Good SEO

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Paul Boag wrote a post at his site Boagworld asking many questions about SEO. I started writing a comment on his blog, but it grew to become longer than his post and the questions and comments he had about SEO. I decided to post my response here.

In his post, Why I don’t get SEO, he had five reasons why he had doubts about SEO. My response doesn’t address his concerns in the order that he asked them. It touches upon some of the comments written by others as well. If you have questions or concerns about SEO that aren’t addressed in this response, please ask them in the comments below.

What is Good SEO?

Good SEO is not “cheating the system,” or “manipulating search results.” Good SEO is part of a marketing plan that makes it more likely that good content you create is found by people interested in what your website has to offer.

SEO should identify the objectives behind a site and the audiences the site was for. It should have an understanding of the best ways to present information to those audience members. It should also allow them to complete tasks that they may have come to the site to fulfill. It should also research the words and phrases that the audience may use to find that site and expect to see on its pages.

SEO can include:

  • Suggestions for improved information architecture
  • HTML coding
  • Avoiding approaches that keep search engine crawlers from indexing content
  • Keyword research
  • Competitive analysis of other sites in the same market
  • Development of unique selling propositions
  • Improvement of conversions
  • Analytics and how to use analytics to make positive and meaningful changes to a site

SEO is more than creating great content or including keywords in titles and headings that you want to rank for, and following good practice in design involving standards and intelligent structured semantic design.

SEO is more than good web design

Good web design helps, but some days I wonder if good web design is the exception rather than the rule. Here are a small number of design-related problems I often see on web pages:

1. Poor page titles, or no titles at all. A Yahoo study of 1,000,000 random URLs described in a Yahoo patent filed in 2008, Generating Succinct Titles for Web URLs (US Patent Application 20100049709), noted that 17 percent of the pages they found didn’t have page titles.

2. Many site owners include important textual information such as their address in text pictures rather than actual text. A common example sites where that information is crucial, such as the address of the business behind sites for restaurants, shops, and businesses that provide services in specific geographical areas. The Google Webmaster Guidelines note the following:

Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn’t recognize text contained in images. If you must use images for textual content, consider using the “ALT” attribute to include a few words of descriptive text.

Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn’t recognize text contained in images. If you must use images for textual content, consider using the “ALT” attribute to include a few words of descriptive text.

3. Many content management systems and eCommerce platforms are set up so pages can be accessed at more than one URL, which can lead to search engines not indexing all of the pages of a site that they might, and having link equity or PageRank being spread amongst the same page at more than one URL. I’ve seen at least one site with the same page content indexed by Google at more than a thousand different URLs.

Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft were all granted patents last week on methods that they can use to address that problem, but there’s no guarantee from the search engines that they are using those methods on every site that they find, and resolving those problems rather than hoping the search engines will understand them is the best approach.

In a recent interview with Google’s Matt Cutts, he suggests solving the problem of duplicate content at different URLs:

Typically, duplicate content is not the largest factor on how many pages will be crawled, but it can be a factor. My overall advice is that it helps enormously if you can fix the site architecture upfront because then you don’t have to worry as much about duplicate content issues and all the corresponding things that come along with it.

4. Many web hosts set up domains for new site owners so that the same content can be displayed on those domains both with and without a “www.” While the search engines may pick up on the fact that the same content exists at more than one domain, usually they don’t.

5. Many websites fail to use words in title elements, heading elements, anchor text, and page content that their intended audiences will both likely search for and expect to see on their pages.

SEO isn’t about making great content and stuffing it with keyword phrases, but rather about creating great content that includes intelligent choices of words used within that content, meaningful images used on pages, and multimedia content that can be indexed well.

Why site owners can’t just create great content

The number and kind of ranking signals that search engines use to rank pages go beyond good web design as well. Microsoft noted in their paper, FRank: A Ranking Method with Fidelity Loss (pdf), that they based their rankings of pages on 619 different query dependent and query independent features.

Google representatives have stated many times in the past few years that they look at more than 200 different signals to determine how pages might be ordered in search results.

There are several initial steps that a site owner can take that make it more likely that a search engine crawling program can find all of the URLs on their site, index the content found there, and display those pages in search results.

But, an SEO has no control over changes that competitors might make to their sites, or search engines might make to their algorithms, or the interest that potential visitors might have in the products or services or information found upon a site. There are no guarantees.

Marketing is an ongoing endeavor, and effective SEO is also an ongoing endeavor that requires a knowledge of the framework within which a site exists on the Web, going beyond an understanding of how to present pages to search engines and visitors. An SEO constantly studies search engines, often including reading patent filings and white papers and blog posts and press releases and interviews from the search engines, experimenting on sites that aren’t mission-critical, and observing and anticipating changes about how the Web (and not just search engines) works.

Google Principal Engineer Matt Cutts recently wrote a post, Google, transparency and our not-so-secret formula, at Google’s European Public Policy Blog about some of the efforts that they take to educate web site publishers, including publishing hundreds of research papers, participating in conferences and forums, and through many blog posts and help pages. They do provide a great amount of information, probably more than most site owners can manage to keep up with, which is why it can be helpful to have an SEO work with them.

Search engines do have sophisticated algorithms that they use, based upon human assumptions that attempt to address problems programmatically, sometimes at the cost of false positives and false negatives. For example, Google announced a couple of months ago that they started to expand some queries to include synonyms for words used in searchers’ queries. They stated in the Official Google Blog post, Helping computers understand language, that the method worked well most of the time, only failing badly one time for every fifty times it worked well.

A fifty to one ratio sounds like a small number of bad results, but when you’re talking about possibly billions of queries a month, it could end up being a fairly large number of bad results. Here’s what the Official Google Blog post stated about their approach to expanding queries:

Most of the time, you probably don’t notice when your search involves synonyms because it happens behind the scenes. However, our measurements show that synonyms affect 70 percent of user searches across the more than 100 languages Google supports.

We took a set of these queries, analyzed how precise the synonyms were, and were happy with the results: For every 50 queries where synonyms significantly improved the search results, we had only one truly bad synonym.

Good SEO enhances the quality and usability of web sites

Good SEO should enhance a visitor’s experience with a website rather than damaging it, or entail stuffing pages with unreadable content, or mean adding unusable navigation that doesn’t advance that goal.

Good SEO should help with the creation of intelligently crafted copy rather than excessive copy.

Good SEO should lead to navigation that makes it more likely that people can and will visit pages that meet their informational and transactional needs.

The goal of SEO is to make it more likely that a site owner meets the objectives behind their site and visitors find what they are looking for.

SEO is responsive

SEO is not a broadcast approach to marketing. It’s not a one-time ad that shows up on TV or the radio, or a newspaper. SEO is passive about broadcast media. SEO can be used as part of a marketing plan that also includes those approaches, but it recognizes that people will go to a search engine when they have a need to find information, or a task to perform that they can do online.

A website is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If pages from a site are visible in search results for queries that people are performing to meet those needs, rather than when the owner of a site decides to broadcast what their business or organization offers, it can often be more effective than TV or radio Print.

One of the questions that I ask people when they first start doing SEO for their sites is, “What is it about your site and what you offer that gets people to talk about it, to recommend it to others, to bookmark it, and link to it?” A website should appeal to people, and SEO should not only avoid getting in the way of that appeal but should enhance it.

Good SEO adds value to a website and to the person or business or organization behind it and creates a better experience for people who have needs that they are trying to meet through the Web.

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167 thoughts on “Good SEO”

  1. Funny Bill. I read Paul’s article last night and started to comment myself and just like you thought my comment would run to long and be better as a post.

    One of the things that stuck me reading the post and the comments was how many people still equate seo with spam. The example Paul used of a keyword stuffed page is I think how many people see seo. It’s unfortunate since we know that’s not seo.

    Makes me wonder if the entire industry needs to do a better job of letting people know what seo really is.

