SEO For Beginners, Fun And Profit

SEO For Beginners, Fun And Profit

SEO is one of those topics that can completely befuddle people who are new to the concept. It can almost seem like alchemy, with everyone else understanding it completely, but you don’t have a clue as to what it is or how it works. Online “experts” seemingly contradict each other, and certain shady characters will suggest that there are easy ways to ‘game’ the system to get the benefits without the work. How does all this relate to AOM?

Search Engine Organization is the process by which you make a website accessible and appealing to the two main target groups for any webpage. These groups are: Search Engines and Humans. While there is some overlap in what these groups respond to, there are also some major differences. Let’s examine these two categories in more detail.

Search Engines – A search engine (usually Google, Yahoo! and Bing, but there are many others) will use programs called Spiders (a.k.a. ‘Bots) to search, or ‘crawl’ the web, looking at pages and analyzing their content and structure. Many people form a mental image of mechanical robot spiders, literally crawling on the web and examining pages it finds by jumping from link to link. Like any good robots, spiders are unswayed by color or images. They focus solely on the ‘nuts and bolts’ of a page.

When dealing with SEO from a spider’s point of view, it’s crucial to make sure your AOM Title and META Description tags are formatted correctly. The META Keyword tag no longer plays as important a part as it used to. It’s good to have it filled out, but the other two are much more vital in SEO terms. Some short recommendations for each are:

  • Title: no more than about 8-10 words at most, and fewer if possible. Your main keyword or keyword phrase should appear at the beginning.
  • META Description: around 12-15 words, no more and no less. Again, the main keyword or phrase should be found at the start.
  • META Keywords: on average, about 20 words. Your main keyword/phrase should only appear once or twice.

It’s strongly recommended that you not change the default settings too much under the Meta Description, Meta Keywords and Title tabs in your AOM control panel. For the most part they should function just fine as they are. If you’re not sure how they work, as an example, whatever you enter in the Site Name box under the Site tab will be displayed wherever you see {SITE_NAME}:

Site Name to Title Settings

Sometimes you may want to delete the “: {SITE_SLOGAN}{PAGE}” parameters, as it may make the overall title too long. Search engines will often truncate overly long titles anyway, so you lose any SEO benefit from trying to stuff this section with keywords. Plus it dilutes the impact of your keywords.

At times, you might even want to use the {SITE_SLOGAN} instead of the {SITE_NAME}, especially if your site name is not particularly relevant to your target keyword(s).

Crucial to all of this is making sure your site’s < HEAD > section is visible to spiders. Examine the source code to your page (check the instructions for your specific browser if you’re unsure how to do this) and make sure all the important stuff is there – a DOCTYPE, properly formatted HEAD section (containing all the tags we’ve just discussed), a BODY tag, and so on. An improperly formatted HEAD section can prevent spiders from reading the information, dealing a serious blow to your SEO efforts.

A well-formatted XML sitemap can also be helpful. Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need a large file that contains every single item available. This could literally include most of Amazon itself, and would be out of date within twenty-four hours. A simple map with the home page and all your main categories (just the first page of each) will suffice. The spiders can dig through the rest. You can block the non-product pages of your site such as the ‘View Cart’ or ‘Advanced Search’ pages with a robots.txt file. More information on how to generate a sitemap or robots.txt file can be found through a quick web search.

Paying careful attention to all the above can provide a solid foundation for establishing good SEO practices for your site. But people generally don’t pay attention to source code. What do they need instead, and what part does that play in SEO?

Humans – As mentioned previously, spiders aren’t interested in color schemes or graphics. But people are. Usually a site that people enjoy looking at or feel comfortable navigating around will engender a certain amount of trust, even if only subconsciously. You could get all the same information with just a plain white page and black text, but a cold, impersonal or sterile layout may turn off potential customers. If someone responds well to a site, they may come back, recommend it, or link to it. These are subtle but real SEO benefits, especially if they recommend it in a social network setting or blog.

However the cornerstone of any human SEO effort must revolve around the concept of original content. This is an issue that’s so huge even spiders take notice of site content, scanning it for keywords and weighing the proportion of content against code or other text (such as site navigation or image alt tags, etc.). At one time it was believed that putting RSS feeds on a site would supply enough content to appease humans and search engines alike. But once it was discovered that people generally ignore feeds, spiders began to pay less attention to them as well. And if you think about it, any available feed is probably displayed on more than one site, making it hardly unique. Now they probably pay little or no part in terms of determining the original content value of a site. The current craze is to get clever plugins that can analyze a chunk of text, and replace various words with synonyms from a database.

So if you have something like:

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog

It might be duplicated as:

The fast dark vixen leaped over the sleepy canine

While such shortcuts are popular now, it is believed that eventually the search engines will be able to spot this behavior (if they haven’t already; the people at Google aren’t dummies) and begin to penalize sites that use such methods. Also beware of programs that offer this service without explaining that it involves an extra cost over and above the initial charge for the basic software.

Another ruse that was once popular was to fill a page with relevant keywords in random order, but with the text in the same color as the background. This rendered them invisible to humans, but attractive to spiders. Bots are now able to compare the color of text against the background. If they are too closely matched, the site can be penalized.

The best way to avoid any problems that could be detrimental¬† your site is to sit down and actually write the content yourself. You don’t have to be Shakespeare to string a few sentences along that describe the site, or items to be found on it. If you use spell-check and remember the difference between you’re and your, it’s not a difficult job at all (also remember there’s only one ‘o’ in losing).

On a side note, a common theme among some online e-stores is that they allow you to include original content throughout their sites; the insinuation is that Associate-O-Matic does not include this ability. Even a cursory look through AOM will reveal that it allows you to insert original content in a multitude of locations:

  • Home Welcome HTML (Home Page)
  • Custom HTML (Home Page)
  • Category Descriptions (Categories)
  • Custom Boxes (currently 18 locations throughout AOM)
  • Custom Pages
  • Shopping Cart Text (2 locations on the ‘View Cart’ page)
  • Subcategory Descriptions (Subcategories)
  • Site Traffic Code (Site)
  • Site Disclaimer (Site)
  • Powered By (Site)

But of course, the content needs to be written. Many people are put off by this, but a glance through any sales brochure or leaflet will reveal that the writing required is not intense or difficult. You can always change it if you want to improve it later on. It is probably the single most important thing you can do to increase the SEO attractiveness of your site, so it’s not something that should or could be left to a plugin that might start spewing nonsense.

The old adage is “If you write for people, the spiders will follow”. This is never more true than today. Despite the purely mechanical steps you can take to make your site more accessible, there’s no denying that content is still king.

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