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What Is Search Engine Optimization?

By Jill Whalen  01-12-2004

What is it about the phrase "search engine optimization" that makes people go crazy? Is it because the phrase itself doesn't really make sense? As Bob Massa from SearchKing is fond of saying, we don't optimize search engines, we optimize Web pages. So perhaps that's part of the reason why people have a hard time agreeing on what SEO actually is.

More likely it's because there are as many ways to optimize a site for high rankings as there are optimizers. Yes, that's right -- SEO is like a snowflake -- no two optimizations are alike! In fact, I've sometimes looked at a page I optimized a month ago and thought that the client must have changed it because "I would never have done it that way." But when I go back and look at the file on my hard drive, there it is, just the way it appeared online. (Dontcha hate when that happens?)

I know some optimizers who can get high rankings simply through the power of links. Doesn't even matter what it says on their pages -- with the right links and link text they can do amazing things. Is this search engine optimization? Sure, if it gets high rankings for the site.

Others work their magic through trusted XML feeds. They know the exact information to place on their spreadsheets, and they know how to push it to the engines. I even hear that some have figured out how to do something similar for Google (although I believe it's something Google would not be pleased with). Is this search engine optimization? Of course it is -- it gets high rankings for the site.

If you've previously read anything I've written, you probably know that my particular method for optimizing pages involves rewriting or editing the visible copy that people read when they browse the site.

That's not *all* there is to my method, but it's true that it's the main component. I do it this way because it works for me. After nine years of practice, it's pretty much second nature these days. Is it search engine optimization? You bet -- it gets high rankings!

This is not to say that my method doesn't have its limitations. All SEO methods have limitations. I generally know the limits of what I can and can't do through my optimizations, and I don't claim to be able to optimize any site for any keyword or phrase. The fact remains that it is definitely possible to get high rankings through the methods I discuss here and in my forum. It's not only possible, it's highly probable if you go about it the right way.

In fact, thousands of you reading this now know it works because you've done it for your own sites and your clients' sites. I receive hundreds of emails every week that confirm to me that this method works. So why would some people insist that this type of work isn't search engine optimization? Beats the heck out of me!

Just always keep in mind that if you truly want a successful Web site and online business, it will take some effort and lots of time. The people that often run into problems are those that start a new business and Web site by simply trying to figure out a good way to make money online.

That's exactly the wrong way to go about it.

Instead of doing that, use Ken Evoy's method, i.e., let your business choose you! (Not sure if he actually puts it that way, but if you've read his stuff, that's pretty much the end result.)

By that I mean that you should start out by doing something you love and are passionate about without worrying about how you can make money out of it. There will be ways to make money later, once your blood, sweat and tears have been depleted! No, you can't do things this way and become an overnight success. (And no, it's not the only way to be successful, just one that I happen to be talking about at the moment!)

When you think about it, there really isn't anything in life that is a real overnight success. Nor is there a whole lot of luck involved in successful endeavors. Take movie stars and musicians, for instance. Many of them are said to be an overnight success by the press because it makes for a good story. However, 99% of the time if you check what those successful stars were doing before they were "discovered," you'll find that they were plugging away at their artistic endeavors for years and years.

So keep on plugging away at yours too. There will be setbacks at times (like when Google decides to lower the boom), but don't give up. If someone like me sitting at home staring at my computer monitor all day can become successful, so can you!

Good luck!


Jill Whalen is the owner of and moderator of the free weekly email newsletter, the High Rankings' Advisor. She is also known for her moderation of the critically acclaimed, Rank Write Roundtable. Jill specializes in search engine optimization, directory submissions, SEO consultations and workshops. She has obtained hundreds of number 1 and 2 spots for her vast array of clients throughout the years. Clients include multi-million dollar companies, major universities, real estate agencies, attorneys, surgeons, dentists, and small-medium sized businesses.

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