SEO is a tedious past-time, primarily designed for the brain dead minions of the corporate world. In years to come archaeologists will discover the fossilised remains of thin young men and women, hunched over computers, their black eye sockets staring into space, their skulls grinning maniacally.
These are the SEO gurus. The sad many who thought Search Engine Optimisation was a really neat career move.
But just when they got excited about it, SEO died out. Mysteriously. Or not so mysteriously. That’s because a zillion people thought SEO was good and great and they jumped on the optimisation bandwagon. They forgot the one thing about SEO though – it’s a finite thing.
So for those of you writers who are not in the know, but who are thinking about using SEO for your website, here’s a brief run down on what it is.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. It’s a list of on and off site tweaks that will help get your website to the top of the search engine rankings for things like Google or Bing. Basically, search engines use weird little crawlers that look at your website and then decide where it should rank on their engine depending on what people type into a search box.
So if someone types “creative writing” into a search engine and your site rates well for that keyword grouping, then you’ll appear somewhere near the top. That means you’ll get lots of traffic to your site. If you don’t rate well then you won’t and, basically, no one will find your site.
This basic premise is why you get some marketing professionals wetting their pants and telling you that they can get you to the top of the rankings. It’s all a lie of course. For a start, marketing professionals really aren’t that smart.
Basic SEO techniques
Most of the basic SEO techniques are based on how website crawlers or spiders do their work and how the major search engines rank sites.
- Have a robot.txt file: This is a text file on your site that tells the webcrawler not to look at things you don’t want it to see. It’s about as exciting as a poke in the eye with a broom handle but it’s one of the core things of SEO that you can’t ignore. It’s simple to put up but mysterious in so many other ways that it will be make you want to shut down and tune out for the rest of your life.
- Have a site XML sitemap: Again, another SEO basic, a sitemap lists all the pages on your website so the pesky little web crawler can see what you’ve got without wearing out it’s furry nanoskin.
- Have metatags that describe each page of your site. Metatags are embedded in the HTML of your web page – they are the title, description and keywords of your site and they are also used by search engines to rank your page. At least used to be. SEO gurus have been known to wet themselves over Metatags. Now they’re not so sure if they’re important at all. Anyway, every site should have metatags. Just to be on the safe side.
- Choose the right keywords. Keywords are what search engines are all about. If you want to get to the top of the rankings then you need to select the right keywords and put them into the text and links of your website. Unfortunately, this is the now the Achilles heel of SEO as we shall see later.
- Create back links. At the moment, this is one of the more powerful tools in the SEO locker that still works relatively well. Back links are any links from other websites to your site. The more you have, the more search engines like it. You can create backlinks by joining online directories and getting similar sites to link to you.
Easy, so what’s the problem with SEO?
Well, it’s this, dear reader: SEO is about competition for places. And first place is never guaranteed. Okay, don’t believe me? You’re an SEO freak and I can’t convince you. The thing is, if everyone is using the same SEO techniques then the likelihood of winning top place in a search engine is greatly diminished for all and sundry. There are only a few SEO techniques in reality and everyone knows about them. So if everyone is using them...get my drift?
No? Get your dumbass over here!
If you type: Creative writing into a search engine you will find there are around 50 million pages with those keywords on them. That means you’ve got a helluva lot of competition to get right up there. Remember, people who use search engines to find what they want won’t go past the 4th page before submitting another search term. Check out your own search behaviour. You’ll find it’s similar to everyone else’s (unless you’re a complete nut, in which case you shouldn’t be reading this anyway).
While SEO was still a mystery, it was useful for getting yourself to the top of the rankings, giving you more traffic and more sales (if you were selling something). Now that all the SEO tricks are out there in the open and everyone has taken an interest, it’s made SEO pretty much defunct. The SEO gurus have killed it.
What’s the future of SEO?
While I’m not yet advocating that you should totally ignore optimising your website for searches on Google, Yahoo and the like, I am saying that maybe you might want to spend a lot less time on it. SEO does take a lot of work. Keyword research, back link building, article writing...yah-dee-yah-dee-yahh.
Think about your sanity. Think about what a waste of your life it might be. And then maybe think about a nice hot bath and dream of your novels future success.
There is no quick fix for getting people rushing to your site and any SEO executive who tells you different is just a bald faced liar...
SEO professionals just create junk
My biggest problem with SEO is not that people see it as something exciting or worthwhile but that it creates a hundred totally useless sites every day. There are now more online directories than cats in the world, all there to provide support to SEO fallacy that backlinks are the best thing since Oprah gave away a car to all her guests. Then there are article sites. You know places where you can submit an article with yet another link to your site – how many of those are there?
What purpose do they serve?
Does anyone really read those banal, half-witted articles? Ten ways to get your man a new appendix or the how to loose weight by juggling ferrets...who gives a flying...well, you know.
Damn you MARKETEERS!!!!!
So, dear reader, my advice is this: don’t get hung up over being top of the tree. Concentrate on your content and write what you want to. Define yourself and to hell with the scramble for search engine supremacy...