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The SEO Playbook (Welcome to the Rabbit Hole)

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SEO is about more than meta tags, title tags, and targeted anchor text. Call it "competitive webmastering", "SEO", or any one of a slew of other titles – it is the thought process of lateral thinking and understanding of website creation and marketing combined that matters most.

SEO Playbook

It is a line of thinking that necessitates doing what is optimal: when to balance user experience with "bot experience" to create a site that will harvest any legitimate traffic without detriment to conversions, or without venturing into areas beyond the given risk threshhold for the project.

Technology and marketing were formerly unique disciplines with very different types of people. SEO’s are the folks in between. In my mind, the reason SEO goes well beyond just search marketing into most areas of business is because search engine marketing IMPACTS many of the decisions that are made in a business. Marketing, infrastructure, customer relations, analytics, accounting, human resources can all directly impact search marketing and vice versa. SEO has become more and more of a strategic vision as top rankings become more competitive, and more valuable. SEO is in large part the communication gap between marketing and IT, combined with top level executive strategy (The only good SEO’s that leave the field at this point, do so to become CEO’s – visual illustration).

This is intended to be an "advanced beginner’s guide" – which is a bit of a paradox, but the idea is that even the most proficient of SEO’s often revisit the basics, and that execution on simple solutions can be very elegant and effective. It will also help to cover many of the things that all too often get overlooked. Executing on basics is the most advanced play in the search engine marketing game. A little secret I’ll let you in on – Even the "SEO Pros" go back to basics – content and links. They’re only pros because these two critical elements have become second nature, and nearly every waking thought is based around how to create mo’ betta content, or get some new links in creative ways.

Even if you understand every single technique available – no matter what play you call – you still have to block and tackle to reach the endzone and score your top rankings. The most proficient SEO’s realize that search ranking, branding, marketing strategy, conversions, and postive conversations consist of two major elements – CONTENT and LINKS.

Content

User Experience and content organization

The user experience should be concise, and simple. Simple is elegant. You can have multitudes of functionality locked within a extremely simple streamlined interface. Read Don’t make me think, and the Big Red Fez.

Key tips with site architecture:

1. User architecture and bot architecture don’t need to be identical. A bot will determine the heirarchy of a site through it’s link structure. A user will determine the heirarchy of a site through the placement of the main navigational elements.

2. Search engines are becoming extremely proficient at incorporating semantics into link structure. Keeping a site sectioned into themes is extremely important. The importance of internal anchor text to this factor is rarely over-rated.

3. Internal search is incredible for gathering data on your site.

Resources for understanding information architecture, and balancing the user experience with the bot experience:

Content Creation

Keyword based content

Creating content specifically to rank for keywords. This is a borderline practice, depending on the intelligence level of the content. A thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters could lookup and change content based on a set of words.

User generated content

The beauty of web 2.0 – people decide to connect together to do something. Whether it’s worthwhile or otherwise, two heads are very often better than one, and conversation is the backbone of the web.

How to content

Everyone loves to know how to do something. I really wish I could download things like "how to do your own plumbing", and be able to figure it out. Someday, perhaps a well optimized and informative video will be able to do that.**

**after publishing Rob pointed me to these installation resources on Vintage Bath and Tub (who have some cool clawfoot tubs) – great examples of howto content

Blog content

Write what you know. Talk about a relevant, cohesive topic.

Linkbait content

Make a GREAT idea even better. Be remarkable.

Commodity content

Sometimes cheap content is better than no content. Don’t be lazy.

Content Resources:

Content Structure:

Duplicate content thinking

LINKS

SEO Bot experience
The "Bot Experience"

"Create a site with your users in mind" has become an oft-quoted mantra of search engine representives when asked about how to rank better in search engines. While the logic is sound, it is also somewhat incomplete. The "experience" that a bot has when visiting your site will often determine the initial experience that a user has with your site as well. Controlling where the bot enters the site, and how the bot "sees" the site is of paramount importance to determining how users will find and navigate through your site.

Information architecture is one of the most overlooked areas of good search marketing. Mainly because it is one of the most difficult areas to retrofit on a site, and it’s extremely difficult for consultants to demonstrate the value to justify the workload needed to overhaul a site.

Link Development

Old sitesOld is good – Old sites are trusted. Trustrank is a part of the game, and if you don’t believe it you’ve been sleeping. There is no sandbox, there is only the trustbox, and the trustbox emphasizes old, aged links that are on trusted domains that are relevant to your targeted query.

Link equity is the new brand building. Perhaps I’m a bit wrong – link equity, strategy, and development is the new brand building. Brand building and link building should coexist peacefully. Those folks out there that you’re paying $10 – $20 per hour for link building, are building your brand for the future. Why? because a brand is only a google search away these days. If I want to know how strong McDonald’s brand is – I do a google search. Perhaps I’m ahead of the curve, but even Joe sixpack isn’t that far behind me. He knows that google is a verb, and he’ll soon figure out how to change his default search application from windows live to yahoo or google. New brands don’t underestimate the intelligence of their consumers. Default search doens’t "WOW" anyone. Relevance, and information quality does.

Types of links and how to get them. Learn what they are, and how they apply to you. 12 types of links and how to get them.

Article link development

Write articles – submit to various sites based on automation for quantity or personal contacts for quality.

Press link development

Write articles – see above.

Partner link development

Network at conferences, through IM, or email, and make nice with friends.

Affiliate link development

Start an affiliate program with a service that is in the know. Redirect appropriate pages.

Paid link development

Buy text links on relevant sites

Viral link development

This one is probably among the toughest because it is becoming increasingly difficult to do something remarkable that people talk about.

Try learning what linkbaiting means.

Directory link development

Proceed with caution – you don’t need many.

Reciprocal link development

See above.

Link Development Resources:

Linkbaiting

Webmasterworld Link Development Threads

Supporter’s Forum (worth every penny of membership)

Welcome to the Rabbit Hole Alice – Resources for those figuring out what SEO really is.

 

SEO Playbook

You can take the blue pill or the red pill. The blue pill will take you back to your cozy desk job coding for the man, and the red pill might lead you to insomnia induced by ideas of how to turn your startup into a real company using only your laptop combined with some technical and marketing skills, and a realistic gameplan to pull it off. Or you might end up going from self employed to unemployed real quickly.

The first converstation I have with folks generally consists of them asking some questions about what SEO is. If they are REALLY interested, and get beyond thinking about the fact that I tell them meta tags generally don’t matter much, I would guess it feels a bit like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. I am still overwhelmed with information overload on a daily basis, and this is after over about 6 years of studying and experimenting with SEO techniques on a daily basis. I think the information overload stems from having so many opportunities to apply the information, as well as trying to keep up and evolve process with emerging opportunities. Digesting, managing, and even thriving on the information overload is extremely important in a business built on timely, relevant information.

Here’s where to start with your SEO Training if you’d prefer the red pill:

If that’s not enough, check out Lee’s list of SEO/SEM blogs, or Search through them

More resources on site strategy: 18 questions your CEO forgot to ask when building your website

Practice your blocking and tackling every day. Read these long enough, focus on refining tactics, and experimentation, and you’ll always have a team to play for; your clients, vendors, employer, or partners will be dumping the gatorade all over you for being the one that "made it rain".

What resources do you use for your SEO Playbook or your SEO blocking and tackling?

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