I had the occasion on the job yesterday to have a fairly in-depth conversation about something known as search engine optimization. When it comes to this topic as a Web geek, I tend to get quite cranky.
At the previous job, they brought in a guy, a “specialist,” to improve their Google results. I spent weeks hanging two dozen “specialized” web pages on a space that was optimized for CMS generated content rather than straight files. I spent those weeks editing those pages at the “specialist’s” insistence and was blamed for the errors even though the “specialist” was the one who generated the content. Aside from this monkey-level involvement, I was kept in the dark about this project and essentially told to fuck off if I happened to ask about it. To this day I have no idea what the results were of my work. More important, it was not thought of as important to keep me in the loop on the matter even though what we were doing could have easily been pertinent to the overall Internet presence of the organization, for which I was responsible at least in title.
So any time these days I am approached regarding “search engine optimization,” I tend to flare up like a pissed-off cat. I was always of the opinion that my former employer had gotten taken by a snake oil salesman. Sure, the “specialist” might have been able to sit in a meeting with my former bosses, type certain terms into a search engine and show that their Web site came up higher when people searched on that term and then smile proudly as they golf-clapped and patted the “specialist’s” back. Still. It is in my opinion an artificial and unstable way to achieve such results.
Want better search results? HAVE A BETTER WEB SITE.
Fresh, interesting, compelling, and irresistibly relevant content. Beautiful design. And make it both intuitive and fun. Offer content that users will not be able to get anywhere else, period. Accept that at least 60 percent of your Web site’s success has nothing to do with the tech. Stop wringing your hands over meta tags and key words. HAVE A BETTER WEB SITE and Google will not be able to keep its mitts off of it.