SEO = black magic?

Occult Owl by jrbrubaker (flickr.com/photos/subconscience)

Occult Owl by jrbrubaker (flickr.com/photos/subconscience)

So I’ve been looking and doing some reading on Search Engine Optimization for a little project lately; though I’ve been on the web for quite some time already I’ve never really looked into SEO specifics. I suppose you could say I’ve taken some facts for granted, based on my own understanding of markup et al.

I know the usual, like:

  • Proper meta tag values to reflect purpose/content of page
  • Semantic markup
  • Good, “readable” URLs
  • Make content available on-page as opposed to post-loaded stuff, text is better, etc.

But those are kind of a given, at least if you’re a good web professional; if so, you should care about all these (and more). However, somehow it feels like SEO is some kind of esoteric undertaking, with bat wings and widows’ tears to boot. Come to think of it, I realize that do have a bit of a prejudice with “SEO professionals”, as I feel that they’re charging people/entities exorbitant amounts of money for stuff that a good, ordinary web professional should be able to do. I’m quite certain though, that there has to be more than just these things–hence the aforementioned “exorbitant amounts of money”–but what? Or is that some jealously-guarded industry secret?

(I’m talking about legit ways to improve search engine rankings. Or do these “SEO professionals” charge aforementioned amounts of money because they can game search engine rankings? Oy vey.)

Plus I came across a bit of a poser, regarding SEO and blogs. Obviously on a page you highlight important content headers with an H1 tag. But for blog index pages–what would that be? I’ve seen blogs/news sites/etc that mark the first article (headline) with an H1, and the blog/site title with a lower heading tag. But naturally I’ve also seen stuff the other way around. It all just means different views of which needs to be highest in priority, but I’m just curious about what most people practice: is it blog title in H1 and entry titles in H2 (or lower), or the other way around?

This all feels like black magic. :-s

Edited to add: I would love to have been proven wrong, but just a couple of hours after posting this entry, I ended up with “spam comments” on this entry from SEO “sites” and “blogs”. It’s spam because when your comment so does not have any connection to what I talked about in my post (other than “agreeing” that “SEO is important” and some such…which I never actually said in my entry!) that is spam.

Ugh. “SEO professionals” my ass.

5 comments

  • Seo is a general term, white hat seo = white magic (you follow the seo rules) and black hat seo = black magic (you break the seo rules). ;-)
    Some use grey hat seo but that’s another story, from my experience, never trust the “seo professionals” and their services, if they are seo professionals why aren’t working for their own site, network, to rank on the first page for very competitive terms and make a lot of money? simply because they can’t, they aren’t seo professionals.

  • Jaydee said:

    The things you mentioned are the straightforward and easy to learn things that SEO professionals do. It’s just the front-end side of SEO. The other side of the work is more on the information architecture part, the networking and the analytics.

    They ask you things like how do you want people to find your page, and what keywords do you want your content to be strongly related to. They teach you ways how to structure your content (not just via markup) and how to effectively link them together. They use tools that analyze your content and generate keywords for you (yahoo has tools for these), to see if you’re on target. After these, they keep track of how the page is performing with the optimizations done and see the conversion rates.

    Then for the networking part, they submit your site to search engines and listings, they publish pages on other domains that they hold content that’s related to yours and links them to you, and they also do write-ups in legit blogs and UGC listing sites that also point to your content. Just to get enough arrows out there for the search engines to find your page.

    About your dilemma on whether to use H1 on your content’s title or your blog’s title, I’d say use it on your content. I find it more logical to treat your blog’s title as a logo or brand name for the blog, and give more focus on the content you’re publishing. Think newspaper.

    • Yay, finally someone to point out the legit side of the SEO industry! I think key there would be the analytics and performance tracking; both would likely be above what a web developer/designer would probably take on. The networking part feels a little meh, but I suppose that’s where the good legit SEO entities would rise.

      None of these people who seems to just want links <_< I’ve had three on this blog post, none of which actually talk about the stuff I’m curious about (you’d think they would be keen to clean misconceptions, eh?).

  • I’ve personally never been into SEO, because all of my websites I’ve built/developed have been personal (for the most part), and therefore there was no need to BE on a search engine. (Truth be told, I don’t want to be on a search engine and go out of my way to make sure most of my websites aren’t on most.)

    I always thought being a “SEO professional” was a complete crock, because I never thought you had to be a complete and total expert to get on a search engine. Not only does it take some time, but you also have to take into account caching of search engines, and making sure the proper pages show up on the right results, and blah, blah, blah. ANY web designer worth their salt knows this, so “‘SEO professionals’ my ass” is spot on in my book.

    Then again, I don’t have any grand opinions of SEO anyway. :P

    • I know, it sounds quite shady! Granted, I will probably not feel as bad about this if I just didn’t get a lot of spam from “SEO professionals” (still in quotes, I’m sure there are legit people out there!). We all need to advertise and network, I understand that, but sometimes it’s just really annoying.

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