July 26th, 2007 - by Golgotha

So you decided to do your own SEO? Good for you! You’ve embarked on quite the adventure.

This is part 2 in the “Do It Yourself SEO” series. In part 1 we tackled the issue of whether you should do your own SEO or hire it out. In doing so we looked at four questions and now in this article we will revisit those questions and take a closer look at what it will take to make your website successful.

Before we begin it’s probably fair to give my background as it pertains to search engine optimization. For starters, I am not the smartest guy in the room. I hold no certifications or formal training in SEO/SEM; everything I know has been learned in the trenches over the last eight years. So what follows are some observations that I have learned during my call of duty.

You won’t find advice in this article like: “use heading tags in your copy” or to “make sure you have keyword-rich title tags on each page” or the “significance of landing pages” — while all are good advice, this would turn into a book if I went that route. Instead we are going to look at the skill sets involved in making a website successful. My hope is that by the end of the article you will have a greater appreciation for SEO/SEM.

Let’s first start by revisiting those four questions we addressed in the first article:

1. Do I really have time to take on the development and promotion of a website?
The amount of time it takes to make a website successful is hard to gauge. First, you have to define success. What does it mean to be a successful website? Is it measured by the number of visitors to your site? Or your search engine rankings? Or how many widgets you’ve sold? Or how many people have subscribed to your feed? Or how much AdSense revenue you’ve made? It may be all of these — or none of these. Depending on how you define success it will play a roll in how many hours you can expect to work.

Also, keep in mind how you define success today may not be how you define success tomorrow. Today you may be happy with 2,000 visitors a day, tomorrow you may want that number to be doubled. Today you may be happy that you rank in the top 5 in Google for one of your keywords, tomorrow you may want it to be for five keywords. Typically, people are never satisfied once they have reached a defined level and only then look to redefine success.

I can’t accurately tell you how many hours you’re going to need to work to make a successful website. But, you can safely assume that the more time you put in the more likely your website will be successful.

2. How much is my time worth?
Once again, only you can answer this question – there’s no formula to plug in. For me, I always keep in mind that the time I spend doing one job is time away from another job. That’s why I almost always turn down side jobs. If I were to do SEO work on the side that would mean time away from my wife, daughter and golf clubs. That time is too precious to me. So you have to ask yourself what your time is worth.

3. How strong are my web development skills?
Anyone in the SEO business knows that there are two sides to the SEO coin: on-page optimization and off-page optimization. Put another way — the development and the marketing. Let’s first look at the development side:

Web Development
I’m going to also break web development down into two sides: client-side code and server-side code. Client-side code is code that’s interpreted by a web browser; HTML and JavaScript are examples of this. Server-side code is handled by a web server which executes the code and spits it out to a browser. So in the end, server-side code ends up being client-side code; ASP.NET and PHP are examples of this.

Since SEO is only concerned with client-side code that’s what we’ll focus on here.

Client-Side code is then further broken down into three more categories often called the separation of concerns:

  • Content: the words on the page are so much more.

    It’s often been said that content is king and no one should know this better than a search engine optimizer. Content is the life-blood of any website. It’s the reason why people come to your website in the first place.

    So being a good copywriter is an essential tool in the SEO belt. The ability to write fresh, relevant content that people will find useful and want to share with others is key. In addition, a good copywriter should be able to write in a language that’s easily understandable for a global audience and allows for easy scanning of important concepts.

    Lastly, the copywriter should be able to research and define keywords relevant to the websites market and incorporate those words into the content to appease the search engines without detracting from the human readers experience.

    I would add that I believe copywriting is one of the most under-appreciated skills on the web — it can make or break a website — and so I believe this may be reason enough to hire a professional.

    Now that you have your content you still need to get it on the page and that is the job of HTML/XHTML. Thankfully, learning HTML is pretty easy and should not take too much time. But like most things in life that are easy, people can have a tendency to get lazy. Don’t write lazy HTML. Your HTML should strive to convey the meaning, or semantics of the content on the page; but that’s another article…

    Once you have your well written content properly marked-up it’s time to make it look good, bring on the bling-bling, I mean the presentation layer.

  • Presentation: making the plain look good.

    How a website looks should be entirely attributed to CSS. Your HTML code should only serve to define the content and in no way change how it looks as that is the sole job of CSS.

    While CSS adds many benefits to a website, for this article I only want to talk about the benefits of CSS as it pertains to SEO.

    Search engines like Google and Yahoo send out their spiders or bots to crawl web pages and then index the content retrieved on those pages. These spiders care only about content, not code, so all that is indexed is the text. People often times get this confused, if you want to see what a spider sees, try this spider simulator.

    So at this point you may be thinking, how is CSS going to help our website with SEO if all that the bots see is content and CSS is used for presentation? That’s a good question and there’s only one answer: CSS allows our content to visually (in the browser) have a different order than what is actually coded in the HTML. This helps because search engines tend to give greater importance to content the higher up it is in your code. Put another way, the content closest to the HTML body tag is deemed most important.

    There’s really nothing else as far as presentation goes that can help your SEO efforts, because as we’ve just said, search engine bots are all about content, not looks. It’s we humans that can appreciate beauty, not the bots.

    With presentation done we can now talk about the behavior layer.

  • Behavior: controls the behavior of your content.

