Jill Whalen’s “SEO Ramblings”

Jill Whalen

Dave’s Comments (Digital Marketing Tutorial Blog): I subscribe to Jill’s High Rankings Advisor Newsletter, and it’s always a treat to receive the next edition. This past week Jill reiterated some SEO common sense that I think can help ALL of my readers, especially those who are considering hiring an SEO “expert” for the first time to optimize their Web sites. Enjoy!

“Recently, I’ve read a lot of articles and forum posts from people discussing what they believe to be the most important factors in achieving high rankings. Some I agree with, but others make me feel like I’m in a completely different line of work! Unfortunately, with so much misinformation and half-truths out there, stuff gets repeated by many who have never really bothered to check the accuracy of their statements. It’s fine to speculate about SEO techniques that may or may not work, but people need to remember to make it clear that what they’re saying is often just a guess or a hunch.

When it comes to SEO, those who study it often mix up cause and effect. They notice a difference in ranking after they made a specific change on their site and assume it meant that their change is what caused the ranking to move. It may have, but it may not have. The single most important thing to understand is that your rankings will constantly move, regardless of anything you do. That’s just a fact of life in the SEO game. It’s very difficult to be 100% positive in regards to the cause and effect of search engine results.

The other thing that I see happening a lot is that people may read good articles that discuss great techniques which actually will make sites better for both search engines and users, but they misinterpret them. Many people in this world want or need an exact blueprint for how to do stuff. They need rules and regulations and a specific formula they can follow. Well, guess what? When it comes to SEO, there is no such thing! If you can’t work without a formula, you need to find a new line of work, and you need to do it now.

For instance, you’ve probably heard me say a million times “Make sure to have great keyword-rich content.”

Now, I of course know exactly what I mean by that, and so do many others. But it is open-ended enough to confuse some people. Does keyword-rich content mean you should find every available spot on your page to stuff your keywords? Of course not! In fact, if you are even using the word “stuff” in the same sentence as “keywords,” it’s most likely not something you want to do. Writing keyword-rich content has nothing to do with stuffing. (We save all our stuffing for Thanksgiving, thank you very much!) To me, it’s common sense that it’s a bad idea to stick keyword phrases everywhere and anywhere. But unless I specifically point out the exact places on a page where you might want to put them (and might not), some people will never quite get it.

Unfortunately, even when I do spell it out, like in my Nitty-gritty Guide there will always be people who will take my suggestions further than they should. They have not learned the most important rule in professional search engine optimization, i.e., always put your site users before the search engines in anything that you do for your website.

The sad (and kinda scary) thing is that even professional SEO companies don’t always get this. I’ve had 2 or 3 emails just this week from people who hired various SEO companies to do work for them, only to have the company make recommendations that actually made the pages of their website *worse* than they were before they hired the company. Not necessarily worse for the search engines, but most definitely worse for the site visitors. In this day and age, it’s hard for me to fathom that an SEO company would still be telling their clients, “You have to do this for the search engines, even though we realize it makes your site look dumb.”

No, you absolutely do not!

There is no SEO technique that you should have to do on your site that will make your site icky for your visitors. Don’t believe it for a second. There may certainly be some trade-offs that your SEO may suggest to you, but you should be able to pick and choose the ones that will work for your site and still get the results you are hoping for.

Another thing people seem to misunderstand is link-building. Many people think that they *must* perform a reciprocal-linking campaign in order to achieve high rankings. The error in this thinking has to do with the reciprocity aspect. They have heard the word “reciprocal” so many times that they think it’s the secret to success. Yet the only reason people ever started doing reciprocal-linking campaigns was because it just happened to be one of the easiest ways to obtain a link! That doesn’t mean you have to give a link to get a link. You don’t. There are tons of ways to get links other than trading for them. Many sites don’t lend themselves to having a links page, and that is okay! Don’t let an SEO company force you into creating one if it’s just not appropriate for your company.

This is not to say that you don’t need links — you very much do need links because they bring visitors to your site, and they tell the search engines that you have a site that has some decent information on it. If trading links is not for you, that’s okay. You just need to start thinking creatively. SEO companies that will do only a reciprocal-linking campaign and no other type are either lazy or unimaginative, or both. (Or you may simply not be paying them enough!)

Always remember that every site has its own unique needs, and its own target market. I cannot stress enough that whatever you do for your website to make it better for the search engines should first and foremost also make it better for your users. If you’re doing something for the search engines that you really don’t like, or that you think looks stupid, then by all means avoid doing it. Use common sense and creativity, and you will eventually have a site you can be proud of, which also gets found by people looking for what you offer!”

Jill Whalen of High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization consultant and host of the free weekly High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter.

She specializes in search engine optimization, SEO consultations and seminars. Jill’s handbook, “The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines” teaches business owners how and where to place relevant keyword phrases on their Web sites so that they make sense to users and gain high rankings in the major search engines.

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