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Posted 11 February 2004 - 11:59 PM
I thought I'd reprint it here also to see if anyone recognizes themselves! (I've already had 2 people tell me that I must have been spying on them!)
So without further ado...
The Evolution of a Search Engine Marketer
By Jill Whalen
Today I thought it might be fun to look at the stages people go
through in their quest for SEO knowledge.
As with anything you set out to learn in life, you don't get from
point A to point Z without touching upon all those letters in between.
This is why every day for the past 7 or 8 years I see the same search
engine optimization questions asked over and over again by people in
the various stages of learning. The search engines may change through
the years, but people just finding out about SEO all tend to go
through a similar growth process.
The Submittal Stage
Generally you get interested in search engine marketing after you have
a Website created; you've got something looking good and open for
business. You pay your designer, and suddenly it hits you...now what?
How do I get people to actually find and use my site? So you turn to
your designer who directs you to your server control panel, which
comes with an automated search engine submit button.
The Meta Tag Stage
The next day <grin> you wake up and still have no visitors. So you do
some research and find out that you need to add keywords to something
called Meta tags. You find some automated Meta tag generator online,
add its output to your site, and then crank up the automated
Then you wait, and wait, and wait some more.
Hmm...you still have no hits to the ole hit counter (except the daily
one from your checking it, and the one from when you sent your old
college roommate to see what a great site you have), let alone any
sales. So you email your designer again with more questions.
The "It's Impossible" Stage
Now the designer starts to get all defensive and says, "Oh....you
wanted high rankings in the search engines? Well sorry, that's just
impossible, and out of the scope of my services."
You are nearly ready to give up at that point, but you're no quitter.
You decide it can't really be impossible since somebody's gotta rank
highly in the engines; so you begin your quest for more information.
You look up "meta tags" and "submitting to search engines" at Google
(because you figured you probably just did yours wrong), and find all
kinds of articles that talk about something called "search engine
optimization," aka SEO.
The Confusion Stage
Problem is, you have no idea what these articles are telling you. One
of them says you need to make sure you use Meta tags, and another one
says that Meta tags are dead. You read that you need high-quality
links to your site, but you don't even know what that means or how you
can get them. One article says you need keyword-rich content, but
that means about as much to you as the linking thing. Some advice
says you absolutely have to pay to be found in the engines, other
stuff says it doesn't cost a thing.
The Trick-the-search-engines Stage
The more you read, the more you start to think that there must be some
sort of trick to this whole thing SEO thing. Somehow you have to
force the search engines into pulling your site up. You have learned
that you need to think about keyword phrases as opposed to keywords,
but you're still not clear about what to do with these phrases.
You remember reading about "keyword-rich content" and suddenly it
clicks that you need to actually put your phrases on the page
somewhere. But you have found so many phrases that you want to rank
highly for, and can't quite figure out how you can get them all on
your home page. You wonder if you should just list them somewhere.
At the top? At the bottom? In a tiny font size, perhaps? Maybe you
should make them blend in with the background of the site, because you
really don't like the way it looks with all those phrases listed like
At this point, you're starting to think you're pretty smart for
figuring that little trick out, and decide to tell some people you met
on an SEO forum. Ouch! Apparently, you were not the first to think
of this trick, and you got called all sorts of names, like "spammer"!
You didn't even know there was such a thing as search engine spam, but
you know that spamming anything can't be a very good thing to do!
So you start thinking that maybe tricking the search engines isn't the
best way to attack things.
The Learning Stage
You decide to brave the forum again, to see if you can learn what
other people do if they're not tricking the engines. By now, you've
become intimately familiar with many of the terms people use, and some
of the stuff they tell you is beginning to actually make some sense.
What you learn at this point is that you don't need to put all 50
phrases on the home page, just two or three! Now that seems doable.
You also learn that you should use your phrases "naturally" when
writing about what you do on every page of your site. Slowly but
surely, things start making more sense, and each new tidbit you learn
builds on the last one. You learn that the Title tag is also a good
place for keyword phrases, and are embarrassed when you look at yours
and see that it says, "Welcome to Our Home Page."
The Quick-fix Stage
You also learn that the search engines prefer to rank the most
"popular" sites before the least popular ones, and you learn that they
figure out which sites are the most popular by how many sites are
linking to them. It makes perfect sense!
