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BACK TO BASICS: The Changing Landscape of SEO

BACK TO BASICS: The Changing Landscape of SEO

by: Jayme Westervelt, September 2005

Anyone who has been doing SEO for any length of time could tell you that the landscape of what works and what doesn't is constantly changing. Each year, if not each day, it gets harder and harder to achieve high rankings for websites in a competitive market. Gone are the days when all it took was a few hundred doorway pages and a paid inclusion program to achieve top rankings. Now the demand is for relevant websites that actually deliver on the users' needs.

Not too long ago what was allowed and even rewarded by search engines was nothing short of spammy techniques. Doorway pages were the norm on many websites as well as hidden text and invisible images that linked to those auto-generated content pages that made no sense to the human visitor. It was fairly easy to get rankings by simply mixing those spammy techniques with a good title tag on the home page of the site. Competition was minimal to say the least because there were many site owners who knew nothing about SEO and they definitely weren't using it to rank their sites.

Nowadays things have moved towards a more honest, yet more competitive approach to achieving rankings. Many site owners are starting to take notice of this thing called SEO and are taking action. Each market now has its fair share of knowledgeable competitors that are making it more and more difficult to get a site ranked using honesty and 'playing in the middle of the sandbox'. Quality content, good site architecture and relevant link partners are all important to achieving rankings. It's also important to have customized title and description tags for all the pages within the site. Hidden links and doorway pages will get you black-listed by the search engines in no time, so these types of speedy solutions will only hurt you in the long run.

Many times the temptation to use the latest trick to achieve rankings quickly will be too much for a site owner or webmaster to deny. They are often lured in by forum postings or articles that promise results and forget to explain the danger involved. The possibilities of fast high rankings often stamp out common sense in situations like this. Common sense would tell them that search engines want to deliver quality, relevant sites to the user and they do not want to reward spammers. No longer should it be about the latest trick to deceive the search engines, but it should actually be about improving a site so that people will want to visit , will want to use that website to fulfill their need and may even want to link to that site to let others know how great it is.

Using common sense may seem absurd to those who follow forums or have 'black hat' tendencies, but it works. The results may not be as quick in coming, but the longevity of the rankings once they are achieved is much greater than short term benefits. By remembering that search engines only want to deliver quality, relevant sites, people can easily figure out what it will take to improve their own sites enough to be noticed and rewarded by the search engines. Checking to see if the server the site is hosted on is block listed, reviewing the content, title tags and meta tags on the site and making sure there are no technical issues that could stand in the way of rankings is a good start. It is important to not associate the site with anything spammy to ensure that once rankings are achieved they will stay longer than an index cycle. It is also just as important to make sure the site is delivering whatever the user is anticipating when they click through to the site.

As the search engines and the expectations of users change, so should the thinking of anyone responsible for doing SEO on a website. Common sense should be their focus instead of the old game of figuring out what trick will deceive the search engines and result in temporary high rankings. Search engines and users are expecting quality and no longer have a high tolerance for bad results. Site owners, webmasters and SEOs alike should take note of that and do their best to deliver what is expected.