In the beginning (before SEO), simply having a website was enough. Then people realized, that if they changed a few things here, here and here (titles, keyword density, tags), that search engines would respond differently to their pages. Over time through trial, error, patience and reward, specific methods were devised to strengthen the organic position of a page. As result, the art and science of search engine optimization was born.
Search 1.0 B.G (Before Google)
Designers and programmers alike, realizing the extent of their on-page tweaks and modifications and off-page factors that affected search engines such as building links, promoting the site through networks (Prodigy, Angel Fire, AOL) reached an all time high, when the birth of the Free for all (FFA) link pages tilted the scales of organic optimization and SPAM was conceived as the antithesis to the wholehearted intentions of this new technology.
Not to go Mudfoot on you (referencing a 90 year old man from Fat Albert cartoon in the 70’s), I can recall a time (waaayyyy back in 1995) when Yahoo, Lycos and Alta Vista were the only search engines in sight. Since link building was a new thing and the filters we have today to minimize artificially inflating the relevance of the pages were non existent, it was typical to perform a search and see the same website not once or twice but for the first 10-20 organic search results (as a result of a completely ridiculous loophole that was exploited). At that time, a clearly decisive line was drawn to separate those who practiced SEO (even in it’s infancy) and those who did not, as it was apparent that the sites with SEO ranked higher than those that did not.
Search engines then stepped in and shut down the FFA pages, much like they are paid links now as it frankly upset the natural balance of what it was intended to do. Create an unbiased (yet engineered bias) result for your query no matter how obscure or precise.
Search 2.0 Arrives on the Scene
Then in 1998, Google made their debut as a result of Sergey Brin and Larry Page who perfected their first algorithm which has been the secret sauce ever since like the ingredients of Pepsi, Coca Cola, KFC. It’s the intrigue that compels us to become loyal followers of such enigmas. It’s the curiosity of such illustrious trade secrets, that to this day, keep consumers coming back for more, as a result of the product serving a function, or providing a consistent or specific experience. As a by-product of user fulfillment, consumers are lured to become repeat customers of the product as the brand is reinforced in our behavioral awareness. Let’s not forget, that in marketing, achieving a higher volume of continuity/repeat sales or use of the product the brand wins.
Who would have thought that what was intended as a mere cataloging system would give way to one of the most pivotal points for commerce and industry on a global scale. Now, here we are roughly 10 years later and search marketing has now become a multi-million dollar enterprise as a result of competition between businesses seeking the upper hand in dominating a niche, gaining visibility, rolling out a product, or internet branding, in anycase, it’s all about the top 10, visibility and conversion.
This frenzy to succeed online has become fierce. With the eye on the prize to achieve the ultimate goal of multiple top 10 positions in major search engines for a semantic stockpile of keywords is just as common in today’s market, as hitting the front page of the press was in the 60’s. The point being, you can think within the bounds of the non-SEO types and assume that as soon as you hit keyword gold, that you have it made in the shade. In reality hitting the top 10 is only the beginning of SEO as SEO Alone is not enough in contrast to conversion metrics, tracking, constant tweaks and changes to all aspects of the infrastructure are required in order to stay one step ahead of the competition.
In order to maintain a top 10 position (if it’s competitive) or continue to acquire additional top 10 rankings, requires a unique mix of vigilance, content, savvy on-page SEO, multiple types of links from a variety of sources to provide the right type of link profile to promote trust and authority, as well contributing value to virtual space to keep moving up the ladder.
Spiders are as clever as a professor grading your thesis as the whole, been there, done that mentality is at their disposal to cross reference data about keyword proximity, word choice, repetition, uniqueness, domain age, topical relevance and who knows just how many other calculations are occurring (within seconds) to determine the outcome of your pages and how they are assessed.
These are the 5 primary strategies I have seen operating behind the scenes when it comes to businesses.
1. The one and done– island unto themselves, optimized landing page, PPC and organic augmented 2000 link juggernaut.
This is great for a company offering a wide range of multiple products or services and needs the ability to see results as they occur and determine with precision if the ROI for each project is hitting the sweet spot. The downside, PPC dependency while your are not building any long term equity in your website or the contents theme.