You really have no idea how you will get other sites to want to link
to yours in order for it to be popular, but you know you're going to
have to come up with some sort of a plan for this. You're a bit
disheartened to think about how much time and effort it's going to
take to become a popular site, so you ask your forum friends if
there's a way to speed things along a bit...like maybe you can all
link to each other's sites?
Ackk...they yell at you again and call you a link farmer.
The Hard-work Phase
Eventually, you reconcile with the fact that you're gonna have to work
hard, just like you did when you first built your business offline.
So off you go to make your site the best it can be for the search
engines as well as your visitors, and a mature search engine marketer
Copyright Jill Whalen 2004 all rights reserved
Posted 12 February 2004 - 12:11 AM
Besides, it didn't work
Posted 12 February 2004 - 12:19 AM
Actually, it kind of fits Jill's list, too
Posted 12 February 2004 - 12:55 AM
wordtracker free trial -> keyword search niche
loads of hits -> WOW this actually *works* !
interested in the rest of SEO :-)
Posted 12 February 2004 - 01:41 AM
Hey! Where the hell is my funky new Flash site? Never had a problem ranking before...
Hmmm, Metatags didn't help, I wonder what's going on.... <searches>
Who is this Whalen chick, anyway?
Ooooh, nice newsletter....
OK, now I get it - time to read a bunch of forums
Ouch, my head hurts....
Yay! I'm number one!
Yay! So are a lot of my clients!
HR forum launched
28.3 seconds later, stop lurking and start talking
Many months later, everyone is wishing I'd Stop Talking...
Posted 12 February 2004 - 04:34 AM
The first two stages, definitely. But I think I got lucky and found places like this around that point. The only cheating I ever did was during the meta tag stage, when I put a competitor's name in the keyword tag....
I repeated my keyword a good 500 times in the meta keyword tag before I thought It was enough!
Posted 12 February 2004 - 05:40 AM
Despite people's po-faced attitudes when they are a little more experienced, didn't we all do some of this at some stage?
I certainly did - and there weren't any forums really to ask questions on! All trial and a lot of error.
Posted 12 February 2004 - 11:01 AM
Starting back that long ago, it was a lot easier to go through the "trial and error" period than it must be today.
I give the article two thumbs up! :thumbsup:
Posted 12 February 2004 - 11:28 AM
Posted 12 February 2004 - 12:10 PM
Posted 12 February 2004 - 06:34 PM
It's so embarrassing when you look back on some old work and see how spammy it was (by today's standards). But at the time, it was just a neat new trick!
Stuffing alt tags was one of my favs. I thought I was so smart to think of stuffing them into those trans.gif, and shim.gif and spacer.gif that some design software automatically throws in. Oh, and of course using them in graphic bullets.
My old Webwhiz site was done completely in H3! I do like really large fonts, so that was part of it, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hoping I'd get highrankings with the site done that way.
I did even try doorway domains once for one client's site. They worked a bit in some of the engines (and they were professionally written so they weren't all bad!), but for the most part it was a waste of bandwidth.
There's probably more incriminating stuff out there, but I can't think of it at the moment!
Posted 12 February 2004 - 06:43 PM
Otherwise SEO is just a load of boring old mumbo jumbo, but as soon as you have a stake in it it becomes fascinating.
Posted 13 February 2004 - 06:59 AM
I still have a couple of websites that have doorpages indexed from years ago in odd bod engines that just won't get rid of them. O,well. Too Bad, Too Sad Now!!!
Posted 13 February 2004 - 10:16 AM
Had that happen to me once. Told him they were still getting high rankings and if he didn't like it he could remove me from SEO Consultants if he liked...
I think I have slowly but surely updated most sites that were using older techniques though by now.
Posted 13 February 2004 - 10:38 AM
Also used to do some doorway pages - still have some out there as they rank well but for old campaigns that still have them, as soon as I see that the doorways are no longer ranking well or getting any traffic, they are removed. I believe most of them are gone now. Of course the strategy now with new campaigns as well as the old ones is to optimize sub pages as oppossed to creating new pages.
That's about it. Not guilty of any other "spamming" tricks but the hidden links thing was a doozie! I still see SEOs doing that today who haven't been busted yet. One day though...
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