SEO has become as elusive as online success for many bloggers and web entrepreneurs. Misguided bloggers have fallen for bogus SEO deals with the hope that some self-acclaimed internet marketing spin doctor can turn around the fortunes of their web property. For Many bloggers and website owners getting traffic is an accidental occasion which is either too difficult or too expensive to plan around.
While there are genuine SEO practitioners with a proven track record of awesome white hat deliverables, the ins and outs of good and effective SEO practices have remained a mystery to the ordinary website owner and designer. A few that attempt to share the secret SEO gems hardly go into the hard core of what it really takes to get up search engine page rankings and stay there.
SEO is not a Myth
The demands of the volatile modern cyber landscape require bloggers to understand the intricacies of search engine optimization. Key to this journey is understanding that search dynamics are not a myth and with a good grasp of how search engines work there are feasible and effective strategies that can be implemented by website owners to increase their visibility across the internet in order to generate organic traffic which will translate to more conversions or whatever calls-to-action (CTA) they have on their web pages.
Bloggers with a basic grasp of SEO know that there are two categories of this practice which are “white hat” and “black hat” SEO. White hat SEO is basically what will keep your website in Google and other search engines’ good books while black hat SEO practices entail a coterie of unacceptable search engine gaming techniques that can get your website blacklisted and banished into dreaded cyber oblivion by search engines.
SEO has often been mythologized pushing many bloggers to take the huge risk of entrusting SEO work; so critical to online success, to SEO firms and freelancers who have ample room to execute detrimental search visibility tactics. Contracting SEO services is not necessarily a terrible idea. There are some genuine SEO firms out there who can deliver but relying on outsourced SEO services blindly is a huge risk no serious blogger should take.
Importance of Competitive Intelligence
As a blogger what you need to understand about the SEO game is that the internet is the jungle governed by the law of the jungle, “Survival of the fittest”. This refers to the way search engines rank pages in response to search queries. The focus here is not necessarily on the Search algorithm but that would shed key insights on why a certain page will rank number 1 while the other will rank number 45 for the same search query. The basis of the page raking algorithm is the popularity of web pages measurable by the quality and quantity of backlinks i.e. other web pages voting yes to the focus web page by holding an active link pointing to that web page.
Competitive analysis is basis of effective SEO strategy
Understanding competitive edge presents every blogger with a solid point of departure to begin their SEO stratagem. Competitive intelligence will help identify your competitors and establish how strong they are. In other words you will get to know the exact keywords your competitors are raking well for and the quality as well as quantity of their backlinks. Beating your competition is as simple as beating their scores on several variables of competitive SEO intelligence. Competitive intelligence enables you to build feasible and effective SEO strategies that you can easily implement on your own.
Here are some free competitive intelligence tools to get you started (this list is by no means exhaustive, it is basically a set of tools I have personally used to achieve my SEO objectives).
The fact that keyword research is key to any online success strategy cannot be over emphasized although the importance of keyword statistics should not be over rated. Keyword research enables bloggers to identify high search volume keywords and phrases that are easy to rank for. Keywordspy will enable you to identify your competition for a particular keyword or phrase. There are many keyword research tools out there but the cool thing about Keywordspy is that it will show you your PPC (Pay Per Click) competitors as well as Organic competitors. The Google Adwords tools (which will soon give way to Keyword Planner) only gives you PPC competition. PPC competition is not useful for a blogger seeking to pump up a website search results rankings organically.
Long tails keywords are easier to rank for than headwords and all your competitive intelligence research must be based on long tail key phrases that you can easily rank for. Once you have identified the keyword phrase you want to work with you then need to identify the top 10 organic results that come up on Google for your key phrase. You can get more depending on your niche. SEOtools for Excel is a great tool for achieving this.
This application will enable you to gather important SEO data for each competitor URL for your comparison. The tool gathers on-site and off-site SEO intelligence for each URL. With such a tool you get to know where your competitors are getting their link juice and the quality of their back links in terms of PR (PageRank) of the linking web page.
If you want an in-depth on-page SEO comparison you should also make use of the Site Comparison tool. This tool is great for pulling on-page SEO aspects and presenting a side-by-side comparison upon which you can make your deductions and map your SEO strategy.
SEOQuake is one of the handiest SEO tools every blogger must have. The tool comes as a plugin for the Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome browsers. Among other functionalities such as such showing Link Domain, SEM Rush Links, Site Map, Bing Index, Alexa Rank, Web Archive Age, etc, the tool is important for checking the PR (PageRank) of web pages. The tool displays quick website data on its bar. You need this functionality for identifying relevant blogs with a high PR ( PR of 3 upwards is recommended) where you can either leave a good comment or send a guest post to get High PR backlinks to your website.
Not every blog out there gives “Do follow” backlinks and as SEO practitioner you need to identify blogs that will reward your content with a “Do follow” backlinks to your website.
There are Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox plugins that will enable you to identify “Do follow” blogs. Many blogs use the Commentluv commenting feature and there is a smart way of identifying “Do follow” blogs that use this plugin. “Nodofollow” plugin is what you need for this exercise. The plugin highlights “No follow” blogs and “No-Follow blogs differently.
Your part in this exercise is to identify high PR blogs as identified using SEOQuake plugin and then identify “Do Follow” blogs as identified using the “NODoFollow” plugin. What follows is getting backlinks from these blogs either by posting valuable comments or submitting well written and informative guest posts if the identified blogs are taking posts and if they allow backlinks to your blog in the guest posts.
The reason you have not come across an officially fully packaged and academically accredited course on SEO is that SEO is entirely a creative practice aimed at taming the volatile and mammoth beast known as internet marketing. SEO requires a combination of marketing acumen, writing prowess, data analysis for processing competition figures and business perspicacity. SEO is arguably 40% science and 60% art. 40 percent of it is fixed and immutable yet 60 of it is up to you.
Get your hands dirty and start implementing these and other hands-on SEO tips and sooner than later you will not need to take the huge risk of outsourcing SEO services when you have the skill and time to do it.