  2. Aloha Bill, from a small business owners perspective… I do not think that we are provided with enough information to help us bridge the gaps during our cost benefit analysis. I am not faulting the SEO crowd, but its difficult to justify an expense like outsourcing SEO. Since you are dealing with secretive search engine algos, you basicly have no detailed blueprint for success, thus you really can’t remove the unknowns which are preventing us from seeing a possible return on our investment.


  3. Hi Steven,

    After I found myself writing number 4 or 5 in the list above within my response, I started thinking that I should post here rather than on Paul’s blog.

    The screenshot that Paul showed of a page footer overstuffed with keywords was a pretty extreme example, and he even noted that himself. But I’ve seen many sites doing the very same thing and thinking nothing of it.

    I think the industry, if you could say that there is an actual SEO industry, could do a better job of educating site owners and the public. I’m reading a book on SEO right now, and even though the people behind it are well known and well respected, even it contains a number of confusing and misleading statements.

    What I appreciated about Paul’s post was that he raised the issues that he had with his perception of SEO in a nonconfrontational manner and asked for intelligent discourse and conversation on the subject. What bothered me was his statement that he had worked with a number of SEO firms and hadn’t been satisfied with their approach and results. That’s why I tried in this post to differentiate between good SEO and bad SEO.

  4. Hi Charles,

    Aloha to you.

    I think I’m fortunate in some ways having started out working on the Web with one site as part of a team for a small business, and seeing search grow into what it is today. But I understand what you’re saying – it would be helpful if more people offering search engine optimization services presented what they offer in terms of business values and the direct impact that their efforts might have in terms of return on investment.

    When you buy an ad on TV or radio or print, you have an idea of what to expect. The same is true somewhat of sponsored search results. It’s a simple task with a somewhat predictable outcome. When you start talking about search engine optimization, it’s not as clear what you are signing up for when you outsource to a consultant. You should be presented with an overall strategy that makes sense from a marketing perspective, and that shows evidence of some understanding of good practices when it comes to increasing visibility in search engines and elsewhere on the Web.

    It’s true that search engines are constantly changing the algorithms that they use, and attempting to improve them, but the ultimate goal is still the same regardless of most of the changes that they make – to make it more likely that people searching for something find pages that are relevant to their interests, their situational need to find information or to perform some task.

    An SEO strategy should always begin with understanding the objectives behind a site and the audiences that site was intended to interest. When you contact someone about SEO services, they should be able to give you an idea of what they might be able to do for you, and how they would approach it, so that the cost/benefit analysis that you might perform isn’t as difficult a task.

  5. As a merchant, Steven Bradley’s comment “Makes me wonder if the entire industry needs to do a better job of letting people know what seo really is.” made me feel like throwing rice at the bride and groom.

    While I do most of my own stuff and have a few friends that offer it publicly, I am still a mom and pop with a physical store and a Web. But I can’t remember the last time I saw someone post that they may actually be concerned about better addressing our needs. Thank you Steven!

    Again from a merchants point of view and based on what I read online, the general impression is that seo is all about flaming or one-upping your buddies in public, which by the way is pretty uninviting to most people that are not involved in seo. And that certainly doesn’t help us with our cost benefit analysis either.

    The good thing for me is that I know the entire industry is not like that, at least I hope it isn’t.

  6. Hi Charles,

    Thank you.

    I do think that many of us do try in our own ways to provide information to the public and to site owners about search engine optimzation in a positive and professional manner. As for the industry as a whole, I think that there is some room for growth and maturation, and it’s to the benefit of people within the industry to aim for that growth.

    Your point is a very good one though. As an industry that tends to be very active on the Web, and very vocal on blogs and social networks, we do have to recognize that our behaviors are on display for the world to watch. What we tweet about and what we blog about, how we interact in social networks, and what people see when pictures are posted from search conferences and gatherings help to create the public’s perception of us.

  7. Yesterday, I also looked through Paul’s post: Why I don’t get SEO, and I see many comments left behind. I obviously can’t agree with what he said, and I want to debate against him also, but I thought I should think for a while, and I thought that some really great masters in SEO should say something! Today, I came cross your blog and I knew here the master came.
    I was touched most by your 2 sentences: “Good SEO is part of a marketing plan that makes it more likely that the good content you create will be found by people who might be interested in what your web site has to offer.” and “The goal of SEO is to make it more likely that a site owner meets the the objectives behind their site and visitors find what they are looking for.“ Paul has misunderstood SEO, a merely useful marketing plan among all the marketing package in the business world, especially for the on-line business.

  8. A lot of the SEO’s down in San Diego stuff keywords in there webpages, which I find really ruins the usability aspects of websites. Stuffing keywords is overkill in my opinion.

  9. “Good SEO adds value to a web site and to the person or business or organization behind that site, as well as creating a better experience for people who have needs that they are trying to meet through the Web.”. God bless good SEO! 🙂

  10. assume tips for the good SEO in context of Google and other search engines. it really enhance my SEO knowledge.

    on thing is sure: SEO is not a rocket science it is a gradual process.

    keep posting…


  11. I’ve never thought SEO as “cheating the system,” or “manipulating search results.” This is the best post I’ve come across regarding SEO. And I agree with SEO beginning when still thinking of what kind of site you will be starting. SEO exists right from the birth of a blog up to its death, if ever.

  12. Hi Web Design Beach,

    Thank you. I take that as very high praise, though it wasn’t my intent and I’m not sure that it’s quite deserving. Hopefully the post does have a few people talking and thinking about how SEO can add value to a website though.

  13. Hi Anna,

    As I mentioned at the beginning of my post, this didn’t start out as a post that I really intended to write, but I appreciated the thoughtfulness behind Paul’s post, and felt that it was worth addressing his concerns.

    I would never refer to myself as a great master or a guru, but I do think that it’s important to try to express how SEO can add considerable value to a website, to how it can help visitors to a site, and to how it can make a site easier to be found on the Web.

  14. Hi g13 media,

    Good points. I don’t believe that San Diego has a monopoly on SEOs or designers or developers or site owners who may get carried away with the amount of keywords that they might put on pages. That’s something that can be found on many sites and in many places.

    It is overkill, and it can harm the usability of web sites. It’s much better to focus upon creating a great experience for visitors, and to intelligently design a site so that appropriate and relevant keywords are used in a manner that help create that experience.

    For instance, a meaningful image on a page can add a lot to how people understand the content of that page. Alt text for that image should focus upon the content of the image itself, rather than being a list of keywords that the designer or developer might hope the page might be found for. A scattered list of multiple keywords might actually diffuse the value of that image and alt text in helping the page rank for the main keyword phrase that the page may be optimized for. And it definitely wouldn’t be helpful for someone who might be accessing the page through a screen reading program as well.

  15. Hi Chameleon Copywriter,

    Thanks. That’s how I feel about it as well. Good SEO improves a site for everyone – site owners, visitors, and search engines.

  16. Hi Allen,

    Sometimes good SEO is mix of common sense, persistence, and a desire to see improvement over time.

    There are aspects of SEO that can be fairly complex, and if you read some of the papers that come out of the Google Labs, there are times when an advanced computer science or economics or mathematics or linguistics degree might just be helpful. SEO isn’t rocket science and it isn’t brain surgery, but some of it can be very technical, and there are times when an SEO is most helpful if he or she can talk comfortably with people from both the marketing and the programming departments for their clients.

    You don’t want someone who isn’t a trained pilot landing the plane you’re on, and you don’t want a first year medical student performing an advanced medical procedure on you. I’ve seen ads on Craig’s List for companies trying to hire unpaid interns to do advanced SEO on their sites, and wondered how they could place so little value on something that could have such a profound impact on their businesses or organizations. The best answer that I can come up with is that most of them don’t understand the value of SEO done right.

  17. Hi Andrew,

    Thank you very much for your kind words. It would be a real boon to most sites if they did start out with at least the fundamentals of SEO in mind when they were first developed. As I mentioned in my post, and you point out, SEO like marketing is ideally something that is ongoing – the world changes, the products and services that businesses offer change, the language that people use to refer to products alters over time, and the marketplace of goods and services and ideas change over time as well.

