First Rule of SEO - Quality

First Impressions - First Rule of SEO - Quality

by Larry Neal Gowdy - Updated March 25, 2014

Rank #2 on Google

Is #1 worth the extra effort?

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - attributed to Albert Einstein

I don’t follow the crowd. Sometimes it may take me longer to reach a destination when I forge my own path, but almost always I am pleased with the results of having landed on virgin soil with lots of elbow room.

Look at the well traveled path of western philosophy. Philosophers have been debating the same topics for almost three-thousand years without there yet being an agreement on any. If the path chosen by western philosophy does not work, and it has not worked in three-thousand years, then it might be said that it is insane for anyone to keep trying to get new results while still following the same path that leads nowhere.

Physics, psychology, biology, and most all other fields of interest share a similar loss of focus. We humans often get ourselves so wrapped up in a topic that we no longer recognize the most simple of reasons why our paths lead nowhere. We work so hard at trying to figure out how to reach a destination that our focus shifts to the process itself while we forget what the goal was.

What Is Your Goal?

Search engine optimization is not much different. We want our websites to be ranked high on search engines, but we often lose sight of why. Some people believe that having a high ranked website will somehow guarantee a large income: the goal is money, not search engine ranking. Other people believe that having a high ranked site will somehow make them socially popular: the goal is acceptance into society, not search engine ranking.

I currently have numerous sites and pages in the top-ten of their keywords on all major search engines, and none of the pages have made me rich nor even popular. One of my websites is ranked number one under generic keywords that ought to be extraordinarily popular, but the site gets less than one-hundred unique visitors a month and absolutely zero feedback. Search engine ranking does not guarantee wealth, popularity, nor much of anything else really.

For me SEO began as a hobby not too unlike chess: a puzzle to explore, a curiosity to satisfy. When I aimed a website for search engine rankings my only goal was rankings and nothing else. I did not care what popular opinion might be of my sites, and I did not care if I made a dime; all I cared about was earning the ranking. After some years my websites began achieving high rankings, and the curiosity was quenched.

Today I still want high search engine rankings, but ranking is no longer the goal. The goal now is to experiment with and to learn how to create the very highest quality websites possible. Stuck in my mind are the words from former child prodigy and cybernetics-famed Norbert Wiener:

“Heaven save us from the first novels which are written because a young man desires the prestige of being a novelist rather than because he has something to say! Heaven save us likewise from the mathematical papers which are correct and elegant but without body or spirit. Heaven save us above all from the snobbery which not only admits the possibility of this thin and perfunctory work, but which cries out in a spirit of shrinking arrogance against the competition of vigor and ideas, wherever these may be found! In other words, when there is communication without need for communication, merely so that someone may earn the social and intellectual prestige of being a priest of communication, the quality and communicative value of the message drop like a plummet.” The Human Use of Human Beings, (Da Capo Press, 1988)

Similarly, there are many websites in the top-ten of their keywords on search engines that are not merely useless sites, but are actually very ugly of presentation and spirit. My goal is to create as high of quality as is possible online, period. If search engines like it, then good, and if search engines do not like it, then I still don’t care (much) because rank is not the goal.

Since I have invested many thousands of hours into the puzzles of SEO, some of my hardest won techniques remain confidential*, but I will tell you this: build a quality site, and search engines will smile on you. I can build a website that has most every good SEO technique but not have high quality content, and the site may never so much as reach the top one-hundred list. A website with very little SEO, but with a lot of quality stands a much better chance of becoming a top-ten.

By “quality” I am not referring to gadgets and gimmicks, but rather to accuracy of code, accuracy of language, accuracy of grammar, cleanliness of layout, maturity of design, honesty, and usefulness of topic. The ideal of ‘only present communication where there is a need for communication’ is as applicable for websites as it is for printed materials.

Choose the topic that you are most expert at, and build your website around that topic. Think of your website as your Ph.D. thesis, as your most perfect painting, as your most perfect song, the one thing that will endure into future generations as the mark of your existence.

Quality becomes the sole goal, and SEO without quality is an act of doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.

One of my customers had used a few other web designers to build a website, and even after about six years the website still was not found on search engines under any keyword phrase search. I rebuilt the website in a fashion that I think of as being of normal quality, and within a couple of months the site was ranked number two; now after about nine months the site is ranked number one on all major search engines for several different keyword phrases. Another site was built to compete against well established keywords, and within a few months that site is also ranked number one on major search engines for its keywords. While it may be true that I add SEO techniques to my customers' sites, quality remains the first rule of a high ranked website.

A few years back I noticed that the MSN® search engine was being given serious upgrades, which later became the much improved Bing®. At present all search engines are nearing a new birth that will cause many current SEO techniques to lose their effectiveness. Are you ready?

* (Update March 25, 2014) If you have browsed enough SEO websites you will have likely landed on at least one that claims you should be cautious of anyone who speaks of confidential SEO techniques. For the most part I would agree because it is common for all trades to be infested with companies that are less than ethical, and it would be an easy thing for a company to hide its incompetency behind a claim of 'confidentiality'. Nevertheless, if an SEO company does not have skills beyond what are readily found in SEO articles, then why would anyone need the SEO company's services? On occasion I am phoned by someone who insists that I describe to them how my SEO techniques are applied, and somehow the callers do believe that I should spend an hour of my time and hand to them free of charge the SEO techniques that cost me many thousands of hours and dollars to learn. I openly describe to my paying customers how the SEO techniques work, but the key-phrase here is "paying customers."

If you are shopping for a SEO company to help with your website then I would recommend investing about an hour researching (1) the companies' customer's rankings as well as (2) the companies' samples of SEO work on their own websites. Talk is cheap; actual results are all that matters. I am always happy to show my customers examples of my SEO work.

In the pre-computer era I serviced all types of electronics including residential appliances. The problem with one customer's dishwasher was a simple electrical door switch connector that I repaired in a few minutes and then left for my next service call. A few days later I learned that a television news crew was secretly videoing several appliance repairmen who were called to repair a dishwasher that only had a defective door switch connector. All repairmen except one had claimed that the problem was something else, and all of the repairmen except one over-charged the customer. Guess who the one repairman was who fixed the right problem and charged the honest fees. Another customer had already paid several hundred dollars attempting to have a smoking appliance repaired, but I immediately knew what the problem was the moment that the customer opened their front door to greet me: the smell of burned electrical insulation was obvious, an odor that is of a specific type of insulation that has been over-heated: a 240v power line in a breaker box. Within a few minutes I had trimmed the oxidized wire and had the problem solved. By my having paid attention to previous aromas I was able to quickly associate a current aroma to a past aroma and know where a problem exists. Most technicians 'follow the book' when servicing devices, and if a problem is not taught how to be repaired in a book, then the techs cannot fix the problem.

I am a trouble-shooter, this is what I do, and I was very good at trouble-shooting all electronics of all types. I use a similar method towards SEO, that of paying attention to what works and what does not work, and too, of knowing how to analytically approach each individual problem. Many SEO companies perform 'follow the book' SEO, which sometimes works if a website has no competition, but almost never will it be successful when competing for rankings. I do not publicly describe my 'confidential' techniques because I should not be expected to give away my labors for free, and it would harm everyone if the techniques were to become "book". There is nothing mysterious or 'black-hat' about my SEO techniques, they are simply a form of honest 'white-hat' quality that is applied relative to a known effect that produces desirable results.

There is a reason why the best software is proprietary, why books are copyrighted, why inventions are patented, and why some of my SEO techniques are confidential.

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