2. The traditional high Flyer – The highly relevant 10-50 page site, themed properly with just the right balance of optimization and copy writing designed to close each reader they entice. Sites like this are typical of having a distinct offer on every page and tie the entire topical relevance of the site together nicely without going overboard. Site like that also have the innate ability to rank highly for specific terms as the pages are semi-locked in the (these are our keyword) phase and eventually like many things, as they age they grow stronger in their category.
Mix this with steady links over time from authority sources and sites like these can grandfather their way into any nearly unattainable broad search term. Each page usually has more links pointing at it, than most websites, but that is one aspect of keeping the pages lean and the links mean (they make for serious competition for any other type of optimization method).
What about this new breed or strain of sites the html /php mix
3. The Old School Static to New Fangled Dynamic Site – These are websites that started like everyone else (static with no intentions of adding so much content), with a few links and references.
Then after catching on to how a content management system could cut the design time and publishing time to a few minutes instead of a few hours, becomes a content generating niche dominating contender (our site is one of these).
Adding a blog is a blessing in disguise for sites stuck in the static zone. Any one who is still not convinced about the phenomenal results one can acquire as a result of adding fresh content, strong internal links (if you use word press) themed site architecture & linking your pages to create accelerated relevance, should click the next link on the following paragraph.
Sites that started as blogs also know how powerful a site can become after you exceed 100 indexed pages of quality content. Terms that were unattainable start to rise on the horizon. Here is an example ranking for a one word competitive term “SEO” in the top 3 in Alta Vista UK SEO, So you can see the results of the long tail moving toward the head as websites develop a unique relationship with search engines (when they build authority).
With a hybrid site, the spiders have older data to fall back on for the site profile which is the basis of global popularity, while having the ability to be flexible (in present time) with the articles and posts you release to capitalize on trends as they occur or plan for them in advance and have your content age and be ripe for the picking when the market matures. This truly is putting the power to shape your own future in your hands, true kudos to word press for giving this platform away (netscape navigator style).
Which leads me to the next genre of sites that exist on the web, the social media sites.
Yes Wikipedia, you know you started this…All kidding aside,
4. The “Yea we Rank for that Too” Resource Site – essentially any site that is a resource where people can congregate and perform functions on a mass scale such as send, emails, personalize a custom space (Yahoo modeled this, which is why they are #1), get news, media, socialize etc. is capable of garnering tremendous market share.
With clicks equally affecting the search algorithm, traffic has a very persuasive side effect, popularity equals authority and authority trumps just about everything else when it comes to search. Think DIGG, Stumble Upon, MySpace for just a moment and you can see this model at work, yes, you too Wikipedia, I can’t believe you rank for essentially any topic on the web, all as a result of user contributed content (I wish I would have thought of that one).
and last but not least…
5. The Invasion of the Content Snatchers – I am certain if you have ever written anything that took you over an hour to compose (with purpose), it’s probably pasted on some one else’s site, earning somebody some “ad-words money”. Sad to say, but there is an unscrupulous breed who has no conscience and would steal your content and pass it off as their own in an attempt to bolster rankings, without so much as a flinch.
If your content gets scraped on a regular basis, you may in fact be one of us praying to the Google Gods that pages like these suffer the same fate as the “free for all link farms” as the spiders get wiser, “poof”. As the only purpose they serve is to remind the person who really wrote the content like a parrot, just in case they have a.d.d and forgot that “hey, didn’t I just write that, and who in the H#$#$# is (random automaticially generated name at blogspot.com)…
Search engines are successful because they serve a very fundamental function. One of the most primal and instinctive aspects of our personality curiosity, desire & fulfillment (first you type it, then you click it) pure simplicity from a standpoint of usability. Their usefulness for taking you from point zero, (the hypothetical comic book question mark over your head) to the best possible website (packed full of just what you were searching for) seems like a feat of magic.
The principles they operate upon, is essentially structured like attention insurance, you want it we got it, so how can something so full of promise be the target at the same time for so many trying to game the system.
Now, with competition looming on every key phrase slowly consuming all variations of keywords small and tall, SEO is no longer just something that you consider, it is a mandatory ingredient for businesses seeking a high return on investment.
Just like search engines switched from mere catalogs of websites to a multi trillion dollar content management machine, it’s not hard to see how this has created an impact on how we view business and how internet marketing differs from any other form of marketing and advertising conceived prior to their arrival.