Learning SEO: It Can Get Noisy

There is obviously no shortage of information on SEO.

But thanks for turning up here :)

The sheer avalanche of SEO information can be overwhelming, for beginners and experts alike. Who do you know who to listen to? What information do you need to know, and what information is filler?

Why should you even listen to SEOBook?

1. Most Information Published On SEO Is Filler

You can learn 80% of what you need to know about SEO pretty quickly. You don't need the additional 20% in order to achieve, unless you're a masochist - otherwise known as an SEO professional :)

Most of the information you'll come across on the topic of SEO is written by, and for, a professional/enthusiast crowd. There is a massive echo chamber of opinion, constantly replenished, produced using publishing tools based on the notion of communicating something, often.

It can result in a lot of noise, and not much in the way of signal, especially when you're learning. If you're starting out, and want to focus on learning SEO, it's a good idea to tune the industry chatter out. It's more likely to confuse than help in the early stages.

2. Understand The Business Of Search

Search engines aren't your friend. At best, they tolerate SEO, but only when it aligns with company goals.

The search engines have a business to run, and their goals aren't the same as yours. Whilst search engine reps often come across as helpful and friendly, because they typically are helpful and friendly people, keep in mind that what they are saying serves their company first and foremost. Any advice they give you is, quite rightly, designed to further company goals.

That's their job.

Chances are, your goals and the search engines goals will be aligned in many areas, but take their advice with a grain of salt. They don't care if your site succeeds or not, as there are plenty of other sites to index.

Google KidSense

3. Define Goals

Before you undertake SEO, define your website goals. Do you want to make more money? Get more attention? Get more leads?

The purpose of SEO is to get your site seen in the search engines. Your aim is to attract the visitors that help you achieve your goals. A high ranking for a certain keyword won't necessarily help you achieve your goals unless your site matches visitor intent.

Think about the web from a visitors point of view. What do they want to find? What content will they engage with? What will they spend their money on?

There's little point ranking well if the content you provide doesn't make you money and/or gain audience. It's getting increasingly difficult to rank pages that aren't closely aligned with the searchers intent. So, the more you understand your audience, and the more content that matches their intent, the more you'll get out of SEO.

4. Get A Credible, Well Organized Course

Like SEOBook's course for example ;)

This isn't a sales pitch. There are a number of great courses out there. Choose one or two that suit your budget and objectives, and dive in. Chances are, you will need to shell out some money, but the cost of a decent, well structured course is nothing compared to the wasted effort spent heading in the wrong direction.

In a nutshell, SEO is about about publishing content people want to engage with, and linking. You need to create content that matches visitor intent, you need to be crawlable, and you need to have inbound links. Good SEO courses will have this message at their core.

Did I mention links enough?

5. Connect With People

It's natural to want the secret sauce - those secret dark techniques that result in number one rankings.

Whilst this was characteristic of SEO years ago, it's less true now. These days, SEO is more a holistic, strategic process aimed at connecting with people, as opposed to a dark, technical art aimed at tricking machines.

Focus on making connections with people. That means understanding what people want. You can do this by undertaking basic market research, using the search engines themselves!

6. Test

Don't listen to me. Well, maybe just a bit. Don't listen to the repeaters in forums.

Test and measure for yourself. It's one of the best SEO courses you can do. It's ongoing, and it's free.

Start with a simple, focused well constructed site. What is a well constructed site in terms of SEO?

With every change you make, every new SEO strategy you adopt, test the results. Did the change help you achieve your website goals? Did you get more traffic? Better quality traffic? If your rankings improved, did this result in more/better traffic? It can be difficult to isolate variables at the best of times, but there is no chance of doing so if you try too many techniques all at once.

Make changes one step at a time. Test and measure repeat. Become at expert at measuring SEO against your goals.

Build up your own private knowledge base of SEO in your niche. Your niche may require different strategies to other niches, which is why well-meaning advice in forums and on blogs can hinder you. You'll also become a better judge of who is offering you good advice, and who is just repeating something they heard.

Published: March 5, 2010 by A Reader in seo tips


Wesley LeFebvre
March 5, 2010 - 5:17am

Hi Peter,
Unfortunately, Google seems to favor fresh content so much it has caused most people to just regurgitate something they heard, rather than take the time to test it for themselves.

March 5, 2010 - 4:45pm

I think that is more down to laziness and broken pay scales and broken business models.

Sure Google may like new content, but they *love* old domains ;)

Wesley LeFebvre
March 5, 2010 - 8:38pm

Very True.

March 5, 2010 - 2:40pm

I especially like the definition of goals before you undertake an SEO effort. Without something clearly defined as an end result and a tangible way to measure/optimize it along the way, you are soon lost. Aiming for "better rankings" is a little obscure, yet is a surprising common goal. I think this is the way: "the more you understand your audience, and the more content that matches their intent, the more you'll get out of SEO." Sonia Simone had a post on Copyblogger this week that talked again about serving up tried-n-true traditional marketing techniques using new platforms and technologies. I think the points you make are similar. Thanks, Peter.

March 5, 2010 - 5:50pm

Most of my SEO knowledge has come from free info found on forums, blogs, etc. The rest has been just by experimenting. I'm taking on a lucrative niche with relatively low competition, but again, it's been mostly done with freely available information.

The main points in your post above echo my own experiences. Create good content that matches user intent, and get people to link to it. Everything else is just cool tactics to help make creating content and getting links more efficient.

