7 Things all Webmasters Need to Know about SEO

Webmasters come to the forums with a lot of of misconceptions about SEO. They ask all kinds of questions about PageRank, or how to get the most out of their meta tags. It's time to set the record straight with five basic things all webmasters need to know about SEO.

1. SEO is not simple or easy

SEO is not just about what your PageRank is or getting reciprocal links. It is not just about the text on your page, your meta tags, or the structure of your HTML. In fact, many of the things I just mentioned aren't important at all anymore!

Google has over 100 ranking factors work together to produce search results. Experts have created many detailed lists of ranking factors to consider. Study carefully.

2. Search Engine algorythms change often

Search Engine algorythms and the knowledge of the expert community are constantly changing. What works today is not the same as what worked a year ago and may not be the same as what works even a few months from now. If you want to be successful in search you have to pay attention. I recommend the SEOmoz blog, but others are just as good. In fact, you should probably subscribe to a few of them.

Also make sure that you check the dates on any search-related articles you read. Anything more than 2 years old is probably obsolete. There is also a lot of false information posted on blogs and forums about SEO. Looks for recent, trusted sources.

3. SEO is not an exact science

In fact, much of what SEO experts know is based on experimentation, trial and error, and speculation. If the search engines publicized their methods, they would lose any advantage they have over the competition. In many cases, the best thing we can do is guess about what they might do and use our experience to learn about their behaviour. There are few "truths". You will hear the words "may", "could", and "might" a lot.

4. Google has tools and information to help you

Google's Webmaster Central has lots of great information including basic guidelinesquestions and answers, and a blog. This is coming straight from the source, so pay attention! Matt Cutts, head of the Google's Webspam team also has a blog.

You should also have an  account with Google Webmaster Tools. Their tools can tell you a lot about your site including any crawling errors they might be experiencing some good details on your linkbacks. This is also where you submit your sitemap to tell Google how to crawl your site.

5. Search Engines don't like being tricked

When refining their algorythms, search engines are usually weeding out things that aren't real. This could be things like fake keywords (hidden in the HTML code) or fake linkbacks (reciprocals, or anything you may have created yourself). You have two options here: you can continue to try to trick the search engines in to thinking that your page is better than it is, or you can just give up the trickery and give the search engines what they want.

6. SEO alone is not enough

All the SEO in the world means nothing if your site isn't up to the task. I see many webmasters spending a lot of time on their SEO efforts and almost none on the design, content, and usability of their site. Putting a lot of effort into SEO is pointless if people are going to turn around and leave as soon as they land on your site.

7. Search Engines are looking for good content for people

A search engine's primary purpose is serving human visitors. When people use their engine they want to find the best results. Therefore, search engines are continually working to find the best content for people. If they didn't, users would switch to one of their competitors. If your site has good content for people, then most of the work is done!

Those are my basic tips. I'd love to see others - especially people who actually know about SEO - pick up where I've left off.


Megan McDermott's picture

About the Author

Megan is co-founder and editor of A Padded Cell and administrator at The Webmaster Forums. She has been designing websites since 1997, with expertise in design, information architecture, usability, HTML/CSS, Drupal theming, and more. Megan is also a partner and co-founder of Woolwich Web Works: A small team that can do big things!