by John Eberhard

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is basically what you do to make a web site rank better on search engines and therefore get more traffic. Getting more traffic to a web site is the goal of SEO.

There are two parts to SEO, called “on-page optimization” and “off-page optimization.” On-page optimization is what you specifically do to a web page to make it able to rank better.

Off-page optimization is where you build up links to a web site coming from other web sites. If a web site owner has not done any type of link building, a typical web site will have anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand links. To compete properly you should have links into the tens of thousands.

Google has stated that the number of links coming to your web site is its most important criteria for determining how high to rank the site. And the number of links that you need is determined by how many your competitors have.

Both on-page and off-page optimization are vital in order to achieve the goal of SEO which is increased traffic to the site.

On-Page Optimization

On-page optimization consists of:

a. Doing keyword research to determine the best keywords to target. You need to find keywords that have good traffic, but a relatively low number of competing sites. You generally want to stay away from single word keywords, as these will tend to have competing sites into the millions, so you’ll never be able to rank well for those keywords. Plus multiple word keyword phrases (often called “long tail keywords”) tend to be more detailed and are usually the keywords people tend to type in when they are actually ready to buy something.

b. Selecting three primary keywords for each page of your site, based on relevance to the page, high traffic and low competing sites.

c. Writing custom titles and descriptions for each page of your site, utilizing the primary keywords for that page. These are the titles (underlined in blue) and descriptions that appear on a search engine when your listing appears in response to a search.

d. Put the titles and descriptions onto the website in the appropriate places, and use the keywords in any other appropriate places.

This process used to be just called SEO, but in the past two years the term SEO has been expanded to include link building. So that’s how the term “on-page optimization” was created by some bright chap.

Off-Page Optimization – Link Building

Link building is the process whereby you build up the number of links leading to your site coming from other sites.

In the past, the owner of a site used to email other site owners and ask to trade links, i.e. “I’ll link to your site if you link to mine.” This is called reciprocal linking and is not done much any more because Google discounted the value of it about four years ago. But some SEO consultants still do it, much to my amazement.

It is best to create what are called one-way inbound links today. The best ways I have found to do this are:

a. Write articles and submit these to article directories. This is the most successful way to get volume links.

b. Write press releases and submit these to multiple online PR sites.

c. Create multiple blogs and post the articles and releases from “a” and “b” above to all the blogs.

A link building program should be continued for at least 6-12 months.

Let’s talk about volume for a minute. A successful link building program should be able to create 500+ links per month.

A few months I read an article by a well known Internet marketing lady, and she said she was testing three link building services. After a month the top one had gotten her 38 links. I practically fell over dead. If we got a client only 38 links in a month, I would assume we forgot to show up. You need thousands of links so 38 per month is not going to cut it.

In the past year and a half, we have heard a lot about the Google Panda update, and then the Google penguin update. Panda was in the spring of 2011, and penguin was in February of this year. What’s this all about?

Well the deal with Google is that they have a system of ranking web sites and they try to make that work well for users. And over the years a lot of web site owners have used various methods to try to make their web sites rank higher. Because higher ranking means more people will see your listing and visit your site.

Google has branded a lot of these methods as “unethical” and maybe some of them are. But I think in their zeal they have adopted an attitude whereby they don’t really want anyone to be able to be “cause” over their rankings. In other words, they have arrived at a point where they don’t really want you to be able to do anything that positively affects your rankings.

And this includes SEO consultants. Google occasionally tries to make it appear like they are working with SEO consultants and all, but ultimately they don’t really want SEO’s to be able to do their jobs. It just makes more work for them. I’ve written about this before and hopefully won’t belabor the point too much here.

But the upshot of all this is that supposedly the Google Panda update was designed to hurt or penalize the activity of using article directories. And supposedly the Google Penguin update was designed to hurt the activity of creating what are called “anchor text” links, where you get a link from some site linking to yours, and the words that are linked are a popular keyword.

We have been hearing for years that the best possible type of link you could get to your site was an anchor text link, i.e. a keyword linked to your site. So now Google thinks “Oh my gosh, we gotta do away with that!” Supposedly now you are only supposed to have a certain percentage of your links be anchor text, because anything over that indicates an “unnatural link pattern.” I mean, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

I say “supposedly,” because I have continued submitting client articles to article directories for the past year and half, carefully monitoring results. And I can see absolutely NO negative affect from doing so over that period of time.

And when I learned about Penguin, I checked my client accounts and found that the percentages were OK. In other words, the percentage of “anchor text” links were not above the arbitrarily offending level.

Sometimes I think that Google says that they are doing something in the update, but it’s actually just a threat and they don’t really do it. One effect of the Panda update is that the number of article directory sites has decreased a lot, which is a shame because they are a great way to create volume links.

I have recently written some articles on SEO case histories, showing significant increases in traffic due to an SEO program. Doing an SEO program and sticking with it over a year will get your excellent results.