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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Okay, so I'll admit it - I'm not the brightest guy on the planet when it comes to Search Engine Optimization. However, I have been around a while and know some basics that go a real long way. I've also worked with people much more intelligent than I who can talk about SEO in the most esoteric terms.

The reality is that you don't know what you have until you look at a webpage, take a look under the covers (view code), and evaluate search result rankings. I recently took a look at a website that was ranking in the top 50 for specific keywords. Not bad you might say. However, recent studies show that about 80% of people never make it past the first 3 search results and of those who do, only 16% make it to the second page.

I guess what I'm saying is that if your Search Engine Optimization results don't have you on the first page of Google, Yahoo!, and MSN, then you're not doing enough. So what did I find when I analyzed this website (which will remain anonymous)? Where to begin? Here's a short list of things that were not created with SEO in mind.

1. Java script. Java script. Java script. In fact, the first 600 lines of code were java script. I came to find out that all of this java script was part of a content management system to update a very small section of the page under "What's new?". Nice job guys. This is the fastest way to make the content of your webpage difficult to find.

2. No H1 title tag. Search engines love H1's. If your key words aren't enclosed in an h1 tag, then you're not doing what you can to fully optimize your site. H2 tags are valuable as well and you should use them for subheads if possible.

3. Speaking of keywords - probably the most important thing you can focus on - this website didn't have any. That's right. The keywords that would be ideal for their service were not enclosed in the title tag, an H1 tag, or even within the copy of the page. Give me a break! I was told that this site had been optimized!

4. Missing anchor text. I know this is pretty important for Yahoo! and other engines, and the keywords didn't appear on the page as text, as anchor text, or within the first and last 25 words of the page.

This gets even better. Ignoring the fact that nothing was done for on-page optimization, I assumed that when the company told me that the site was "optimized" they were referring to off-page optimization factors. Okay, fair enough I said. And then I actually looked at the apparent off-page optimization effort.

As far as I could tell, I didn't find more than a handful of links from pages with a Google PR of zero that included link text with the proper keywords. The gem in all this is that the company owns a number of website with PR6 ratings. Holy cow! Eureka! This makes link building easy. Of course I instructed them to link to the site from their other high PR sites with the specific link text defined. This made an immediate impact.

I'm still working with this company to improve their SEO but the greatest lesson I learned was that you can't assume that others Search Engine Optimization know the basics. Do the analysis on your own and draw your own conclusions. This is the only way you can be sure of what truly exists.


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