These days, if you would like to have a quality, professional-looking site, you can’t neglect the SEO factor. Being friendly to the search engines has become a must. But how do you properly distribute your SEO budget to make sure it won’t be wasted?
Time has made its corrections to the problem. Advice on spending an SEO budget in 2007 is very different from what the SEO experts might have told you in 2003 or even in 2005.
Invest in design
In the past, the search engines had to work on what was available to them. In search of web pages relevant to a query they often had to rank poorly coded and unfriendly sites highly in the SERPs, and invent different ways to bypass unfriendly design. They can still do it, but on the other hand they can afford to be much pickier now. Unless the query is really very obscure, the chances are there will be a lot of sites available to match it, and the engines can put the highest quality sites at the top.
That brings forward the importance of good quality design. I don’t claim to know for sure that the engines already give a boost to the sites with valid HTML code or table-free layouts, and if they do, there is no way to tell how big that boost is. But it’s obvious that sites with friendly, static URLs are much easier to get ranked highly than are those with obscure URLs having several parameters in the query. Also, Google shows sites with dynamic URLs as mostly Supplemental Results more often, which is not a good thing, either.
So, here goes the first SEO advice of the year 2007: invest in design. It’s worth the money to hire a good web designer who knows how to build search engine friendly sites and can provide a search engine friendly CMS. It might be worth spending a little money in advance to hire an independent SEO consultant to make an assessment of the previous work of the designer you are about to hire. In the long run this investment will pay for itself.
Invest in content
No matter how the rules of the SEO game change, one thing remains: the engines love good content. In most niches (except the most competitive ones) adding a page of properly optimised text with a matching title and meta tags, and incorporating it properly into the structure of a search engine friendly site brings new good rankings fairly soon. Besides, adding good educational content on a regular basis is the only way to build real natural links.
There are a lot of methods of link building, some of them appropriate, others questionable, and many others totally unethical. But the point is that regardless of the method, all links that are built cannot by definition be natural. They can look natural in some cases, but that does not make them natural.
All methods of link building that are known to search engine optimisers are known to search engine engineers as well. And no matter how closely those links resemble natural links, they will sooner or later show a detectable pattern and will be recognised as built links. What to do with this knowledge is for the engines to decide. Lately, they have been known to give a lot more authority to natural links than to links that have been built, which is only logical. Natural links are those that have been earned by a site through its being appreciated by users, and that is what the engines look for.
I’m not saying that it is necessarily a bad thing to build links – it depends entirely on the method. There are a lot of legitimate methods of promoting websites such as press releases and directory submissions. These links bring us visitors, and to some of them the engines still give certain weight. But they are not natural links.
Frankly, I can’t see any webmaster giving a natural link from a content page to a page that has purely business-related information (unless it is a review of a business). It’s a lot more logical to expect a link from within one article to another that was used as a source or has helped the writer to reinforce a point. But if it is a link to a business site, it seems more logical to place it on a resource page. But…
We all know that resource pages have been utterly devalued by both web surfers and the engines due to heavy abuse over the years with what is known as a “reciprocal link exchange”. As a result, Google de-listed most resource pages during 2006, and devalued links coming from most of the remaining pages of this type. Links from content pages are a lot more likely to get clicked and to pass link value to the destination page. This gives us another reason to invest our SEO money in good educational content. Thus we genuinely benefit from giving.
Invest in self-education
If you learn the basics of SEO, you won’t have to pay to a consultant for developing titles and meta tags for every page of content you are about to upload. You will be able to do it yourself, along with proper internal linking, validating the code of the new page and other aspects.
You will be able to do directory submissions for your site, which is the best solution anyway because nobody knows all about your site better than you do. You will be able to establish contacts with other practitioners in your field that might bring you fresh opportunities for quality link building that an SEO would surely miss.
However, you need to know how to avoid bad neighbourhoods, and this requires special SEO knowledge that goes far beyond SEO basics. If you invest in developing this knowledge, your self-confidence will grow, and you will feel much better on the web.
Still have some money left?
Submit your site to Yahoo! Directory. Launch a small PPC campaign. If you have time, join one or more paid Business Networking sites, e.g. Ecademy, LinkedIn or Xing. They will give you still more opportunities to publicise your services, as well as some link building opportunities – but paid management teams will make sure you won’t be able to abuse them. Free networks too often get abused by spammers, scammers and other weird people.
Still have more? Invest in more content!