Straight Forward Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

May 2, 2006

I’ve worked on a couple larger projects over the last few years where we needed to improve the ranking in various search engines. Most would agree today that you want to be thinking about Google, Yahoo, and MSN when you are “optimizing.”

The world of SEO is a bit strange to me. It seems that when we all started using the acronym, SEO, that suddenly it became mysterious. Now you needed specialists and, shortly thereafter, a string of self-proclaimed experts emerged.

Sure, the various algorithms are different and different SEO techniques will reap varying results. But the bottom line is that it isn’t all that complex.

Is this too simple?

Use words in your headings and copy that correspond with what your audience is looking for.

Ok, maybe a bit too simple?

Sure, you want industry appropriate sites to link to you (that certainly will help your Google rankings) and you’ll want to think carefully about the “anchor text,” or the words you use in a hyperlink, to be sure they use some key words or descriptive words.

But a lot of this may come naturally if you are simply focused on creating clear, concise, and relevant information for your audience.

I enjoyed this article called Will Your Google SEO Help You With Yahoo? by Wayne Hurlbert. It has some more detailed tips that I think cover a lot in a reasonable amount of space.

One thing he points out that might be easier to overlook would be the use of keywords in your page title tags. So, ok, maybe it isn’t all common sense. (But, then again, if you think about it, it really is.)

There’s tons of stuff out there for you to read on this, and a million consultants you can pay, but the basics are really not that mysterious at all.

Am I wrong? I’d love to discuss.



  1. Hey John – I’ve been occasionally glancing at your blog and thought I’d chime in on this one. I fully agree: Make a semanticly correct site first. Almost everything beyond that is a hack of some sort, and the search engines will eventually figure out a way to make the hacks ineffective.

    If a site is full of nested tables and font tags, how will a search engine that scans the source know what the key points (headings) are? If the anchers all contain the text ‘click here’, how will a machine (or a human reader) put that into context?


    Please don’t hold my site to that standard….

  2. I think the rise of the SEM expert was caused by the fact that websites are (or have been) considered a technical service rather than a marketing one. So optimisation is still viewed as a technical thing rather than part of the normal copy process for online writing … arguably it should.

    The second reason seems to be that search engine placement is a priority for business managers but is still widely misunderstood. I went to a talk last night about search with an audience of business directors – the biggest concerns were in site placement etc. So there’s an audience for experts.

    Being semantically correct is very important, but there are a range of additional ‘technical’ techniques that go far beyond this. The main problems for clients is how do they select a real expert.

  3. I would agree that there is still some technical expertise needed – I guess if you consider using “title tags” and “meta tags” properly as a technical task (which, for many, this could be). Also thinking about using tags approrpriately in the page itself, including the use of “alt text” for images and the like. Yes – many of these approaches would be easy to overlook for the general copywriter.

    I’m being stronger in my original post to make a point – but you are right, it’s still a task that takes some degree of expertise. For a good copywriter with some HTML coding background, though, this shouldn’t be a problem to incorporate in their skill set or service offering – especially if they are keeing their “saw sharp.”

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