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Why Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is Still Important

By John Pozadzides

There is a war of words being waged around the concept of Search Engine Optimization with one side claiming that SEO is dead, and the other claiming SEO is everything. The reality lies somewhere between these two extremes (as reality often does) so it’s important to understand both the history and the rationale behind the way search engines work.

Regardless of what anyone else says, I’m here to tell you that search engine optimization still matters, and it matters more than most people realize (…it always has).

History

Today we call it SEO, but in the early days of the Web we called it “accessibility”. Back when HTML was in it’s infancy, before CSS even existed, a fierce debate raged between designers trying to turn the Web into a giant digital brochure (like David Siegel), and “purists” who insisted that Web design conform to certain standards (notably HTMLHelp.com).

The issue centered entirely around the amount of “bling” a Web site required to be popular, with people like Dave Siegel publicly stating that they were willing to have large numbers of visitors not be able to access content in order that the people who could see it be given an attractive and memorable experience. (I would argue that Dave’s book Creating Killer Web Sites did more to harm the Web than any other book in history.)

Meanwhile the “purists”, who were often ridiculed as cavemen that simply preferred plain text Web sites, argued that standard practices in Web authoring were essential to both human and machine accessibility. (Remember, this was before Google existed.) They argued that “design” and “content” should be separate but equal, and then went about creating CSS to handle the aesthetics without harming accessibility.

It seems in the long run that the standards compliance argument retired the Siegels of the world because there was good sound rationale behind it.

Rationale

You see, Web accessibility and SEO have always gone hand in hand. The concept is, if you build a Web page that everyone can visit, it will also be easily index-able by search engines. And the logic is circular… if a search engine can easily navigate your site, it can be assumed that it will be highly accessible to all Web browsers, on all platforms, with all screen resolutions – even people with disabilities (like the blind using screen readers).

From a search results perspective it only makes sense to send people to sites that are most likely to display correctly – because even great content is useless if you can’t read it. And search engines want to provide the best user experience possible to keep their visitors coming back. For this reason search engines such as Google give greater weight to sites that are quick, accessible and standards compliant.

SEO Key Components

In a nutshell, anything you can do that will increase a site’s accessibility will also provide Search Engine benefits. All of the following guidelines apply whether you are designing a site by hand, or using a CMS or Blogging system. The good news is that most CMS platforms take many of these items into consideration, however all have room for improvement.

Design Checklist

  • Offer a site map (example) with links that point to important parts of the site. If the site map is larger than 100 or so links, break it into separate pages. These help search engines locate all of the content on a site.
  • Make sure each page is reachable by at least one static link. If a search engine cannot find your document, it will never show up in a user inquiry.
  • Keep the site hierarchy fairly flat. That is, each page should only be one to three clicks away from the home page. This aids both humans and machines in navigating the site.
  • Minimize the use of Macromedia flash as well as Java applets. Although they can add useful demonstrations and animations to a site, they are not indexed by search engines and they slow down pages.
  • Organize content by topic and divide the site into logical sections, each focusing on a given topic. With blogs this is accomplished via Categories or tags. This allows search engines to better target specific information relevant to keyword searches.
  • Use Headings (H2, H3, H4, etc.) for long content. Search engines understand headings and it helps with search results.

Content Checklist

  • Use text instead of images to display important names, content or links. Search engines can’t read images, and neither can people with visual disabilities.
  • Exercise “Conservation of Words”. Once you’ve gotten the message across, stop writing. Verbosity for the sake of increasing “keywords” will only drive real visitors away. And that’s not good for traffic building!
  • Proof-read, spell check and get peer reviewed. Every site can benefit from multiple opinions and multiple content edits, and misspellings will hurt your keyword search results.
  • Make sure the TITLE element for your document is concise and accurate. The page TITLE is used by search engines to display link text as the result of a search.
  • Ensure that each IMG element includes an accurate ALT attribute. Keywords found in alternate text are considered by search engines.
  • Always reference citations and sources. This indicates to search engines that the content is of research quality.

For more information I previously authored a much more detailed discussion regarding improving search rankings and Lorelle compiled a list of articles regarding SEO best practices.


