It is more than a year now since I concluded that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) was, or was soon going to become, a waste of time. I had already, 6 months before then, said farewell to spending an hour a day working on getting reciprocal links.
What led, at the time, to what many would have said were very rash moves? After all, reciprocal linking was still being expounded, by all and sundry, as an essential way to get a good ranking, and the software tools were being actively marketed still. Search engine positioning software was still being heavily marketed and is still today; keyword density was a buzz term being branded around as if it were an essential science to be practised by all good SEO conscious webmasters.
What I did was to go back to marketing basics. I had received my marketing training back in the 1980's and had practical marketing experience with my own business from the mid 1990's. I was not born into internet marketing alone, so could still see outside the blinkers and the hype.
A very basic but important aspect of marketing is to know your market place. When it comes to search engine rankings, then clearly a major part of that market was the major search engines, Google, Yahoo and MSN, with Google being the clear leader then, and a year later today.
I started to think 18 months ago that as far as reciprocal linking went, it was becoming a spammers' zone. Surely, I argued with myself, Google did not really want to rank a web site highly just because the web master had the tools and the time to chase around getting reciprocal links? It just did not make sense. And the same was true of buying links. Why should a web site rank highly because they have splashed out on buying links?
What Google, and the others, really wanted was to rank the best web sites for a particular search term, and it seemed only a matter of time before they sniffed out and extinguished the abuses such as blatantly artificial link building, Blog spam, scraping and extreme SEO'ing.
A year ago, I started two new web sites without any real thought of SEO. As a writer, I was happy to try to provide what search engines wanted: original content on what people were searching for. While I did provide title and description tags, everything else was just written on a go with the flow basis. The keyword phrase for any page would come out in the natural flow. I could just write to my heart's content without using any tools checking keyword density.
The first of those new web sites 13 months ago was in the self improvement niche, which is highly competitive. I was expecting to be “Sandboxed” by Google because of that, and so it proved. But I just kept plugging away, sticking to my no-SEO principle. Of course, none of us outside Google knows for sure if there is such a thing as a sandbox, but there is undoubtedly a waiting time before a new site is thrown fully into the ranking melting pot.
In the self improvement case, the last Google update saw my site emerge from the sandbox after about 12 months. So, at last, I was able see whether my no SEO approach was to yield any positive results. Thankfully, a few high rankings were immediately apparent, including a few #1 positions. On one of those terms, Yahoo followed a few weeks later to the #1 position, while the site was #2 (now 1) at MSN.
Now, this is early days for that particular site, and there is much to do to get more high rankings. However, I am confident that SEO is infinitely more simple than some experts, especially those selling ranking tools, tend to have you believe.
Since I started that particular site, I have only made one major change, and that is convert all my web sites to CSS. Providing a content rich site that is easy to crawl for search engine robots is the most important aspect of the new, simplified SEO. In fact, following Google's advice to webmasters is about all you need to do, and that is free.
Of course, those with software products to peddle will argue that I could do even better with their software. But if Google decides to blacklist that software as a manipulating tool, then all my hard work could be undone. So I will leave the others to chase shadows with ranking software, and just enjoy writing content. After all, that is what basic marketing told me to do.
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