  18. All I can say is Thank You Bill. This is exactly what SEO should be, and for most of us, is about. 🙂

  19. That’s great advice about pictures. Although I had never really thought about it or used pictures to display text, that really makes sense. How can the crawler see the text embedded in there? I’m also glad to see that the crawler isn’t just this black box no one understands. Creepy Crawlies! Hehe. Thanks Bill.

  20. Great post Bill. Just my own opinion but I agree with most of what you say, IMO, the problem lies in the fact the industry has morphed from it’s webmastering with marketing roots, into what? I don’t know… just know it doesn’t “feel” right. I hear too much about how to manipulate links and not enough about how to “build” a site that sells. Here’s a novel idea! How about building a website that is crafted rather than installed? #JusSayin

  21. @SebastianX said every SEO should have a printout of this on their desk, I would have to agree. Great insight on how “Good SEO” should be implemented and used. Much appreciated.

  22. One of the biggest problems I see for clients is the horrible SEO they receive when they purchase templated web sites. I worked at AT&T yellow pages until last year. Their websites still had pages that were titled About Us and Contact.

  23. Good analysis! I agree that SEO is not to be seen as something ‘cheating the system’. It is there to aid search engines index, crawl and rank pages that would otherwise not be indexed properly or ranked. It is the aid of a human hand to the automated bot. Thus SEO is seen as something complementary to ebusiness.

  24. I love this comment “SEO is not a broadcast approach to marketing. It’s not a one time ad that shows up on TV or the Radio or a newspaper.”

    I always sum up SEO like this:

    * Reach the right market (those who are looking to buy from you)
    * At the right moment (the time they want to buy)
    * With the right message (your unique selling point)
    * Through the right media (the one that gives you the best ROI)

  25. Hello Bill
    And thank you for another excellent post that I will reference often. SEO has gotten a bit of black-eye in my estimation because there are still practitioners out there using methodologies from the early days of search engines. I can always tell the clients that have been “stung” by link building scams or SEO that is made up of adding H1 headlines and keywords to content with bold formatting. The continued advancements of the technology require a more strategic approach in optimizing a site. You’ve touched on much here to which I’d add:
    Making sure that the client is set up to keep the site optimized. This is done through education up front in how search engines work so that realistic expectations and key performance indicators can be developed.
    Education throughout the process so that the client can continue the good work. You tell them why and teach them how…the old..”eat fish/learn to fish” scenario.
    SEO deliverables that contain clear, concise, prescriptive and actionable steps. I’ve read other SEO deliverables that are incomprehensible to me and I’ve been doing this for awhile.
    No absolutes (outside of avoiding known Black Hat techniques). Flash/Silverlight/video and others are here to stay. Good SEO finds workarounds for clients who rely on technology or design that is more opaque to search engines.

    As for content/context debate, I’m not sure how you can separate the two. For me, it is much like the Miller Lite…less filling/tastes great, both legitimate descriptions of what y’all might consider good beer.

  26. Hi Terry,

    Thank you. I sometimes wonder when I read about something like “page rank sculpting” so that you can lessen the amount of pagerank that goes to pages like an “about us” page, which is likely linked to from every page on your site. Why not instead make a great “about us” page that has the potential to draw traffic to the site, and send visitors to other pages on the site?

    I read about “siloing” in many places and wonder if people would benefit from spending more time learning about actual information architecture. I think they would get much more thinking about how to organize information on their site for visitors then trying to organize their site to manipulate links and increase rankings.

    As for “installed” versus “crafted” sites, It is great that it has become easier for more people to take advantage of software like “WordPress,” and other blogging and content management systems that lower the cost and effort of putting a site on the Web. But even with how search friendly WordPress tends to be, and even with the plugins developed for it that help more with SEO, it has limitations. Regardless, I’d love to see more local governments take advantage of software like WordPress, because even with its limitations, it still produces sites that are much better than most I see for towns and counties. And those limitations can be addressed, with some work.

  27. Hi Aaron,

    I think you might have misread that part of my post (or I didn’t express myself clearly enough). Search engines don’t read text that is presented as images at this point in time. So, a search engine might have a difficult time understanding where a business is located when that business shows their address as a picture, rather than as actual text within the HTML on a page.

    It’s possible that the future might bring us web crawlers that can grab the text from an image. IBM filed a patent back in 2000 that describes a web crawler program that uses optical character recognition (OCR) to read image text, but as far as I can tell at this point, it doesn’t seem like any of the major search engines are using technology like that presently to read text in images on web pages.

    Google does have a couple of pending patents that describe how they might use OCR to read text on signs as they capture video for their StreetViews project. If they can do that, it probably isn’t long until they start doing the same thing with text in images on web pages.

  28. “What is it about your site and what you offer that gets people to talk about it, to recommend it to others, to bookmark it and link to it?” That is the question to always ask yourself – thanks for sharing it

  29. Hi juliemarg,

    I’ve seen a lot of sites that offer “free web sites” or low cost websites, aimed at people who want a web site but may not perceive how valuable a presence online can be. I know that many hosting companies offer templated sites like that either as an enticement to host with them or to make it easy for people who might not think of a website as much more than an online brochure for their business.

    I’m not sure SEO or even design is really is much of a consideration for those kinds of site.

  30. Hi George,

    Thank you. I appreciate very much that you spent the time helping people understand how to use that feature from Google.

    I also do like that Google is providing some tools to help webmasters attempt to solve problems like the same content being found at more than one URL, either because of extraneous URL or Data parameters within those URLs, or things like session IDs. Yahoo has also offered a way of informing that search engine about URL parameters. See:

    Introduction to the Dynamic URLs Tab

    While it’s nice that the search engines are trying to understand the problem of multiple URLs for the same page, and even providing tools for site owners to use to try to stop this problem, there is a better way. That’s to try to make it so that the pages of your site only show up under one URL each.

    It can be more work to do that, but there’s a benefit to taking the time to solve the problem itself rather than putting what ends up being a bandaid on it.

    Google’s approach only works for Google and not other search engines. Same with Yahoo’s (and there’s no telling if Microsoft will keep and use that information when they take over providing search for Yahoo). If people link to the one of the URLs that have extraneous parameters, it’s quite possible that the value of that link isn’t counted.

  31. Hi Michael,

    Absolutely. It’s also about helping a person or business or organization decide the best way to present information about themselves online. SEO is marketing with an awareness and knowledge of the Web and search engines.

  32. Content always pay but now everybody is aware about SEO. So the question is Who will rank high? All sites are SEO now.

  33. Adeel a Freelancer, I just gone through your post and i really like this because you have explained almost everything about SEO. I am agreed that SEO is more the then the site content and web design, if you have a good content but you don’t know how to use this content to build the interest of people in your content likewise a good web design doesn’t mean that the site will be the most successful site in its category in future. SEO is that thing that polishes everything in you site and gave you a direction to extract every next drop of juice that you need. I’m not denying that content and web design etc. are not important they have their own importance in their place. All I want to say is that its really a good post and I must say “GOOD SEO”. 🙂

  34. Hi Bill

    Firstly thanks for your post, its spot on.

    I’m defiantly going to use some of the lessons when speaking to clients, it’s amazing the number of people I meet who *think* they know what good SEO is. Everyone should read this post before speaking to me.

    “Good SEO adds value to a web site and to the person or business or organization behind that site, as well as creating a better experience for people who have needs that they are trying to meet through the Web.”

    That should be engrained on every SEOs mind…

  35. One of the best posts on SEO I’ve read in a long time.

    Good SEO is not spammy link manipulation, but something very close to well-planned and executed information archicture combined with textual and navigational structures that are easily understood by human and machine alike.

    Ended up here by Twitter chance, but will definitely be coming back!

