My Site ranks better than yours…

By Julien Raby

The early days…

Do you remember when you first got into SEO? Personally, I was studying general Web Design when I first heard about it. My teacher was trying to explain us the value of a link and why Search Engines gives so much importance to it. He used the “courtyard metaphor�?. “In high School, there is the “Alpha Beta�? gang (Revenge of the nerds copyrights) and the nerds itself. Typically, the guys in the football team get more advantages and attention than nerds. But, if one of the big guys starts hanging with a nerd, it won’t go unnoticed. The nerd will suddenly become more popular. That’s the same thing with Websites and links. If you get a connection with the established ones, your popularity will grow�?. Although it was a questionable choice of metaphor to use in front of a bunch of apprentice programmers, we did understand well the value of a link.

Since this class, I think I haven’t spent a single day without thinking about SEO. In the first few months I spent several hours a day trying to decipher the truth. I was religiously reading all the content of Search Engine Watch and a bunch of other ones. I was making statements to myself; “The title must be 140 characters long with my best keyword at the beginning, repeat keyword if possible. Keywords should also be included in meta-description and meta-keywords. My pages should not have more than 500 words with a keyword density of 5%, etc.�?

Then I realised the sad truth: I could not be 100% sure of my statements because of all the conflicting opinions. My early research conducted me to the evidence: SEO is not and will never be an exact science. But at the same time, I had to deliver because I felt confident enough to go after my first clients. Stress, anguish. Who should I trust? Some advocate that SEO is all about links and PageRank while some believe that we should “turn off the green bar aspect of our toolbar and move on with our life�? [http://www.highrankings.com/issue158.htm]. Some say that directory submissions are still worth it when others state that it can hurt a Website. Nobody seems to agree on anything…

Result? My first client cost me money. And not only because I failed to make his site rank for any significant keywords. But I also had to rewrite all his content because I first did the job in an excessive and shameful keyword stuffing way.

Growing up

I have been doing SEO for 18 months now. Fortunately, I’m more successful now. And since this contest is about sharing tips, I’ll tell you how I manage to achieve good results: I stopped listening to people. Now, that’s obviously a little drastic, as I should say something like “I stopped listening to every(no)body�?. There are undisputable resources on the Web. But as you gain experience you might have to disagree even with the same people you used to listen blindly. Really, one of my best moves was to stop worrying about what others think and start figuring out by myself.

What an inexperienced SEO should do

Get your hands dirty. Start from scratch. Choose a subject you know well (SEO’s an easy one, but it’s getting a little crowded these days. You may want to try a less competitive area). Buy a domain name, create your content and design, start a link campaign. Now give your site a couple months. While you are waiting, improve your design, work hard on your content and choose carefully which site to target for a link request. Your new site should now be ready for its real purpose: tests. You hear someone preaching keywords density? Test it for yourself. Is internal linking can really help to improve your ranking? Give it a shot. And so on. I’m sure there is many SEO approaches you are taking for granted. I can assure you that you will feel much more confident in front of the client if you actually tried the techniques you are advising.

And, of course, stay tuned with the authority sites and never hesitate to reconsider what you thought was a case close…

[The above article is a submission for Marketing Pilgrim’s Search Engine Marketing Scholarship Contest. Each Monday in October, entries will be published and the most popular article of the week will qualify for the $5,000 grand prize. If you’d like to submit an entry, please view the contest entry-requirements and guidelines.]