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The Seven Secret Skills Of SEO Work

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There is a lot of talk on the web regarding Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and how, if you do this one thing, you will be at the top of Google. If only it were that easy! I believe there are seven different skills that a search engine optimizer needs to possess. Most people have one or maybe two of these skills; very rarely do people include all seven. In truth, to get to all seven, people who are good at two of these need to develop the other skills actively. This takes time and effort, and if you are running your own business, do you have the time to do this?

The seven skills that I believe are necessary for SEO work are:

Web Design – producing a visually attractive page

HTML coding - developing Search Engine friendly coding that sits behind the web design

Copywriting – producing the actual readable text on the page

Marketing – what are the actual searches being used, and what keywords get more business for your company?

An eye for detail - even the most minor errors can stop spiderbots from visiting your site.

Patience - there is a time lag on any change you make; waiting is a virtue.

IT skills - an appreciation of how search engine programs and the algorithms they use work

Many website designers produce more and more eye-catching designs with animations and clever features, hoping to entice people onto their sites. This is the first big mistake; using techniques like these may decrease your chances of a high Google rating. Yes, that’s right; all that money you have paid for the website design could be wasted because no one will ever find your site.

This is because before you get people to your site, you need to get the spiderbots to like your site. Spiderbots are software search engine companies that crawl the Internet, look at all the websites, and then review the places; they use complex algorithms to rank the sites. Spiderbots cannot trawl some of the complex techniques used by web designers. They come to your site, look at the HTML code, and exit stage right, without even bothering to rank your site. So, you will not be found on any meaningful search.

I am amazed how often I look at websites and immediately know they are a waste of money. The trouble is that the web designers and the company that paid the money do not want to know this. I have stopped playing the messenger of bad news (too many shootings!); I now work around the problem.

So, optimizing a website to be Google-friendly is often a compromise between a visually attractive site and an easy-to-find site. The second skill is optimizing the actual HTML code to be spiderbot-friendly. I put this as different from web design because you need to be “down and dirty” in the code rather than using an editor like FrontPage, which is OK for website design. This skill takes lots of time and experience to develop, and when you think you have cracked it, the search engine companies change the algorithms used to calculate how high your site will appear in the search results.

This is no place for even the most enthusiastic amateur. Results must be constantly monitored, pieces of code added or removed, and a check kept on what the competition is doing. Many people who design their website feel they will get searched because it looks good and miss out on this step. Without a solid technical understanding of how spiderbots work, you will always struggle to get your company on the first results page on Google. We run seven test domains that test different theories with different search engines. Remember that other search engines use different criteria and algorithms to rank your site - one size does not fit all.

Thirdly, I suggested that copywriting is a skill in its own right. This is the writing of the actual text that people coming to your site will read. The Googlebot and spider bots like Inktomi love text – but only when written well in properly constructed English. Some people try to stuff their site with keywords, while others put white writing on white space (so spiderbots can see it, but humans cannot).

Spiderbots are very sophisticated and not only will not fall for these tricks, but they may also actively penalize your site – in Google terms, this is sandboxing. Google takes new places and “naughty” sites and effectively sin-bins them for 3-6 months; you can still be found but n t until results page 14 – useful! As well as good English, the spiderbots are also reading the HTML code, so the copy writer also needs an appreciation of the interplay between the two. My recommendation for anyone copywriting their site is to write every day, well-constructed English sentences that can be read by machines and humans alike.

The fourth skill is marketing; after all, this is what we are doing – marketing your site, company, and products/services on the Web. The key here is to set the site up to be accessible to the searches that will provide most business to you. I have seen many places that can be found as you key in the company name. Others can be found by keying in “Accountant Manchester North-West England,” which is excellent, except no one ever actually does that search. So the marketing
skill requires knowledge of a company’s business, what they are trying to sell, and an understanding of what actual searches may provide dividends.

The next skill is an eye for detail. Even a simple change to a web page can create an error that means the spiderbots will not crawl your site. Recently, I put a link to a page that didn't have www. at the front of the address. The link still worked, but the spiders stopped crawling, and it took my partner to find the error. We have recently invested in a very sophisticated HTML validator that picks up errors that other validators fail to see. These errors do not stop the pages from displaying correctly to the human eye but cause massive problems with spiderbots. Almost all the code I look at on the web using this validator flags significant errors, even from SEO companies.

The sixth skill is patience, or is it a virtue? Some people want to make daily changes and then think they can track the web page ranking results the next day. Unfortunately, it can take a week for absolutely correct changes to take effect, during which time you have made six other changes. Add to this Google's
reluctance to allow new sites straight onto its listings by adding a waiting factor of three months for new places, and you have an uncontrollable situation. We say to all our clients that a piece of SEO work should be looked at like a marketing campaign that runs for six months since it is only after that time that an accurate judgment of the effectiveness of the work can be made.

The final and seventh skill is an appreciation of how search engines and algorithms work, for this is where both IT and maths experience is valuable. People who have programmed at a detailed systems level have a natural feeling for how spiderbots will read a page, what they will search for, what tables they will set up, and what weightings they may give to different elements. All of this builds a picture of the database created and how it will be accessed when a search is undertaken. Unfortunately, this skill is the most difficult one to learn as it relies on many years of experience in systems programming.

So, in summary, I would say, "If it were easy, everyone would be doing it!". I hope you will see that professional Search Engine Optimisation companies need more than a bit of web design to improve your business. Make sure anyone you choose for SEO work can cover all the bases.






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