Money will definitely be spent in the areas of site redesign and probably in getting content (you may actually have to hire writers to get content) but then again, if you are a web designer who is building your own websites on a low (or nonexistent) budget, organic SEO is definitely the way to go. It may take some time, but you will actually grow in real time experience as you move towards your SEO goals.
The Myth of Overnight Success
There are few things that get to me more than the assumption that a large goal (such as getting to number one for a keyword on Google’s SERPs) can be done overnight. The easiest SEO I have ever done for an unknown site was done over the course of a month, via content refreshing alone. The key word was unique (blue interface), and the competing web sites were half asleep while we worked.
The issue with this myth is that customers actually believe it. They post jobs such as "We want to be number one in the following key words" then list close to a dozen key words, and everything has to be done under a budget of a thousand dollars and in record time. Organic SEO works, is adaptable and ensures high rankings on SERPs over the long time despite changing algorithms, but nobody can guarantee anything in a month.
Ethical SEO, Unprofitable?
There is a train of thought that says ethical SEO is doomed to failure. The black hat SEO blogs routinely post that white hat SEO techniques do not work, and that websites practicing SEO are going to be banned anyway. I personally believe that they are suffering from serious bouts of conscience, making them lash out at SEO practitioners who do not march to their drums. With a few of the following techniques in place, being banned will definitely be the last thing you need to worry about, and you are guaranteed to build a world class brand that will transcend the Internet alone.
Content is King. You have to fulfill a need for information. If you do not, your SEO campaign is sure to run into problems. I started off offering SEO as a sidebar to web design and web copy writing. Now I offer it alone, and the first thing I advocate when I get an SEO job is that the whole site be designed around the content. Huge graphics, animations, even product listings are not desirable, as I seek to replace them with content that answers queries and searches.
Also, the content has to work! You cannot afford lame content that has searchers lazily hitting the back button to leave your site. If your content is based on articles, then do get articles that will create some buzz. If it is just your web copy then you should have copy that calls your searchers to action.
Content That Works
Apart from having a focus, your content must be sufficiently interesting. Just as Technocrati (mouthful) is more interesting than Blogspot to pronounce, an article that says "Ugly Websites Sell!" is more entertaining to readers than "How to Build Trust in Your Web Site." Even if both have exactly the same content, I dare say the "Ugly" article will get more hits over the long term.
Creating a buzz with your content can bring more traffic your way, as people comment on your article and air their views on forums and blogs all over the net, sometimes adding links back to your content. You can create a buzz with unique and relevant listings too; these will be propagated the same way, in forums and blogs, as different people link to it in an effort to answer questions that are posted on blogs and forums on which they are members.
For search engines to remain in business, they need content. To get content they need web sites (that means you). If you have a web site and you are optimizing for a particular key word, then you must have that key word in your web copy. If it means you rewrite your entire web copy to have a key word density of 10-14 percent, by all means rewrite. It is impossible to properly optimize for a keyword and not have the keyword anywhere on your site. Beware of focusing too much on your web site and what it does to the detriment the searcher and what s/he needs. Your key words should be properly used and should not be inserted in as many places as you believe you can get away with.
Organic SEO thrives on content; it therefore demands more creativity and more relevancy than any other method. The content must portray the site as an expert in that particular industry. It must always adapt to fit its target. If you find out that your content is not achieving what it is supposed to, then it has to change (note the word organic, meaning living, biotic, adaptable). Rewriting your entire site’s content is an option if your site does not currently fulfill your content needs.
If you want to be sure of rising in the SERPs, refresh your content weekly, MSN, Yahoo and even Google reward constant refreshing with higher rankings. So not only will you be offering your users more value, you will also be rewarded by the search engines for helping them do their jobs better. MSN especially awards higher rankings to web sites that are updated regularly.
Apart From Content
Apart from content, other things that affect your web site’s organic SEO campaign include linking, navigation, and information architecture. We will delve into the other aspects so that we can use them all to promote our sites.
Navigation helps your web site’s usability. Usability improves your searcher’s browsing experience. A good browsing experience makes the user comfortable with coming back to your site. To know the kind of navigation that keeps a user comfortable, you have to think like a user. The lay out of your navigation is not supposed to be written in stone, it should be comfortable and make it easy for the user to get around your site.
A site with poor navigation results in poor interactivity, and if you lose your interactive features, you become no different from a static brochure or a catalog. Easy-to-use navigational tools make visiting your website an interesting experience (assuming you have great content). Also, your links should be replicated as many times as possible, to ensure that the user does not have to unduly strain him/herself to find a link.
The content must be organized before the design and programming is brought into place. Dumping loads of information on a web site designer who has zero interest in how the information is arranged, and who simply puts all the information in general segments for his own comfort’s sake, will definitely defeat your SEO strategy. What I am saying is that the web designer should be the last person to be brought into a project which has search engine optimization as its primary aim. The information should be grouped and organized into categories, then the web designer simply builds the site around said information.
Another important thing about your navigation is that you should always have text links so that your web site is search engine friendly, lest crawlers get to your site and cannot reach other pages. The arrangement of your site should also ensure that the page farthest from you home page through the link structure should not be more than three links away; this will ensure that all your pages have a chance to get indexed.
The movie "How to Be a Player" has a line that says "Man is the most adaptable creature on the planet." Your web site has to evolve and change with changing times and seasons. What is the worst that could happen in SEO? Would your web site survive if Google was no longer the number one search engine? What if all the search engines changed their algorithms? If you do not constantly evolve and constantly grow, then you are guaranteed to be on the next list of web sites ruined by the changing tides of SEO.
You must reinvent yourself. You will need to use constantly changing technology to keep your web site on the cutting edge and avoid looking like you just came off Noah’s Ark. Organic SEO must be truly adaptive, able to change to accommodate changing needs.
Sites that were built with millions of dollars of venture capital went belly up with the first dot-com bust, simply because they refused to change when faced with new challenges. The list of such sites goes on indefinitely; I won’t bore us by reciting them here. But let me say that the churn rate for failed websites has increased.
The difference between failed websites and successful ones is growth. One of the biggest success stories of recent times is that of Ngemu.com (a company that provides video game emulators for the PC). The category was in the clutches of emulatorzone.com for years. But Ngemu kept growing, and after close to three years in obscurity, they can now boast of 58,000 registered users.
Building Relationships and Making Money
Using great content and having an easily navigable site ensures that you will grow relationships with your customers that will translate to long profitability. Ethical practices, ethical hits, and long term relationships will bring you long term money.