March 5, 2010 - 11:20pm

You could quite possibly change

You can learn 80% of what you need to know about SEO pretty quickly


You can learn 80% of what you need to know about SEO by following the links in this post

March 6, 2010 - 1:53am

I think that was Peter's goal with all the links. :D

March 6, 2010 - 6:17pm

Is it just me or do some (credible) people in the field of SEO say: "It's all about links", whereas others say "It is NOT all about links"?

Personally, I would count myself into the former group, too.
(though I guess if you work for really big e-commerce sites the links become somewhat less important, whereas internal linking, on-page stuff, keyword-stuff,etc. might be more important)

I think it will be interesting to see how important links will remain during the next couple of years, though.

March 7, 2010 - 6:20am

Lately it is not just noisy it is getting loud. Sometimes so loud you can't hear the noise :) I think we see the same information rehashed because the path is becoming more clear, the 80%. Plus everyone selling the service of SEO, me included, has a blog and we need to sound like we know what we are doing, otherwise we have to send potential clients or site visitors to other resources for basic info, probably not a good idea until you have their confidence. You also have a number of so called SEOs making a living off of blogs now. They have to rehash the old package as new, sprinkle it with the 5%-10% (I made that % up) annual change in the industry or they look outdated, or quiet. Quiet blogs don't usually make money. It's like a delivery truck with no engine. I think the best thing you said is TEST. It is measurable and if you can't see it then you need some new advice or some new tactics. This is a good place to get both. Thanks Peter and Aaron.

March 8, 2010 - 5:34am

I've never read SEO advice that says: Connect with People, yet I've seen it work well.

A tiny, local candy store in San Francisco ranks very well for generic search phrases, and if you look at their site you would never guess why.

They have the standard $800 website. Seven pages, three sentences of content on each page, a spash page, and all title tags are identical.

This site looks like no one with SEO knowledge has touched it. So it shouldn't rank, right?

As for links, the owners of the candy shop know how to say that word, but they've never done the usual SEO tactics for getting or soliciting links.

So why the heck do they rank well, get a couple of thousand visitors a month, with many visitors ordering candy from their website?

Answer: The woman who owns the shop fancies herself a candy expert. This confidence has led her to connect with lots of people, and as a result she has, many times, appeared as a guest on our local AM talk radio show. A daily schedule of the radio show is posted on the radio station website, and if a guest has a website they will link to it.

Without trying, she has links on the radio station website, which is connected with our local ABC TV affiliate, which is connected to the national ABC network.

She also has a link in an article on sunset magazine's website. She was also quoted in an article on candy in the New York Times, although no link there.

It's easy to understand why some people think SEO is not necessary to be successful, even though they would be more successful with some good SEO help.

The best SEO advice might be: Connect with people, especially people who have powerful websites. Be the person the New York Times calls when they want a quote on your topic. Be the definitive source on your topic. Be the person who appears on your local talk radio station when your topic is being discussed. Then, great links will naturally follow, and great links will cover for lots of obvious SEO mistakes.

This seems to allign perfectly with Google's strategy. Evidence: It works.

Good SEO: You are such a good musician you get invited to the White House without ever even having had the goal of getting such an invitation.

Bad SEO: You're not good at anything, but you try to fake your way into the White House. Maybe you succeed. Then, maybe you are caught, and if so you are penalized. Those fakers will never get into the White House again.

March 8, 2010 - 3:38pm

I have worked with SEO companies, the most common mistake I run across is that they either have never learned how to listen, or just refuse to. We tend to get so wrapped up in our own train of thought and what we think is supposed to happen that we overrun the client. I agree with the "Connecting to People" post because at least it gives credibility to the person that matters most, the one writing the check!
SEO suppliers tend to become to technical, becoming technocrats, that we use buzzwords nobody understands except those in the industry. I know, before I get jumped on, that larger companies and some small ones, understand. But the average business owner just wants to grow revenue to help pay his own bills and make payroll. How can we help them? We reply with internet jargon that we think will help but we need to:

1. Ask Questions?
2. Listen to answer - this is harder than it sounds
3. Understand their answer
4. Ask more questions
5. Listen some more - By now most of us want to explode
6. Develop the plan to drive business to their site

In other words - Shut up and listen and we will "Connect with the People!

March 8, 2010 - 11:18pm

Great posts Gregory and Mickeyboyer. I think the reason few people advocate the model you are suggesting Gregory comes down to 2 factors

  • if a person tells you to market your own stuff in a real way by connecting with people it is hard for them to insert themselves into a business model with that (outside of perhaps if they sell email marketing services or maybe public relations)
  • lots of people who buy into SEO feel that there is some short cut or magic or easy way to bypass all the hard work needed to connect with many people on a real level (for many, a large part of the desire to do SEO is to bypass all the work and effort involved with that)

And one of the big secrets for people who are sitting around waiting for work is that there is always either something you could be learning or someone you can be helping with and connecting with. In the short run it is not the most profitable business model to be well researched and help lots of people...but it does give you staying power. :D

March 11, 2010 - 1:12am

I'm new to marketing entirely, and I now know it's important to test the results of your marketing efforts, and you basically demonstrated how to invoke the scientific method to illuminate results. (Control all variables possible, change one thing, measure the effect). I've read that all organic SEO effects take loads of time until their results are shown. So my question is: What time frame would be appropriate for SEO testing?

Do I change some keywords and evaluate the results after 2 weeks? 2 months? 2 years?

March 11, 2010 - 5:05am

Reaction time depends on the website, location of the page in the website hierarchy, *and* the type of keyword...if you want a more specific answer please start a thread in the member forums and we will dig into answering that in far more depth.

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