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The Realities of Search Engine Optimization, Part 1

"Is your website optimized? No? My God, man, don't you know much money you will lose within the next five minutes? Trust me, it's substantial. I mean, are you targeting the crucial vampire-tween demographic? Do you know how much obscenely disposable income those kids have? Seriously, all of it could be yours--and all you have to to is add hepa yo juju and fubar gabba gabba hey to your site, then wait six months, and then we'll be able to see if your business will stomp all online competition or fail miserably, only to be remembered as a cruel internet meme. Come on! Sign my contract! Show me your guts! DO IT!!"


Certain words and phrases seem to always induce blind panic among businesspeople, and over the past decade--even the past five years--the number of these things has increased exponentially. It's been enough to inundate the planet beneath the foul cloud of this fear, as the usually-sane decision makers in thrall to this affliction dissolve into shameful paranoia. One of the worst offenders is the ruthless and fickle phenomenon of search engine optimization (SEO), the process by which we all permit Google, Yahoo, MSN and the rest of the find-it-now brigades to catalog and regurgitate our feeble attempts at online marketing. SEO purveyors wear all kinds of hats--white, black, devil's-blood red, portfolio-envy green--but each of them seek the same thing: instilling a nagging fear inside the hearts of potential clients via a progressively ulcer-inducing pileup of rhetorical pitches. "Is your website optimized? No? My God, man, don't you know much money you will lose within the next five minutes? Trust me, it's substantial. I mean, are you targeting the crucial vampire-tween demographic? Do you know how much obscenely disposable income those kids have? Seriously, all of it could be yours--and all you have to to is add hepa yo juju and fubar gabba gabba hey to your site, then wait six months, and then we'll be able to see if your business will stomp all online competition or fail miserably, only to be remembered as a cruel internet meme. Come on! Sign my contract! Show me your guts! DO IT!!" Yeah, I know what you're thinking--but they don't all chug gallons of Red Bull. Some of them are even Nice People. I tend to fall somewhere in between, but since I have no life on a Friday night, I'm gonna tell you the Ten Secrets of SEO, so listen up. Since Google is the thousand-pound-beast of search engines, let's lob some feeble pebbles at it, shall we?

1. Hang Around for a Long, Long Time

How long has your domain been registered? This is a big deal, because Google is a pitiless judge on its good days--and if you've only registered a domain within the past year or so, Google may think you're a spammer. If you really are a spammer, well, you stink--but if you're not, don't take it personally. Just hang around for a while, invest some money on a years' worth of doman registration, and follow the other steps below, and maybe you'll be able to clear your name off the Megan's list of domain ownership.

2. Be That Thing People Can't Stop Ogling

Like most brutally judgmental entities, Google can't always form an opinion on its own, so it relies on gossipy inside info for help. In this case, that means the good ol' back-scratching that is inbound links. The All-Mighty Algorithm has declared inbound links to be ambrosia, and so we are all doomed to precariously balance between "not enough" and "too many" helpings of what the kids used to call "linky goodness." Well, I'm here to tell you that there's no magic number. No happy medium. However, inbound links are a bit like bonbons--scarf too many at once, and the results will be...unpleasant. Trust me.

3. Who the @(%&# Do You Think You Are?

Like any good bloated bureaucracy, Google divides itself into multitudes of interlocking and overlapping departments. Some are called "Webmasters' Listings," some "Sitemap Submissions," some "Local Business Centers." Before I go on, I have to say--who calls themselves a "webmaster" these days? I mean, is this 1999 or 2009? Anyway, the bottom line here is to find your niche and plant a flag. If that was good enough for the rest of history's conquering megalomaniacs, it should be good enough for you. Go forth.

4. Is Your Site Worth Visiting At All?

Quality content isn't exactly a magic bullet, but it helps keep your site stickier than a drone's behind. If you sell honey, you better have the word "honey" appear on your site at least 162 times. Hire some starving copywriters if you have to, and chunk out that information for the semi-literate sensibilities of the modern web-viewer. Now, I know some people insist that your viewers don't want to do useless things like thinking, but those people all hated 9th grade English, so take that silly swill with a few bushels of salt. People like good writing. They also like YouTube videos of half-naked starlets, too--so make sure you concoct some eloquent, yet pithy, descriptive copy.

5. You Named It What?

A site needs quality page titles if it will have any hope of getting noticed. Why, then, did I wait until #5 to tell you this? Well, I'm about to knock off for the night (#s 6-10 will be posted½later) and I wanted to end strong, you know? Anyway, a good title needs to be descriptive enough to stand out among a horde of search engine results, so that people will think "what does that even mean, man?" and of course be compelled to click through. The same rules of copywriting pretty much apply here: think of great newspaper headlines, and go for that. "Dewey Defeats Truman!" or "Cubs Win World Series!" might work. So that's it for now. What--I'm on the clock, okay? Not everyone gets to go home at 5 p.m. on Friday, man. I'll be here burning the midnight oil all night. Yeah, it's a dirty job, and I'm desperate enough to do it. You're welcome.