Important Lessons I Learned When Learning How to SEO

On February 10, 2011, wrote:

I publish this to you guys because in the time I have spent working for Lakeshore Branding, I have learned a lot in what is SEO.  As I will be taking a drastic turn in my life and begin working for the man, there are a few important lessons I have learned.

First, a quick background.  After graduating from the University of Iowa, I helped a colleague start up a webhosting company, Host Duplex.  Afterwards, I joined Lakeshore Branding as an SEO Hero (self modified title 🙂 ) to expand my technical knowledge in the SEO industry and further develop my web development skills.

Here are the lessons I have learned as an SEO Hero.

1.) You Don’t Know Jack!

One of the many lessons I have learned through life is that real life experience is king.  From research and different books, I had thought that I knew my fair share of how to optimize a website.  It wasn’t until I began my work at LSB that i realized I didn’t know jack about SEO.

Take students in weed-out science classes for example.  In college the curve for the exams usually meant 50% was the usual grade that received an A.  Eventually, they actually learned the material, but it was the more experience with the material that finally gave them an understanding.

There are literally hundreds of factors that determine page rank.  Without real time experience with optimizing web pages, you are as good at SEO as Shaq is at game winning 3-pointers.

2.) Baby Got Back

Expanding on not knowing jack, It wasn’t until I arrived at Lakeshore Branding that I learned about how much SEO relies on backend optimization.  A lot of the optimization relies on reducing duplicate content, and directs using rel=canonical or 301, or internal linking, and the list goes on.  I learned to love WordPress because it makes backend optimization a breeze.

3.) Content is King…… ish

Even if you are not an SEO you have heard this term.  If you are going to post content on the interwebs, it must be unique and compelling.  However, just because  you posted the best article ever, that doesn’t mean you are going to be ranked for 3 reasons.

a.) You need to attract people to your content.  Clickthrough rates are extremely important in determining your page rank

b.) You need people to share you’re content.  Link building and backlinking is a time consuming but imperative tactic in bumping up your site on a search engine results page.

c.) You didn’t use any keywords.  Even though you’re content is compelling, sometimes that isn’t enough.  Some sites, like LOLcats, has enough unique and compelling content where what they write doesn’t have much bearing of page rank.  However, for blogs, you need to utilize ranking keywords (where appropriate and don’t overdo it!).

4.) Big Brother

A common misconception from people who do not know SEO is that Google is just some search engine that harmlessly indexes pages.  What I quickly came to understand is that Google isn’t just some website billboard chart, but also an internet watchdog.   While they’re also looking out for blackhat SEO and spam, things like duplicate content can hurt the innocent blogger.  Different seo plugins can protect against accidental penalties, but some research should be done to prevent mishaps.

5.) The Book and the Bird

A couple weeks ago, I made a post on the announcement that Facebook and Twitter are now factors in determining page rank.  It is about time that Google is using social media.  With the hundreds of millions of users that use social media, it carries heavy weight when creating links to content and sites.  With the attention of the right quality user (shamless plug =) ), or certain quantity of users, you can potentially draw millions of people to your site.

In this sense DO NOT automate text.  One important facet of social media is that people click on and share only what they want to (except those stupid annoying twitter robots).  Nobody is going to retweet or ‘like’ a site that is BS.

6.) SEO is Awesome

It was exciting seeing my first projects start to rank on Google and beat out pages that had been ranking for years before me.  It was then I began to understand the intricacies of SEO and how important it is to manipulate the system.  When you learn how to make SEO work for you, it can be simple to rank a site.

Even though more people are learning how to optimize their websites, SEOs are ahead of the curve as it is still a generally newer phenomenon.  With a decent knowledge of SEO, you can beat out a lot of sites who have no dea what SEO is.

7.) SEO Sucks

I say this because sometimes, SEO really sucks.  If you’re lower on the totem pole of SEO, ranking anything can be hard and tedious work; and  let’s face it, if you’re an authority you are going to rank on Google.  Google denies ranking brands higher, but I have my doubts.

If your niche is highly competitive on a SERP, you will have to do some serious work to rank your site.  For instance, if youre site is about Korean restaurants, it is not hard to rank (trust me my people’s baby boomer generation isn’t very tech savvy).  Now if you’re site is for a Chicago Cubs merchandise store in Wrigleyville… good luck.

I also hate checking and rechecking my SEO efforts to make sure I didn’t raise any Google flags.  To be clear, I am adamantly against any blackhat SEO, but I still worry Google may mistake an effort at best practice SEO for something shady.  Industry research has taught me to be extra careful of SEO horror stories.

8.) We’re a Bit Nerdy

*I just had to use this guy again

Not to be confused with geeky (aka Screetch), we are the nerds of the technical age.  We scoff at poorly written content, sneer at ugly sliders, laugh at cheap websites, and gawk at pretty websites.  While others tweet about Gaga’s lobster hat, we tweet about Google’s new ranking rules, or the newest addition to social media marketing.  Not to say we’re completely detached from pop culture, but we love our ‘nerd’ stuff a little too much.

Fine, it may be just me, but I love downloading new plugins and optimizing my sites and watching my unique visitor numbers soar.  Call me a nerd.

With that my loyal followers and colleagues, I bid you adieu.  For the time being you can keep up with me on my twitter, I hope my time here has been as educational and helpful for you as it has been for me.  Bear down


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