  36. Ah yes, yet another “I don’t get SEO” post. Amazing how much discussion they generate. There’s definately a negative perception of SEO out there that professional SEOs will forever be battling. Will we ever win? I doubt it. The simple fact is the great majority of site owners out there have no idea how to create a website which achieves their objectives. If they did, the SEO industry wouldn’t exist. And that’s what SEO is all about. Pure & simple.

  37. Hi abhi,

    I see many more sites on the Web that could use help with SEO then I do ones that don’t. The point behind SEO isn’t about ranking highly, or at least ranking highly for anything, but rather making it more likely that people interested in what a site has to offer can find that site.

  38. Hi Marianne,

    There are some SEOs who seem stuck in the 20th century. For example, discussions about SEO basics seem to focus upon putting keywords in different elements on a page, and “as near the start of the page within the HTML of the page,” ignoring the fact that search engines have been writing about and filing patent applications on topics like Visual Gap Segmentation for around seven years now. Isn’t that long enough for that to be considered a basic part of SEO at this point?

    I do try to be transparent with recommendations for changes and explain why certain this are recommended. It’s also helpful to describe the strategy behind those changes in a way that a client can understand and participate in fully.

    Creating great content is wonderful, but if you ignore the framework within which it appears on the Web, you make it less likely that people will find it.

  39. Hi Kasper,

    Thank you. I’ve always been struck by how similar SEO and information architecture are. If those performing information architecture expanded the scope of what they do to an awareness of its place on the Web, they might be doing something very close to SEO. It’s interesting to see people like Peter Morville writing books on topics like “Ambient Findability” and more recently “Search Patterns,” which do expand from information architecture to information retrieval.

  40. Hi Michael,

    There’s definitely a blurring between SEO and content development and web design in many areas. The purpose behind all three is communications of ideas, and the possibility of opportunities for interaction between site owner and site visitor. Each has something to offer in terms of value, and together they can help in the creation of an effective and useful site.

  41. Hi Caliban,

    Thanks. I do think that many people who write about SEO do believe that the purpose behind it is to add value to the sites that they work upon, but that’s often not how it’s presented. I do cringe sometimes when I see a definition of SEO that limits it to something like “taking steps to make a site rank more highly in search engines.”

  42. Hi Steve,

    I don’t mind sometimes responding to the questions and concerns that people might have about SEO. As long as professional SEOs stand by and let people equate them with spammers, people will.

    The simple fact is the great majority of site owners out there have no idea how to create a website which achieves their objectives. If they did, the SEO industry wouldn’t exist. And that’s what SEO is all about. Pure & simple.

    A good number of site owners also aren’t programmers, usability experts, and designers either. There’s a need for SEO because there is a certain baseline of knowledge about search engines, design, HTML, marketing, and other related topics that someone doing effective SEO should know in order to make a difference. There are site owners who can and do spend the time to learn, but they face the same challenges that professional SEOs do – the Web is constantly changing, as are search engines, and industry.

    Many SEOs write about SEO and share some of the ideas and information that they have in a proactive manner, like I try to do here when I write about things like search related patents and white papers.

  43. Pingback: Things that were delicious this week… 26 March, 2010
  44. Hi, I am new to seo and keeps looking for such article. Your article has clear many query of a starter..

    I have little confusion on below point

    “4. Many webhosts set up domains for new site owners so that the same content can be displayed on those domains both with and without a “www.” While the search engines may pick up on the fact that the same content exists at more than one domain, usually they don’t.”

    I have submited my www and non www ulr to G webmaster tool and set one of them as preferred domain. is it okay ?

    thank you.

  45. I’ve tried the services of an SEO company. But other than helping with the initial web design to pull it in line with good practices and architecture, it seems that nothing is happening month after month after the initial fixes when supposedly they’re committing to an ongoing SEO push (backlinks, etc). Maybe it’s time to employ a different company.

  46. Very interesting. Are then defined: It is not necessary to have a good design to SEO can work something out. What we need is a strategy and a good project. Now that we have a target just the customers understand the real value of seo. Here in Brazil all segments do not have a lot to have so work is more difficult.

    thanks for the knowledge

  47. Hi smsinhindi,


    Using Google’s webmaster tools to let them know that you prefer either the version of your URL with a “www” or without a “www” is a good start. But, we don’t know if that does much beyond determining whether Google will only show one version or the other in search results. Does Google also take that into account when it calculates PageRank for a site? I don’t know. It’s quite possible, but I don’t recall every seeing them admit that.

    Regardless, changing that setting in Google’s webmaster tools doesn’t help you with Yahoo or Bing, or any other search engine.

    If you can set up a 301 redirect for your site to point to one subdomain version or the other, that’s something that usually can be done fairly quickly. Make sure that all of the internal links on your site point to the version that you prefer as well.

  48. Hi JT,

    I don’t know the details of your relationship with this company, including how they are supposed to report on the work that they have done for you. Maybe it’s time for you to have a conversation with them, if you haven’t already, to state your concerns and to learn more about what they are doing. If that doesn’t satisfy you, then you might want to start talking with someone else.

  49. Hi Divulgar,

    There are some sites that are very successful inspite of their design. For instance, Craig’s List really has a sparse design that hasn’t changed much over the years, but they do very well. Having a strategy in place to understand who the audiences for your site might be, and finding ways to reach them is a good start.

  50. Great post! This is just what I’ve been preaching for years here in Sweden.

    Good SEO isn’t about cheating Google, it’s about helping Google help users to find the most relevant site for their search (i.e. the client’s).

  51. Thank you, Nikke

    It’s something that I’ve been practicing here for years as well. Good SEO is making it easier for people who are offering something on their site to be found by people looking for what that site offers.

  52. hi ,Bill Slawski

    thanks for your reply. I am new.. your answer clear me many fact. I am already redirecting my non www domain to www. domain (the preferred one ).


  53. Hi smsinhindi,

    You’re welcome. Make sure that in addition to setting up that 301 redirect that you also make sure that the actual links on your site are pointing to the “www” versions of pages. You don’t want all of the visitors (and search engines) to go through a redirect everytime they go from one page to another on your site.

    Also, make sure that you test and make sure that your redirects work the way that they are supposed to, by going to a site that will check the server header messages that your pages send out. Do a search for “header checker” and you’ll find a number of pages that you can do that test on. On one of those, type in the non-www version of one or more of the pages of your site, and make sure that it tells you that the page has redirected to the www version, and that it did so through a 301 redirect.

  54. Thanks for the great post. My comment echoes those above – a fab, comprehensive roundup of proper white-hat SEO.

  55. “There are other topics worth discussing. It’s a big world, with a lot going on in it.”

    I know I wasn’t meaning SEO was the only thing on my mind, I just am passionate about learning as much as I can about it right now. I guess because so many people around me haven’t a clue how it works!

  56. It’s funny because when I run my site up against “competitors” in the financial blogosphere, I realize how poorly optimized many of them are. I learned it from my day job and began applying tactics to my site while at the same time trying new things out and bringing them back to work if I discovered they worked. Now I couldn’t imagine NOT having optimized. It’s not difficult and the results are tremendous – I don’t quite understand the aversion to good, solid SEO.

    I loved what you said “SEO isn’t about taking great content and stuffing it with keyword phrases, but rather about creating great content that includes intelligent choices of words used within that content, meaningful images used on pages, and multimedia content that can be indexed well.” – that’s exactly it. It’s an extension of the conversation and because I feel strongly about the views I express on my website, I feel compelled to try and deliver that opinion as broadly as possible. I couldn’t accomplish that without SEO.

    What good does intelligent content do without an audience to appreciate it?

  57. Too many people forget that Google bases their ranking algorithm on producing great results for the user.

    If you keep the user in mind all the time when doing optimization then you can’t go too far wrong.

  58. I actually read Paul’s post this morning and had a few responses to it I wanted to comment with but have yet found the time to do so, but this is a great response Bill 🙂

  59. Pingback: Good SEO Revisited – SEO Central
  60. As someone has already wrote, SEO is not “rocket science” but getting it right takes time, especially for newbies. I highly recommend the “SEO Book” by Aaron Wall.
    Thanks for the advice.