This article was guest written by John Pozadzides, who is incidentally happy to be Lorelle’s friend. :-)

11 Comments

  1. Posted August 7, 2007 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Brilliant, John! Well done. Applause, Applause, loud clapping and shouting!

    So many people get caught up in the “game” of SEO, seeing it as a stick to wield on their blogs and web designs. Yet, while they play games with switching post and blog titles in their TITLE tag, they are missing the most important point: removing the barriers that stop a search engine web crawler from crawling every page on their blog.

    Well done!

  2. Posted August 7, 2007 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Totally agree.
    if you think SEO is dead, the only thing that will be dead will be your website and your income..

  3. Posted October 3, 2007 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Page Optimization

    Put your chosen words for each page in your page title tags.
    Make sure your page title tag text is unique to each page.
    Write a description for the meta description tag.
    Make sure your description is unique to each page.
    Use only one H1 header per page, and target similar keyword phrases as the ones
    you targeted when writing the page title.
    Use subheaders H2 and H3 on your page when necessary.
    Use bulleted lists and bolding to make content easier to read.
    Make sure your text is written for human consumption—not bots.

  4. Posted March 13, 2008 at 5:13 am | Permalink

    submit your site to social book marking sites as digg,del.ici.us,etc
    submit to a lot of web directories
    submit to craig list

  5. frank
    Posted April 27, 2008 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    !!!! very nice to visit your Blog,it was very easy to Uunderstand the point!!
    I,m New on this! and every info i can get ,I will very much appreciate it, Thank you for make this blog good spot of knowledge source !

    keep up with the good work!!!

  6. Posted December 31, 2008 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the guidelines and checklists. I find that the CMS that I’m using generates a lot of dynamic URLs and many of these pages have not been crawled by search engines like Google. I still feel that HTML is the way to go.

  7. Posted June 20, 2009 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Super nice post :-) keep them coming. Thumbs up….

  8. Posted June 22, 2009 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Super nice post. Keep more coming like this ;-)

  9. SEOm
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Well, to be honest, in 8 years of expirience, we have found out that one major player (big “G”) has started to put nail in SEO coffin. Why? Because, personal SER is future. You will see, in next 3 years, personal search results will be only option.
    Google learns. Remeber that.
    I was watching a video from Google, I ˙can`t remember which, one guy said that main formula they use is: happy user + happy advertiser=happy google.
    Everyone has to be happy.
    User will be happy if he earns visitors. He can earn visitor only with good content. Good content with lots of visitors attracts good advertisers. Good advertiser pay “good” money to Google. Part of that money goes to user/owner of website serving google ads. Closed circle.

  10. Posted September 24, 2010 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Hi John,
    You have written nice blog on SEO check list. It will really helpful for SEO consultants so that they can’t miss any important point while optimizing website. thanks for the sharing eye catching information.

  11. Deb Baynham
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Naturally, if the title is considered boring, the person is very unlikely to move on on the blog posting


12 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Pozadzides posted an article on Lorelle VanFossen’s blog this morning about SEO practices and blogging.  In that post he made reference to the ongoing [...]

  2. [...] Why search engine optimization (seo) is still important [...]

  3. [...] (Tip #10) Inspiration for some of my articles come from products I use. For example I try to review many of the things I buy, especially if they are expensive or risky purchases, because I know other people search for things like that before they make purchases. Of course, I don’t write the reviews to try to get traffic. I do it to try to help people get an accurate assessment of what the product is like from a real consumer. Google will bring them to a well written article (that’s another subject altogether). [...]

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  5. [...] Why Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is Still Important: John Pozadzides argues that SEO is still alive and by understanding how search engines and page ranking works – the truth not the myths – we can still use it to help our blogs get found. [...]

  6. [...] Pozadzides posted an article on Lorelle VanFossen’s blog this morning about SEO practices and blogging. In that post he made reference to the ongoing [...]

  7. [...] (Tip #10) Inspiration for some of my articles come from products I use. For example, I try to review many of the things I buy, especially if they are expensive or risky purchases, because I know other people search for things like that before they make purchases. Of course, I don’t write the reviews to try to get traffic. I do it to try to help people get an accurate assessment of what the product is like from a real consumer. Google will bring them to a well written article (that’s another subject altogether). [...]

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