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SEO – search engine optimization : Year in review

Jill Whalen, owner of High Rankings and widely recognized as a leader in search engine optimization since since 1995, has published ‘The High Rankings Year in Review.’ It’s an outline chockfull of practical SEO information and resources. Jill’s been kind enough to give me permission to share the year in review with you. Take it away Jill.

We often hear people say that SEO is an ever-changing discipline, and what works today may not work tomorrow. They are adamant that one needs to keep up with the search engines and all things SEO in order to stay one step ahead of the game.

But is that really true?

There are certainly incremental bits of knowledge that one can gain by staying in the thick of things at SEO forums, but I contend that the fundamentals of SEO don’t change very much, and certainly they don’t change very often.

Let’s travel back in time and look at some of the questions and answers that were in the Advisor newsletters in 2005 and see how much (if anything) has changed.

In the very first Advisor of 2005, a reader named Stuart asked about whether “using rotating images on a web page helps to keep a site ‘fresh’ for search engines.” We still get questions like this a lot on the forum, and the answer is still that it’s not helpful, on so many levels. Unfortunately, there’s still a whole lot of misinformation out there on this subject from other sources, which certainly doesn’t help matters.

The second Advisor of the year gave us Scottie Claiborne’s first of many articles discussing Google’s “aging delay” for new domains. Later in the year (June), Scottie wrote an important article that I often point people to which provides instructions on how one can change their domain name and avoid the aging delay. That issue is so critical to so many businesses that I’ve never been able to figure out why her article didn’t seem to catch on with the SEO masses.

In the last issue of January saw the age-old question that every newbie asks, i.e., “How does one register keywords with the search engines?” The answer of course is that you can’t, and you don’t. This always bursts many a site owner’s bubble very quickly. I can’t help being slightly amused when people just naturally assume there’s some easy way to tell the engines to “rank me for this word, that word, and that other one, please”! (Wouldn’t it be nice?) In a way, that speaks to the issue of “Realistic SEO Expectations,” which I recently wrote about towards the end of October.

In February , we saw the first of my SEO FAQ, which kept me busy through much of the first half of the year. I’ve since pieced all the questions together and placed them in a nice SEO FAQ section of my site. As you may recall, I often started the questions with things like “My son’s preschool teacher told me…” I’ve had so many people ask me if those were questions from real people. The answer is that they were more of an amalgamation of questions from real people. But the “characters” were made up just to make you laugh. (My favorite was “the parrot at the pet store told me…”! hehe)

February also covered a lot of PPC ground with Amy Edelstein’s series of 6 interviews with Did-It founder, Kevin Lee. The last in the series was published in March and was one of my favorites, as it was about “The Power of the Written Word.”

February and March also saw the introduction of Google’s “Auto Link” on the toolbar. That seemed to be the beginning of Google’s slide into telling us what is good for us, whether we like it or not! On page 3 of our forum thread on that topic, I related my in-person auto link discussion that I had with Matt Cutts at the NYC SES conference.

In April I wrote my SEO and the Zen Factor article which was also the inspiration for my new blog, “Inspired SEO“. The tagline is “You’ll never learn SEO by just reading about it.” Unfortunately, I’ve got only 2 posts there so far (neither of which is very inspiring!), although I have a good idea for a third if I can ever get around to it.

In May I wrote about what SEO clients should expect that they’ll have to do once they’ve hired an SEO firm. SEO is unfortunately not the type of thing you can just hire out and forget about. You have to be a partner in the process for it to work correctly. This has been true since the beginning, and I can’t imagine it could ever change. (I would worry if you’ve hired an SEO firm and you’re *not* a critical member of the SEO team.)

In June I got tired of hearing from people who claimed they had “good content” on their site, only to find out that they had no concept of what good content actually was. If you’re still not too sure about this (or even if you think you are), you may want to revisit that issue here.

In July I talked a bit about SEO pricing models, and we also heard from our Keyword Research forum moderator, Dan Thies, regarding keyword research, competition, and selection.

August saw me mostly rambling on about nothing in particular (hey…it was hot!). But we did have a good guest article from Leann Pass on how to use keywords that provide a solution to a problem.

In September I talked about dynamic site issues, and also tested a teaser subject line as per Karon Thackston’s guest article.

In October, my friend David Temple provided us with a nice review of the awesome keyword research tool, KeywordDiscovery. I also finally updated my “10Tips to the Top” article and posted it to my site here.

Which brings us practically up to date with some practical advice in November for small SEO companies regarding contracts.

All in all, I’d say it was quite a prolific year for me, as well as the numerous guest writers who so generously provided me with great newsletter content. From browsing through the past issues, it certainly doesn’t appear that much has changed in the SEO biz this past year. But the fact that I felt a compelling need to completely revamp my 10 Tips to the Top article this year does signal that things do indeed change — eventually — in SEO.

Thanks Jill, I think we’ve got some light reading for the Christmas week.

###Jill Whalen of High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization consultant and host of the free weekly High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter.

She specializes in search engine optimization, SEO consultations and seminars. Jill’s handbook, “The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines” teaches business owners how and where to place relevant keyword phrases on their Web sites so that they make sense to users and gain high rankings in the major search engines.###

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