  61. Hi Lisa,

    Thank you. Never really been to keen on the whole “White hat/Black hat” meme involving SEO. I’ve always found it a little too simplistic, and think it reinforces the notion of the Web as the wild west. Hopefully we are maturing beyond that as an industry, and can start thinking about how we go about our business as professionals.

  62. Hi Kevin,

    OK. Good point. 🙂

    I don’t see enought written about SEO from the point of it adding value to a site and a business. There’s a lot more on the Web about how to boost your twitter follower numbers, or build linkbait or link magnets, or other topics focusing upon tactics without panning out to a broader view on the value of those activities and their actual impacts. Nothing against those posts themselves, but I would love to hear more about the value behind those approaches.

  63. Hi Jr Deputy Accountant,

    Thank you. That’s a great point.

    An analogy that I sometimes think about is of an artist, a Picasso or Monet, creating one of their greatest paintings, and choosing to hang it up in a locked shed in the middle of a huge field where no one will ever see it, and leaving it there. I don’t think everyone should create and be obsessed with marketing and how much money or status they might attain within their creations, but I don’t think it hurts to understand something of the framework within which you create and make it more likely that the people whom you want to see what you’ve written or constructed might see your efforts.

  64. Hi CP,

    Exactly – focus upon the user. Given that, if you do set up your site to make it easier for search engines to find your pages and index your content, you make it easier for those users to find your pages. I don’t think that you can easily separate SEO from other things like usability and accessibility, which are both aimed at making web sites easier for people to use.

  65. Hi jsanderz,

    Unfortunately, there are many who write “SEO isn’t rocket science” who seem to write that as a way to disvalue SEO. There are technical aspects of SEO that many people don’t grasp, and that are complicated. We both know that there can also be a lot of value to making changes to a site that are more common sense than complicated practices, that take time and patience. It’s easy to write that a site should offer something unique and interesting and engaging on their pages, but actually doing so is a lot of work, and can require creativity, thoughtfulness, and some insight into what makes people buy something, share with others, and spread the word about.

    SEO isn’t web design, nor information retrieval, nor brand marketing, nor programming, nor many other disciplines, but knowing something about each of those can increase the effectiveness of SEO efforts.

    Aaron Wall’s SEO book is a great introduction to SEO, but I don’t believe that Aaron is updating the book anymore, and has switched over to a subscription based forum for sharing information about SEO. So, the information that you find in SEO Book might be a little dated. But if you approach it understanding that, I think there’s still some value to reading it.

  66. New to SEO and reading anything and everything I can find.
    Thanks for the info.
    Do you offer any SEO courses/training?
    I am in Australia, but looking for reputable SEO training.

  67. Great article here, all web designers should prepare and include good SEO in the design for starters, as for the long term process of ranking high, that’s another story.

  68. Hi Mia,

    Thank you. I’m not sure that I expect all web designers to know SEO well enough to include it within the design of a site, but following good design practices such as unique and descriptive page titles, meta descriptions, headings, and alt text for images, can be very helpful as a start. As can recognizing that search engines can’t read text within images.

  69. if we divide SEO in good and bad, we can say that good SEO is what bad SEO isn’t. Now, what is bad SEO? only the cheating part? manipulation of search engines? also, using tools like “All in One SEO Pack” for WP is good or bad SEO? 🙂

  70. Hi Bogdan,

    No, I don’t think that we can say that Good SEO is what bad SEO isn’t.

    The “All in One SEO Pack” is only a tool, and not SEO in and of itself. That plugin can be used to make it easier for site owners to provide effective, unique and descriptive titles and meta descriptions for web pages. But it isn’t SEO. SEO is the application of an understanding of the technical and marketing decisions behind the construction of a site and the development of the content and design of that site that makes it more likely that a site owner’s objectives are met, that the audiences of a site can find the pages of that site, and that the two can interact for their mutual benefit.

  71. “Good SEO is not “cheating the system,” or “manipulating search results.””

    I dont agree. SEO is about reaching a goal, not about methods. Who are to determin what is good SEO or not anyway? Is blackhat bad if you ruin something for someone else, for example spamming their forum to death? Is it on the other hand ok to use the METHODS if it gets you rankings but not hurting anyone in the process? “Cheating” (i.e. blackhat methods) are not good SEO, I guess, but what if your competitors are using it? Should you just stick with your #16 on Google because you dont want to turn to “ugly” methods of beating them? Or do you want to make money and use every means available?

  72. Great post and I agree that good SEO is subjective, however I do think a major trademark of good SEO is how obvious it is that the author, website, etc. was trying for SEO…or if it is just a great article, blog, etc. that also happens to contain some keywords..

  73. Hi forbrukslan1,

    Providing effective SEO is as much about the methods used as it is about the goals. Work on enough websites, and you get an idea of what good SEO is and what it isn’t. If you’ve ever had to file a reinclusion request with a search engine because of something that a website owner or someone who worked for them in the past did on their site, you know how the methods used can have a negative impact on a site.

    If you’ve ever seen a site optimized for some very poorly chosen phrases, while much better choices existed, you get a sense of how the right method can make a difference. If you’ve seen a site that has a well known brand fail to rank very well for their own brand because of a lack of understanding on how to present their brand on their own pages, you’ve seen a site that doesn’t understand the methods to follow in implementing a sound SEO strategy.

    Ranking well while creating pages that increase traffic but don’t bring the right visitors isn’t usually an effective approach. Or ranking well and increasing traffic, but having most of that traffic leave quickly without fulfilling the objectives of a site owner isn’t usually an effective approach either. Having pages that rank well, earn bookmarks and referrals to other people, and links, and return visits and generate leads or sales or educate or otherwise fulfill the objectives of a site owner and satisfy people who visit those pages is effective SEO. Note that the purpose behind every site isn’t always to make money. And using “every means available” can result in banned pages, abandoned shopping carts, quick clicks on back buttons, tarnished reputations and other negative results.

  74. Hi Bill, and thank you for your answer. I have another idea related to the topic: let’s say i’m commenting here and I also add my website to be linked to my name (which I actually did 🙂 ).
    Is this SEO? Is it good SEO? If it is good SEO, it’ll be ok to multiply it on several websites, right? And so I’ll became a spammer…
    If it’s bad SEO, then I guess you should remove the “Website” field from comments area, right?

  75. Great article here id have to say that with the search engines are constantly changing the algorithms that they use, it is so important that you try and keep up with the industry and are able to adapt you business and website around this in order to suceed.

  76. Hi Pat,

    There are many different marketing approaches that a site can take, but there are certain aspects of SEO that are less subjective and are often good ideas to implement to make SEO more effective, such as making sure that a site can be crawled by search engine crawling programs, that page titles and headings are descriptive of the content found on pages, and others.

    A smartly designed and implemented site that is created with an understanding of the basics of SEO (and information architecture and usability) should definitely look and feel as if it were created for human beings rather than search engines.

  77. Hi Bogdan,

    Commenting on blog posts can be a way to get links to your site, and to have people follow those links back to your pages, especially if your comments are thoughtful and engaging, but by themselves they are just one tactic and not an overall SEO strategy. Unfortunately, there are people who use blog comments as an integral part of their approach to SEO without considering other tactics that could potentially be much more effective.

    I do receive a lot of automated and human generated comments that have little or nothing to do with the posts they are attached to, that include keywords (in English and other languages as well) in the name field, and that sometimes link back to some questionable sites. The vast majority of those end up getting deleted rather than published. But, I also receive many interesting, relevant, thoughtful and insightful comments as well.

    The search engines recognized the potential problem with blog comments and linkspam, and introduced the nofollow attribute for links that many blog software providers include with their software as a default option. Some sites do use a plugin to allow links from commentors to send some PageRank or link equity back to the sites that are included in the Website field for a comment. I appreciate that people do often take the time to get involved in a discussion of a topic, and I use one of those plugins here.

