Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Carnival Barkers, and You!

“Step Right Up and See the Snake-Girl!”

Every year there is a state fair near where I live. They have a good old fashioned midway. Huge colorful signs and a fast talking man with bad teeth promise to show you amazing wonders and human oddities if only you will pay a little money and step inside the tent.

I’ve paid once or twice to see inside the tent and it is usually not amazing or wonderful. It is usually just a gimmick – a fake. The Carny Folk conned me out of a little money.

You wouldn’t trust these people to help you with anything important and if you came across a business in your town using similar advertising it would probably make you suspicious.

There are a lot of people on the Internet who would say or do anything to get you to ‘step inside their tent.’ They don’t really care what you think about what you see inside. Their sites are full of keyword loaded gibberish and articles that have been duplicated a thousand times on a thousand websites. They use software that automatically generates hundreds and thousands of these useless webpages and then litter the Internet with them.

They just hope to get a lot of folks to step inside and maybe a few will click on an ad or one of their affiliate links – a nickle here and a dollar there.

What Do Search Engines Want?

Google, Yahoo, MSN, and other search engines are in a constant struggle to weed these sideshow sites out of their results and push the most relevant results to the top of the list. Your goal with search engine optimization (SEO) is to get to the top of the results for the keywords that are relevant to your site and not get swept away with the Carny Folk.

Your primary focus should be on making your content relevant to other human beings. Then, use the tools and techniques of SEO to help the search engines better understand what your pages are about.

You don’t have to resort to trickery to improve the search engine placement of your site’s pages. If you keep the topic of each page of your focussed and use good basic SEO techniques, your search engine rankings will improve and you won’t have to worry about being mistaken for Carnie Folk the next time Google upgrades its filtering algorithms!

SEO 101

Keyword Focused Pages: Each page on your website should be focussed on a small set of keywords. Don’t try to cover everything on one page. Break up your topic into focussed sub-topics and then create seperate pages for each one.

Create Internal Links: When you break your website up into keyword focussed pages, there will be natural overlaps in the subject matter on each page. Readers will be interested in these other pages too. When appropriate, direct readers to these relevant pages and use keywords in the links. This has the effect of encouraging users (and, by extension, search engine spiders) to explore all of your content.

Use Keywords in Links: Search engines value links. They also look for keywords in the link text. Don’t use ‘Click Here’ as your link text. If you are recommending another article, link on the article’s title (or relevant keywords you use to describe the article – ‘Learn Search Engine Optimization’…)

Title Tags: Make sure that every page on your site has a unique title with relevant keywords at the beginning that relate to keywords in the content of the page. Your site ‘s name should go at the end of the title because the words at the beginning are valued more than those at the end when the serch engines rank your page.

Use H1, H2, H3… Tags: These tags identify headlines and search engines expect headlines to describe content (so do humans.) Keywords here have higher weight. (make sure the same keywords are also present in the text that follows.)

Emphasize Important Words: Bold and Italicized words stand out to the search engines as well as your visitors.

Use Keywords in 1st Paragraph: Get to the point quickly when writing your content. Readers and search engines will make a lot of assumptions about your article in the first paragraph, so make sure you give a quick overview at the top that uses your keywords.

Image Alt Tags: Always include descriptive text in the alt tags for your images. This helps people who can’t see your images make sense out of why they are there, and they give more content to the search engines. Do not simply stuff the alt tags with keywords – this is a Carny Folk move and search engines are wary of it. But, use relevant keywords when describing your images.

Avoid Keyword Stuffing: Cramming keywords into every search engine hotspot is a surefire way to get the search engines to dump or devalue your site. Remember, a search engine’s primary goal is to get relevant results to customers. Trying to trick them into showing a site that isn’t relevant will eventually get you delisted or demoted.

Avoid Duplication: Another search engine no-no is repetition of the same keyword or phrase throughout a page. This sort of repetition tells the search engines that you are stuffing the page with keywords (or worse, the page was created by a program designed to stuff keywords into it) and that they are not a natural part of your page’s content. Use a little variety in your content to avoid repetition – your human visitors will appreciate it too!

Benefits of ‘Honest’ SEO

Honest search engine optimization has the side effect of making your content more readable to human beings. Since the search engines’ primary goal is to deliver the most relevant results to the human beings who use them, anything you do that enhances the user experience will make them happy too. Stay focussed on providing quality content to your visitors and then optimize the way you present it so that the search engines can understand it too, your site will perform better in the rankings.

When you provide value, other website creators will send traffic to your site to give value to their visitors. The links they create to your site will add value to your site in the eyes of the search engines. They are voting for you every time they create a link.

These SEO techniques and strategies will get your pages high in the search rankings. From there it becomes a game of inches where you will focus your attention on your best performing pages and make subtle changes to try and push them closer and closer to the top. When you get to that level you will have left the Carny Folk far behind you.

Andrew Seltz
The Go-To Guy!

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