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Understanding SEO from a Consumer's Standpoint

Q. Who am I? A. I'm a 63-year-old male, who for the past 5 years has operated two web sites that sell retail products to businesses and organizations nationwide.

Q. How many professional SEO companies have I hired to assist with search engine optimization? A. 6

Q. Have any of them improved my site's search optimization? A. None, in fact all of them have made it worse.

Q. How is that possible? A. Let me break this down as best I can so those of you, who are just like me, so can walk away with a better awareness of what you're dealing with.

Let's first assume that your web site was properly constructed, indexed, and you've added the right percent of key words, phrases, and proper meta titles and descriptions. This is basic and must be done first before you can move forward to the real challenge. If your site wasn't constructed properly, go back to square one because everyone pretty much agrees on what the fundamental ingredients of a well-constructed web site are.

1. Be Realistic: If you're in a national market like I am selling trade show displays, competing with national players, a competitive analysis should first identify the top 5-10 key words or phrases you should be optimizing for. With that information in hand, you can then see who holds the top spots for those key phrases and then identify what assets your competitors have compared to yours. This is when you'll know if you can win the battle over then next few weeks, or if will it take months or years.

Compare your site with your competitors in terms of:

Number of Linking root domains from quality sites with high SEO-Moz rank or trust rankings verses your competition Your domain authority verses your competitors Number of Google indexed pages for purposes of judging the amount of quality content you have compared to your competition

Note: If you're audience is local, the task might be easier because you can target cities and counties that you want to attract business from by having more exact search matches, which national campaigns can't do as easily.

It's a numbers game, and you must start out by understanding how many of everything you have, and how many your competitors have. Once you know the numbers, you can go to the next step.

2. Decision Time: You must decide if it is possible to catch your competition once you know the deficit in links and content that you must make up. Then, given your financial resources, and the amount of time you have to wage the campaign, in light of the numbers you need to overcome, is it possible? If it is, then you have to deal with how you are going to generate the content and back links that will be needed.

3. Generating Back Links and Quality Content is where it's at in the SEO world, but it also seems to be the area of most abuse by SEO companies because doing it right takes time. Good SEO companies have marvelously cleaver ways of creating high quality "white hat" links, but generating true quality back links is nothing short of very hard work. Although there are a few techniques that can generate links in larger quantities from quality sites, there seems to be a quality of link that is both relevant and authoritative, that every site needs to achieve ranking success. This is the type of link that is built from good old fashion relationship building. This involves gaining respect from other industry leaders as someone who can present a unique perspective or bring uncommon knowledge to the forefront. This is when relevant sites of high value will want your content on their web pages. But to be successful, you need something to contribute which brings me to my final point.

4. Your Personal Knowledge & Expertise: Over the past few years I've come to realize that the talent or skill that is in the highest demand in the virtual world is the ability to articulate a view, express a thought, or communicate knowledge of an idea or product in a manner that is not only interesting, but compelling. A person's knowledge and ability to communicate their thoughts is the single greatest asset in building a successful web presence. Creative writing skills, which is something that I'm barely adequate at, is the key to success. It is what can take a moderately successfully web site to superstar status with the influence of the right individual.

Be prepared to run when you receive a proposal like this one, which one SEO Company, Web Wise Media, proposed to me 4 years ago for $5,000:

Video Billboard Production and Distribution (not sure what that was...??) Directory Submission Service approximately 1000 back links Press Release (not sure who to...??) Inbound link building (article creation & dist.) 6-10 articles-total 4-700 back links Inbound link popularity building forums & blog posts) 3-400 postings w/ back links. Social Bookmarking 100 Backlines Link Placement program, 200-300 relevant backlines with anchor text

Now in hindsight, I stupidly accepted it. Looking back, what was there about this proposal that on the surface looked suspicious? Let's see, if the SEO Company has a 50% gross profit margin, they are only spending $1 per link, including the labor to actually create or place the links. I can almost guarantee that links of any significant value will cost more than $1 per link in either the time it requires to find and create thelink or the cost of obtaining the link. The result was that the first 230 links that they gave me all had URL's that ended in "=Business+Products+and+Supplies..." All 230 of them. They came from every junk link directory site from all over the planet and that's when I canceled the contract and asked for my money back. That is only a single example of what bad SEO looks like.

In conclusion, I've prettty much sworn off most SEO companies and have resorted to taking the time to search out who the elite in this industry look up to, then listening to their seminars, forums, and national meeting tapes. It all comes down to who are you going to listen to, so take as much time as you need to determine whom the knowledgeable people are. For me, I've tried to listen to the real experts, and am focused on creating a quality site full of useful, relevant information and products, and while I'm in the process of a new link buildiing campaign of trusted, quality, relevant, partner sites, only time will tell how well I've listened, and how much I've learned. 

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