    But, how much value do those comment links pass back?

    An interview with one of Yahoo’s chief researchers last year told us that they weigh links differently based upon where those links appear upon a page. Google’s Matt Cutt’s said something very similar within the past year. For many blog posts that don’t have much pagerank to begin with, it’s possible that links from blog comments don’t pass along much in the way of PageRank or link equity at all.

    But blog comments can be very useful from a different perspective. They can lead to direct visits from people reading blog posts. They can also lead to the creation of actual relationships between a blog owner and commentor, and other commentors as well.

    Good SEO shouldn’t rely upon blog comments as a major way of getting links back to a site. But it should consider them as a way of getting involved with communities on the Web, interacting with others in a positive manner, and creating the possibility of building a relationship that has more to it than just a few links.

  78. Hi Kenneth,

    Good point. The web does change, and the search engines are evolving with it. Doing SEO well means paying attention, and evolving what you do as well. Many of the basics of SEO from a couple of years ago are different today.

  79. Hi noegi,

    Often, the first step I take with a site is to try to build a good foundation for it by making sure that it can be crawled and indexed by search engines, and by trying to make sure that it is easy to use. Building great content is a way to differentiate your site from others that may cover similar ground, and building links is a way for people and search engines to find your site, but having that foundation in place first can be really helpful.

  80. What an awesome post, with such great information! As an Internet marketing firm for small businesses, these are many of the tips that we tell our clients each day. Having good content is vital in order to reach the desired SEO page rank and website traffic. It is important to work with the search engines, such as Google and Yahoo!, so the web crawler will find your website both relevant and popular. After all, people use these search engines when researching a product or service, so organic SEO and other search engine marketing techniques are incredibly beneficial to online marketing!

  81. Wow, what a great post. SEO is something that continues to change with time. I feel that it is important that if you want your website to succeed you need to get a better understanding
    of SEO.

  82. Hi Bill, I can see why you posted this here instead of on the comments section of Paul’s post. Ironically, comparing your post with Paul’s, it’s quite easy to see which of the two offers the most ‘useful content’. My company provides SEO Services and I am pretty sure that Paul must have used poor SEO companies that charge extortionate prices, or otherwise he is simply employing a strategy that creates more interest and debate. Either way I find it hard to believe that some of his comments haven’t been made with tongue in cheek! Enjoyed reading your post and have reluctantly bookmarked your site. I say reluctantly because it looks like there’s a great deal of good quality content available and I’m not sure where I’ll find the time to read it all. Cheers!

  83. Hi lgenetti,

    Thank you. Search engines are one of the primary ways that people find information on the Web. So if a site owner doesn’t spend at least some effort in learning more about how they work, even just spending some time at the search engines’ guidelines, they may not be aware that they could be doing things that keep them from being found by people through search engines.

  84. Hi Mike,

    I appreciate your kind words. SEO does change over time. In many ways, it’s very different now than it even was a couple of short years ago.

  85. Hi Andy,

    Hopefully I can get you to return some more in the future, and spend some time here by continuing to make posts that you find interesting, no matter how time consuming.

  86. Great post. When I first heard about SEO before jumping into it as a full fledged career, it had the reputation of “gaming the system”. But over time I’ve learned that SEO is really about making sure great websites don’t have any technical barriers to search engines and that on-site and off-site marketing leverages some SEO techniques. In the long run if you have a sub-par website, bad product or poor marketing no amount of SEO trickery will make it successful.

  87. Great post. I like the way you frame the discussion by asking the client “What is it about your site and what you offer that gets people to talk about it, to recommend it to others, to bookmark it and link to it?” – this can go a long way in getting client thinking the right way about how SEO can help them. Well done.

  88. Hi Mark,

    In the long run if you have a sub-par website, bad product or poor marketing no amount of SEO trickery will make it successful.

    I agree with you, though I think I prefer to consider SEO as both improving a web site and as part of that marketing rather than as trickery. 🙂

  89. Hi Jeff,

    Framing a conversation with a client in terms of the value it can add to a web site can be really helpful. When I ask people questions like that, and about their objectives behind their site, there are many times when I do get responses telling me that they hadn’t quite thought about their site that way before. It is a good way to start things out.

  90. With the basics of SEO in mind i.e. keyword in title, headers, etc, etc, I think the best SEO still remains writing for your audience. it sounds so cliched but I started a blog which currently has about 10 posts and is on page 1 of yahoo and page 2 of Google for some relevant and moderately competitive keywords. I decided to just write for my audience, give them good information and was shocked to find a decent amount of search engine traffic coming to it.

  91. Hi Dave,

    Good to hear about your success with your blog. A search friendly site, intelligent use of keywords and information architecture, and an understanding of your audience and what they are looking for can be a good foundation to build upon.

  92. Hi Bill,

    Thanks for this post. It’s a good Summary about what SEO is. I especially like the beginning where you explain that SEO should start with an objective. This is the first factor for me too. Unfortunately, some people forget this point…

  93. You’re welcome, Ramenos.

    Unfortunately, I think you’re right that the objective behind a site is sometimes forgotten. It’s one of the first steps I undertake – engaging a site owner in a conversation about the objectives behind a site, the audiences, the competitors, and the things that make their site and/or business unique. Everything is a lot easier with a discussion about that kind of information.

  94. I think your last statement says it all, SEO adds value to a website if it is applied correctly, value because you can deliver traffic to the correct area of the website for example, this saves frustration. In my experience most of the industry gets visitors into the default url or homepage, its then that a site becomes self regulating for whether it delivered what the searcher was looking for adding value is when the content you are offering is matched perfectly to the search term. That is why longtail can convert so well.

    Conversion rate optimisation is what it is all about, combining SEO with the user experience.

    Interesting post though with some good comments.

  95. Hi Shaun,

    Thank you. I’ve seen many sites where virtually any page on the site can be a landing page for that site, and focusing upon many longtail terms on one page can bring a steady stream of visitors.

    As you note, a good user experience combined with an understanding of search and conversions can bring a lot of value to the pages of a site.

  96. thanks for your post. I am a newbie, and realised very soon seo became big business, focused on newbie victims like me

  97. Hi Feliz,

    I don’t believe that the aim of legitimate SEO companies is to victimize or harm their clients. I would venture to say that many big businesses really haven’t started to understand the value that SEO can bring them, which opens up opportunities for small and medium sized businesses and startups.

  98. The thing about SEO is that no two sites are ever the same. I think for some sites SEO is really just a matter of building a good site that follows all the basic rules mentioned above, i.e. good navigation, use of titles and headers, good content. I have built some sites for local businesses and they have had very little “SEO” done on them. Regular updates and a few relevant links puts them at the top of Google for many “product ‘location'” searches. But this is probably related to “content isn’t king, context is”. Where SEO becomes more important is in very competitive, global websites. Also with SEO, sometimes you just get lucky.

    What certainly does exist though is bad SEO. I think in many cases bad SEO does more damage than good SEO can repair.

  99. Hi Jon,

    I agree – not every site is the same, and the strategy that one might come up with for one site might be very different than for another site when you go to optimize its pages. Some of the foundational efforts that you may want to undertake, such as making sure the pages you want indexed are capable of being crawled by search engines are very similar from one site to another, but the efforts that you pursue for different sites can hinge upon many different factors, including how competitive the market a site is within, the audiences of the site, the objectives and budget of the site owner, and many others.

    Not sure what you mean by “bad” SEO – ineffective SEO or spam, but other way each can be pretty damaging.

  100. By bad I just meant rubbish duplicated content, spammy links in and out, hidden text and links, all that sort of jazz. At least that is what I guess I meant….

    (You should install the “subscribe to comments” plugin. I would have come back sooner if you did, and may have remembered what I was talking about!)

  101. I firmly believe in ethical SEO where you follow the approved guidelines from the search engines. There is a lot of things to do to improve your SEO and this post deals with a lot of them.

