The SEO Notebook: Renzie Dabbles Into Search Engine Optimization, Pt. 1

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Welcome to my series of notebooks on Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. No, I am no expert- I'm just a regular dude trying to understand this entirely new craft. These notebooks are for fellow "newbies" at SEO. I've compiled these notes, partially from what I do at work (developing content and optimizing sites for an Australian-based online retailer), but more from personal research, and to a lesser extent, what I have observed thus far.

Comments and questions are welcome. I will do my best to answer them, or at least point you to where you can get your answers.

That being said, let's all learn some SEO, shall we?


Search Engine Optimization is defined by Wikipedia as:

The science and art of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a particular web site from search engines via natural search results.
Natural (or organic) search results are the ones to the left of a search engine results page, or SERP. These are pure, unadulterated search results based on what people are actually typing into their search engine windows on Google, Yahoo, or whatever search engine then have, as opposed to paid ad results on the right of a SERP.

SEO is but a part of internet marketing (which we'll probably review more of later on). Among other things, SEO considers:
  • how search algorithms work; or simply, what people actually search for
  • a site's coding, presentation and structure
  • possible issues that could prevent search engines from fully spidering (meaning, browsing and indexing for searchers to see) a site.
  • new content, which is easily indexed (or spidered!)
Effective SEO may require changes to the HTML source code of a site, therefore affecting web site development and design as well. We'll deal more of this later on.

The goal of any SEO practitioner is to go "search-engine friendly". This applies not only to website designs, but to menus, content management systems and shopping carts as well. As early as now, I'd like to point out: try to avoid Black Hat SEO or spamdexing. It 's really more like dabbling in the dark side of SEO. This practice uses link farms and keyword stuffing techniques that bloats your results. More sophisticated search engines already consider this! Plus, it may ruin long-term customer satisfaction.

You want to do the exact opposite: set your site up so it can create a positive experience for your customers, thus encouraging return traffic, better word-of-mouth and linkage, and better interactivity.

White Hat SEO vs. Black Hat SEO

I personally advocate sticking to White Hat SEO. It produces results that last a long time, as I have mentioned above. So create content for users, not for search engines. Conform to search engines' guidelines; make your content easily accessible to spiders, rather than toying with the search algorithm. And more importantly: no misrepresentations!

More SEO topics for discussion later on. Part 2 of the ongoing SEO Notebook Project will cover a brief history of SEO, and SEO as a marketing tool.



Blogging For Beginners

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hey, we all gotta start somewhere. One of the reasons why I left my last couple jobs was due to the fact that, despite having written so much about the company and stuff, I've hardly done any writing for myself. And man, did I have a lot of stuff to vent back then!

Anyway, I only started blogging last March- totally inspired after an invigorating trip from Singapore. Yeah, I've had a few friends who have already been regular bloggers at the time, but other than that- I have had no experience at blogging at all.

A friend of mine gave me a few tips to help me start out (thanks Gabby! -you can check out her blogs here). I now include those tips here, together with some of mine.

Later on, after setting up my first few blogs, I've ran into other bloggers- some a lot more into serious than me, others more casual- you really get all kinds, you know?

Blogology 101

Blogs start off with the idea of putting your thoughts online- think of a blog as a diary, a notebook, a bulletin board, a review column, a collection of media, or any mix thereof. The beauty is that it can be pretty much anything you want it to be.

Many people write for various reasons. Traditionally bloggers write for the purpose of informing and communicating. But a lot of bloggers do so because it makes for a great outlet to get creative, go crazy, or get into an experimental mindset.

It's great for socializing- think of it as setting up a room online where others can visit you, and from which you can also visit others. Be a good neighbor, and you can see others be good to you and your blog when they drop by too.

So how does one start getting in on the Blogging Bandwagon?

Setting Up Your Blog Empire

For starters, let's set up your blog. I would suggest you make use of free blog services like Blogger, Wordpress or LiveJournal.

Blogger/Blogspot is a great blog service to start with, being extremely user-friendly, simple to use, and allows you a number of widgets (nice little applications you add on to your basic blog).

Wordpress is also good, allowing you more applications to play with. While not as easy to use as Blogspot, it looks a great deal sharper and more professional. Also, if you plan to go professional, there's a pretty good chance you might be using the Wordpress interface, so you might as well get used to it now.

LiveJournal is great because, while it has the most simple features compared to Blogspot and Wordpress, it seems to allow you the greatest deal of privacy- so you can choose who gets to view your blog.

Later on, when you've gained more experience and think you can handle your own hosted domain, you could choose to do so.

Good luck, and let me know how your blogs turn out!



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