO are.  That’s very good, because you will need to know that.  For those of you who are not quite sure what the basics are, here is a quick rundown of some key functions that make up a good SEO program:

  • SEO Optimized Content Creation – Content is the “what” that is on your site.  The words, pictures and videos that make up your story or product offerings.  Making sure that your content is SEO friendly and keyword rich is essential.
  • Keyword Research – Selecting the right keywords that drive traffic to your site.  Let’s be honest, any Joe Schmoe can get a site to rank for a Long Tail Keyword like “Hot Pink Volks Wagon Beetles for sale in Norfolk Virginia”.  The problem is, how many people are actually searching for that and how much traffic will that phrase generate to your site? 
  • HTML Coding – Making sure your meta-tags are SEO friendly and optimized for maximum search engine visibility. 
  • Search Engine Access to your site – Making sure the search engines can crawl your site and once they get there what to crawl and what to index.
  • Fresh Content Generation Method Generating fresh and unique content is paramount if you want your site to be crawled often.  Blogs are a great way to build unique and consistent content.
  • Building Credibility with the Search Engines – Linkbuilding is the best way to grow your credibility with the search engines.  They use each link back to your site from another site as a “vote”.  The more votes you have from other sites, the better the chance that the search engines see your site as authoritative for your chosen topic and therefore place you higher in the rankings.

“Remember this, if nothing else;  SEO is hard and sometimes monotonous work.  It is however, essential if you want to get to the top of the SERP’s and therefore reap the benefits of being #1 on Google, Yahoo and Bing.  There is no magic formula, there is no secret sauce, just good old technical know how and a little elbow grease.”

 One word of caution!  Beware of the “Black Hat” SEO practices.  These include things like; hidden text, door way pages, buying links, keyword stuffing and more.  These are practices that sometimes yield good results in the very short term but can be devastating if you get a penalty award from Google or worse…a total banishment!  Yes it may seem unfair, but it Google’s eyes they are very clear that you are to follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines if you wish to rank well on their search engine.  So you better play by their rules or suffer their penalties.

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What Happened?

On Wednesday the 23rd of February, 2011, Google struck a huge blow to content farms and spammers all over the internet.  What was this news breaking update and how did it affect some of the most known article directories on the internet?  I’m so glad you asked…

Google Panda

Spam for breakfast? Really?

The algorithm update (aka Panda) basically dropped what Google perceives as “content farms” to the bottom of the list for the SERP’s (Search Engine Results Pages).  The term “content farm” is well known in the SEO industry as a web site or directory that archives’ thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of articles.  Most of the better article directories (non-content farms) require a few things to accept any new article;

 They usually require an author to register with the site

They usually only accept articles from registered users

They usually only accept “original” content (being an original article or work that is not posted anywhere else on the internet including Blogs).

They usually require a mandatory and manual review of every piece submitted for publication

They require a quality check for spelling, grammar and typos (thank goodness this blog does not require that LOL)!

They usually require a 7-10 period to review all of this

If this process works as it is supposed to, then everyone wins.  The author gets published at a reputable site, gets a link back to their site from this reputable site, the directory gets fresh new content on a regular basis and their customers get to use that content in newsletters, blogs, and news related sites.

“When Article Directories and authors do it right…EVERYONE wins!”

So what a “content farm” does is exactly opposite of the above.  They accept articles from anyone, they generally have no review process, no QA process, no credibility checks, no unique content checks….they basically accept anything and everything submitted to them and post it immediately.  You might be asking yourself at this point….So What Mike?  Who cares?  Well, if you have been doing your homework and studying SEO you know that links back to your site are considered a “VOTE” by Google from one site to another.  The more votes you have the higher you go in the rankings.  So by these “content farms” allowing ANYONE to post an article with a link back to any site with no overview, quality check or human review process, I think you can see what happened. 

“Google had no choice.  The SERP’s were cluttered with Spam or non-relevant search results.  By taking the action of de-valuing the content farm links, they have effectively removed the spammy sites from the SERP’s.”

That’s right, the spammers and even some legitimate SEO’s found these sites and exploited them to an extent that Google finally did something about it.  Now, I am not saying that they are done yet.  Google still has a long way to go to clean up the search engine results, but at least this shows that they are working on it and have not just given up.

What if my site dropped due to this change?

If your site dropped out of the first page of the SERP’s on or shortly after The 23rd of February, then you probably fell victim to this update.  If you have an SEO firm under contract, you may want to give them a call and ask them about their link-building strategy.  Chances are pretty high they were rolling a lot of content for you to some of these sites and now all of these back links to your site don’t mean a whole lot to your SEO program.  In other words, all of the back links (or Votes) to your site are pretty much worthless.

“the only way to ever protect yourself against search engine swings and algorithm changes is to diversify your link building campaigns.  It is pretty rare that Google changes more than one or maybe two specific values during an update.  Diversification in your link building portfolio will prevent huge swings like this.”

So…the sites hit hard by this update have some work to do.  Try not to worry too much if you were hit.  You can get back to your previous rankings.  It will take some time and some effort, but you can get back.  Remember to diversify and also remember…there are NO easy roads in SEO.  It always takes work.  The easy way may work for a brief period, but then something like this happens and reminds us all that we are not the ones in control and if we want results, we have to follow the rules…the Google rules!

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