    I believe that SEO is built collectively, one SEO brick at a time. It takes a lot of work, but it is better to build your website on a good solid foundation that will last. Too many people are into making a fast dollar and cheat. The search engines are getting smarter all of the time and cheaters are getting caught more often. I am into blogging for the long haul and my sites are improving weekly, gaining organic traffic and ranking in the search engines. It is just a matter of time before I am on the top search page result for the three major search engines.

    What is your opinion about people obtaining sitewide links?

  102. I come across clients all the time that stuff keywords themselves as that’s what they were told in the past would work – so why would it not now? Education is the key I think to get people away from the “old” ways of SEO.

  103. Hi Spunky,

    Ethics go beyond an adherence to the arbitrary guidelines of some corporation, even if those are the ones written by a search engine. Ethical SEO involves being a productive and honorable part of your community, helping businesses grow, and consumers be treated fairly. Search rankings are less important than making it more likely that a business increases the amount of traffic from people interested in what they have to offer.

    There are a lot of different contexts involving sitewide links that may be fine, such as people linking to each other in blogrolls, or businesses that are controlled by the same company linking to each other so that people can more easily find their sites. See my post on Google’s Reasonable Surfer Model involving links and how different features of links, the pages they appear upon, and the pages they point to may influence how much weight a search engine might give to a link on a page.

  104. Hi Chris,

    There is a lot of misinformation on the Web about SEO and what things are best practices. Some of those “old” ways were never good practices to begin with, such as stuffing a page with keywords. I agree that education is important.

  105. I find duplicate content to be a tricky one, especially with multilingual sites with fallback to default if language is not present

    Any thoughts on why google sometimes displays a “/fr” or “/en” version of my webpage while I’m clearly optimising and building links for the default “/” language ?!


  106. Hi Bill

    I have noticed a drop in some corporate websites, some that have been in a top 3 placement for some time, I think that there has been a subtle change which is not a publicised update by Google, it is more pronounced over the last 3 weeks and I recon that some SEO people have not realised something is afoot

    Have you noticed anything, I have my suspicion as to what has changed and indeed it has affected a corporate site close to home.

    Whats your call??

  107. Hi Webdesign DragolinDesign,

    I’m sure that I’ve seen something from Google recently that describes the problem with the different language versions of your site, but I can’t locate it right not. Not sure if it was on the Official Google Blog, or on the European Policy blog from Google.

    I did find this, which starts to address the problem, but doesn’t go into too much depth:

    How to start a multilingual site

  108. Hi Shaun,

    There has been a lot of voices raised over a Google Algorithm change being referred to as MayDay, and it was confirmed by Matt Cutts as being a ranking change as opposed to a crawling change or indexing change. It appears to affect longtail terms more than head terms that many top level pages might be specifically optimized for. I don’t know if that is the change that you’re referring to, but if it is, I’ve been thinking about a new blog post soon that might throw some theories out there on what could have changed.

    I’ve seen some sites lose some traffic of that type.

  109. Bill,

    I am so glad that you used the term “Good SEO” in this post. I read SEO forums frequently and there are countless threads stating that search engines like “Google” frown on SEO. This, of course, couldn’t be further from the truth, especially since Google itself released an SEO guide originally written for it’s own webmasters.

    As you pointed out “Good SEO” revolves around optimizing a website so as to make it user friendly and easy to navigate for both humans and search engines and that is how search engines view this subject.

    This is the best post I have ever read on this subject and confirms my belief that blogs are a much better place to get quality information than forums.

    Thanks again,


  110. Hi Mark,

    Thank you for your kind words.

    I have seen white papers and patents written by people from search engines that do portray SEO in a bad light, when often the practices that they complain about could just as easily be attributed to webmasters and site owners who aren’t professional SEOs, or to spammers or scammers who are looking to take advantage of others. I’ve also seen representatives from the search engines participate actively in internet marketing conferences and forums and blogs in a positive and professional manner, and blog posts and articles that help educate people on SEO, and good SEO practices.

    The Web is probably the best place to learn about the Web, and topics such as design, usability, SEO, development. These are subjects that are growing and changing constantly, and there are many useful sites and pages where you can learn more. The Web is also filled with misinformation, and you can find that in places like forums and blogs and other kinds of pages as well. Regardless of where you get information, whether from forums or blogs, it doesn’t hurt to retain some amount of skepticism, to look at other sources, to try things out on your own, to ask questions.

    One of the reasons that I like to look at patents and white papers from the search engines themselves is that those are primary sources of information from the search engines, but I still even try to view those with some skepticism, and use those as starting off points for doing more research on a topic, such as looking for white papers from the inventors of a patent to see what else they’ve written on a topic, or by looking at what others may have to say about the subject of a patent or paper.

  111. I like the term “Good SEO” and I think all SEOs and developers should adhere to it. There’s no point trying to ‘trick’ the search engines into getting good rankings and increasing traffic to your site if the site in question provides no quality content nor answers the users query. As the ranking algorithm continues to improve and get fine tuned ‘bad SEO’s will get caught out in the end.

  112. Hi Julie,

    Thanks. I didn’t set out to come up with some new catchphrase to apply to SEO, but rather to describe how SEO can be a very effective practice that can increase the visibility of pages on the Web while also adding value to those pages.

  113. Hi Bill,

    Great article on SEO, it made me rethink my SEO strategy. Thanks for the great article.

    You know one thing that surprised me was that 17% pages don’t have titles. I have never seen single page with no Title.

  114. Hi Max,

    You’re welcome. Thanks for your kind words.

    I suspected that a large number of pages on the Web were missing page titles, but I didn’t expect 17 percent either. I’ve run across more than a few pages without titles when reviewing websites for SEO.

  115. This is a great explanation of what SEO means. People who are newly introduced to it think it’s rocket science or that we’re all bad people trying to game the system. What they don’t understand is that done properly, SEO just isn’t as hard as they might think and that it’s actually giving the search engines what they want. They enjoy pages that are optimized and easy for their spiders to navigate. Sure, there are definitely folks using SEO to game the system, but that’s just asking to be abused. Thanks for this great article.

  116. Hi Pat,

    Thank you for your kind words. There are some elements of SEO that can be complex, but the majority of it does involve creating pages that are easy for search engines to crawl and index, and understanding who your audiences are, and creating interesting things for them to do on your pages using words that they are likely to search for and expect to see on your pages.

  117. In depth, well-explained and easy to understand explanation on SEO which I think will benefit all users.

    SEO companies have to stay ahead of the game as many more people are beginning to do it.

    “SEO is passive in relation to broadcast media.” I found this statement to be completely correct. You have to work at SEO to reap the rewards. I’ve had, like most I would expect, a number of clients who expect miracle results and it’s just not that simple.

    What I’m now looking for is SEO / web to be better integrated with companies marketing plan.

    It’s difficult to measure the success of SEO when it’s run along side a TV campaign for example… i.e is the TV pushing the web leads or are the web leads coming as a result of the web optimisation.

  118. Hi North Star,

    Thank you. SEO does belong as part of an organization’s marketing plan.

    There are some creative ways to distinquish between the impact of a TV campaign and SEO, though ideally both would work together to produce more leads than either one could do individually.

  119. “There are some creative ways to distinquish between the impact of a TV campaign and SEO, though ideally both would work together to produce more leads than either one could do individually.”

    Hi Bill, how do you see TV helping an SEO campaign? I only see brand image giving you a better click-through rate.

    And how can SEO help TV? Better receptiveness?

    For me, until “the Web” arrives on our TVs, these will still be two distinct worlds.

  120. Hi Jeremy,

    One example, a television campaign may introduce new terms or phrases that might be searched for by searchers on the web after an organization focuses upon optimizing for terms related to that campaign. For example, a company that makes “earth friendly cleaners” might optimize their web site for that phrase and related ones, and then focus upon the term on their television campaign. Instead of focusing upon already competitive terms, a marketing plan for television and/or print might be used to create searches for new and less competitive terms.