    Thus far we have used copywriting skills to create interesting and unique content which we then semantically mark-up with HTML to create our web pages. We then visually breath life into our pages by using CSS. Lastly, we have the option of giving our pages a layer of interactivity and dynamic behavior by introducing our pages to elements like JavaScript, Ajax, or Flash.

    Many of these interactive technologies can greatly enhance the user experience, but if not properly implemented can pose a real challenge to the search engines. So an SEO should know how to properly work with these technologies to increase the user experience without diminishing the search engines ability to index the content.

At this point we are now done with the on-page optimization. I know some of you may be thinking, but you didn’t talk about <h1> tags or <title> tags, what gives? Remember, we aren’t talking about specifics here, those tags are HTML tags and we can assume when you learn proper HTML you learn the significance of such tags.

So let’s move on and look at the other side of the SEO coin — off-page optimization.

4. How good are your marketing skills?
Believe it or not, that was the easy side of SEO! Web development can take days, weeks, or months, but once you’re done you start the marketing side and that should last the lifetime of your site.

Once again, we are not going into specifics today; we can do that some other time. What we are after now are the skill sets you need to learn in order to promote your website. What follows is a list of marketing skills you will want to learn:

  • Cost Per Click (CPC) / Price Per Click (PPC) Advertising: This is where you research keywords and set up advertising networks like Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing, and MSN adCenter.
  • Link Building: Obtaining incoming links from other websites to yours is an important element of SEO and there are many ways to go about it; but that’s another article…
  • Directory Submission: Submitting your website to directories is always a good idea. The major directories include: DMOZ, Yahoo! and Best of the Web Directory.
  • Buying Links: Paying for advertising can be a good ROI if you know where to do it. Locating quality websites within your websites industry to buy advertising can be time consuming.
  • Viral Marketing and Social Media Optimization: There’s nothing better than creating content so compelling that others want to spread the word for you. This is called viral marketing, much like a virus moves from host to host, a well written article can spread from blog to blog. Social Media sites like Digg, Del.icio.us and Reddit are like hotzones — they alone can spread the word to thousands.

So now that the website is up and running and the links are coming in, it’s time to sit back and relax, right? Wrong! Just like playing video games, standing still will get you killed! You now need to get yourself a web stats resource like Google Analytics or W3Counter so you can track and analyze your website’s behavior. Making heads or tails out of your website’s stats is again another article for another time, but it’s most certainly something you will want to be learn.

This may not be an all encompassing list, but it’s a good start of some things you will need to learn if you wish to do your own search engine optimization. I’m sure that you guys will let me know if I missed some stuff!

Hopefully this article has given you a greater appreciation for SEO and you won’t be so quick to offer up the advice of just do the SEO yourself, because as we’ve just seen, there’s a lot that goes with it.

So let’s review the skills a good search engine optimizer should posses:

  • Copywriting: the ability to write original compelling content that your websites visitors will find useful and hopefully share with others.
  • HTML / XHTML: the markup that defines your content and puts it in the language used by browsers.
  • CSS: is used for presentation and allows our web pages to look beautiful.
  • Marketing and Promotion: build it and they will come is not an option on the web. You need a marketing plan.
  • Analytics: allows you to know more about your website’s visitors and what parts of your site are working and what parts are not.

14 Responses to “Do It Yourself SEO? Part 2”

1 John

Thankfully, learning HTML is pretty easy and should not take too much time.

I think that should be ‘learning the basics of HTML is relatively easy’ – learning HTML properly is an underappreciated skill.

2 Golgotha

You’re probably right John. I guess I take that for granted since I’ve been doing it for so long. But, still as compared to time invested learning JavaScript, CSS, PHP, or .NET – I would say HTML is pretty easy.

3 Richard from GoStats

For your upcoming webstats article you might want to check out GoStats. It’s a great option that should not go unchecked.

4 AD

On the web stats, I am using GoStats.com , they provide log history for 1000 visitors, do you know any tool with a bigger log size?

5 Jim

Interesting! I should investigate GoStats.com

6 Dan Grossman

W3Counter’s log size is 25 times larger with the free account. It’s 50 times larger with a premium account.

7 Richard from GoStats

Hi Dan,

Actually the GoStats log is unlimited at all levels. So I guess you could say GoStats is infinity times larger than your pro version 😉
-The log size mentioned above is only for displaying raw data from GoStats.

8 Do It Yourself SEO?

[…] NOW READ PART 2 ] Subscribe to this feed! Subscribe to Search-This by Email Book it: del.icio.us, digg, Reddit, […]

9 Ashish Jha

I always these things to make a sie successful and i foresee that future site will be successful if they have follwing elements in their site.
CSS, table less design, hierarchical content structure,hierarchical url structure, and internet marketing
when i say internet marketing ,i mean combination of seo,link baiting,and virals

10 Best of Search-This 2007

[…] Do It Yourself SEO? Part 2 […]

11 trademark registration

I’ve done a lot of the web promotion stuff myself for my website. It’s very time-consuming, but I think it’s well worth the shot.

12 Simon

Nice article, I’m using your advice to build my website http://www.bestdiscountvouchers.co.uk so if it turns out to be a success I’ll have you to thank 🙂

13 Amit

I have done so many website promotion work and every time i learn new things to get your website top ranking.

14 Smykker Online

For webstats, i use Google Analytics, i think its the best free webstats around

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