    SEO helping TV? I recently saw advertisements as embedded videos pulled off YouTube for copyright violations from the copyright owners of those videos. I think that’s a mistake. I think the advertisers should take advantage of distribution where ever it might be. Create a great ad, or sponsor a television show that is related to what you offer, write about it on your site. Produce “behind the scenes” clips for YouTube and your own pages, and generate a buzz. SEO is just one part of marketing that can be used together with other media.

    With services such as Google TV poised to include web browsing, perhaps the day that the web arrives on our TVs isn’t too far away.

  121. Pingback: 3 Important SEO Truths You Should Know — Wellwrittenwords Speaks SEO
  122. @Jeremy: I dont agree at all. TV and the web is connected whether you like it or not. If it wasn`t so, why do people for example download tv series? Where did they first see the tv series they are downloading? And speaking for myself, I look up things on the web all the time, things I`ve seen on tv. That being said, I usually have two screens in front of me, one tv and one computer, so it takes just seconds to look things up. Now, I`m a geek and I like electronics, computers etc – how many geeks like me around the globe are doing the exact same thing I am doing, sitting with the laptop in front of them while watching tv? No doubt in my mind, given that you use a specific phrase in the campaign, this will help your SEO if your site is on top of Google for that specific phrase.

  123. I think SEOs have developed a bad reputation because of the people that use them. By that I mean website owners who create a site without any understanding of SEO and then decide it needs to be ‘optimised’ afterwards. SEO is certainly not bad but it does need to be part of the overall website build and strategy not a last minute ‘by the way we need some SEO’!!

  124. Hi Luckas,

    Good points. SEO can be a lot more effective and less expensive when it’s considered during the creation and development of a website.

  125. Pingback: Top 50 SEO Posts of 2010
  126. Hello Bill

    Saw this post in your best of section and picked up on a paragraph that concerns me and wonder if you could explain a little more please? When I set up my site, my provider Just Host, presented my site on line without www. just “http://.” Being new to all this, I wasnt concerned, not seeing this as a problem… but now other sites are starting to link to me using the domain with www. Therefore I have had to set up two URLs on Google analytics, so I can monitor links and what not on both the www. and http domains. Prior to reading this, I didnt think this was a problem, but am now concerned that in terms of Search Engines, I might be displaying duplicate content? Or just bad SEO practice…

    Looking at online tools, I’m also getting different “scores” for the www. and http versions of my site. Plus on Google I am ranking very well where as on Bing I am not, could this be related or just the way in which each engine searches?

    Anyway, should I worry? It seems that both domains are listing the same pages – although are not updating in sync. That said, there get there eventually.

    Any advice ref this would be appreciated, I am about to change the site a fair bit and now might be the right time to juggle thing about if I need to.

    Many thanks


    “4. Many webhosts set up domains for new site owners so that the same content can be displayed on those domains both with and without a “www.” While the search engines may pick up on the fact that the same content exists at more than one domain, usually they don’t. “

  127. Hi Ross,

    In a situation like that, it’s not a bad idea at all to set up a 301 (permanent) redirect from the www versions of your pages to the non-www versions. If you’re not sure how to do this, you could ask your hoting provider if they could give you a hand. Depending upon your hosting setup there may be different ways to do this easily on your site.

    Before you do that, you may want to go into Google Webmaster Tools for your site, into the Site Configuration -> Settings section, and set your “preferred domain” to be the version without the “www”.

    For a number of years before they fixed it, the New York Times homepage resolved for both the www version and the non-www version. One had a toolbar pagerank of 7, and the other had a toolbar pagerank of 9, showing that Google considered them to be different pages and was splitting PageRank between the two.

  128. Hi Bill

    Thanks so much for the free advice, I presume then its advisable to go with the non-www version of the domain? I guess at this stage I could go either way and makes sense to opt for the correct one, ref web etiquette? I suppose at some point people will drop the www all together when promoting a domain name so the non-www http version is preferable?

    Interesting ref NYT Homepage, wouldnt it be great to have that problem, which to chose page rank of 7 or 9! :O) right now I’d be happy with 1. Perhaps a 301 will help me on my way.

    Thanks again


  129. Very sound and logical defence and explanation of our trade Bill.I am constantly struck by just how little even very capable web designers and other digital authorities know about even the most basal of search engine algorithm best practices. Far from being just more than good web design; I have found (on many occassions and as the least creative/artistic person on the planet mind) that there is often an inverse relationship between what works as design and what works in the eyes of the crawler/indexer – naturally the good SEO can find the ideal balance; but it does show that the best web designer in the world with 15 years experience can be utterly at a loss as to understand even elementary SEO best practices.

  130. Hi Bill,

    and thanks a lot for the useful tips. Do you generally recommend going for a no “www” version of a website and why?

  131. Hi Ross,

    You’re welcome. I don’t think it makes a difference when you start out whether you decide to use the www domain, or choose to do without it, as long as you’re consistent in your own internal linking, and you have the proper 301 redirect in place for the other version. Since you’ve been trying to use the non-www version, it might not be bad to stick with it.

  132. Hi Matthew,

    Thank you. The focus of a great web designer is to create a design that effectively communicates through look and feel, through images and text, through a layout that helps deliver the message on the page. SEO is part of the framework around that message, and failing to learn about that framework may mean that the message on the page doesn’t get seen by people who might be interested in it. I do hope more designers do think about learning more about SEO.

  133. Hi Scott,

    You’re welcome. I truly don’t believe that it makes a difference whether someone initially decides to use “www” or doesn’t.

  134. Hey Bill – I love the fact that this page ranks number one for a search on Good SEO!

  135. If we want to rank or bring our site at a good position in search engines then updating the content of site is sufficient but doing proper SEO is also very necessary task to perform and it requires professional SEO service providing company.

  136. Hi, i agree on what god Seo is. The biggest problem is that it is inflation due to linking. Often as a user you don’t get the best hit thanks to content, instead the page ranks high because of many strong links. I wonder how for example Google will handle this in future.

    Have been reading for a couple of minutes your site. I will def. bookmark and link to it.

    Best Tord

  137. Hi Mikhail,

    It’s possible for someone to learn a lot of the basics of SEO on their own, but it doesn’t hurt to go to someone who has been doing SEO professionally for competitive fields, and competitive terms. Having help from someone who spends most of their time doing SEO can make a difference.

  138. Hi Tord,

    Thank you. Happy to hear that you’ve found value in my posts.

    While links can help, they are only part of how Google ranks pages. If the content on your pages isn’t relevant for terms you’re optimizing for, you can find your pages being outranked by pages with less links, and lower PageRanks.

  139. Hi Bill, the last thing you write about the content vs links isn’t black or white. Of coarse the actual page most have relevant keywords in order to rank high in Google, but how ever a really strong domain (i prefer to use mozrank) with for instance same title as a page with low mozrank will defenetly rank better in Google. This is todays truth!!! All links help different much in the competition of getting position 1 on your keyword.

  140. Hi Patrik,

    Not sure if you’re referring to the post, or to the last comment.

    The ranking of a page in Google’s search results for a query is going to depend upon a mix of different ranking signals, and it isn’t easy to attribute how much both on page factors and off page factors contribute to that ranking.

    Looking at something like mozrank can be helpful in trying to understand the value of a site, but it’s not everything.

  141. Hi Bill,

    You’re right!

    Basically what I do is to keep an eye on all information you can get from a link, which is quite good possible with LinkResearchTool. Then you pic all the top links ordering the backlink list by detail x, then by y, and so on.

    Well I guess that’s my formular in short, for the good Google positions I achieve 😀

    best regards,

  142. Hi Jet-Li

    It’s good having a system that you can use based upon research, experience and educated guesses that tends to work well every time you use it. Again, there are so many things we don’t necessarily know about how the search engines do what they do that we can’t be completely certain even of approaches like the one that you’ve described.

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