Search Engine Optimization Techniques: Playing Conservatively

Search Engine Optimization will likely grow in 2003 as more webmasters learn all the latest and greatest ways to reach prominent rankings on the search engines. With all of these new SEO practitioners on the 'net, the search engines are left with an incredible and difficult task: Maintaining clean and effective search results.
When a webmaster or amateur SEO takes on a sites optimization and search engine marketing plan - they often does so without the proper knowledge of what works and what does not work. As a result, sites can become penalized, banned, or worse yet - the optimization itself simply never grows into the potential it once had.
One of the most common mistakes for a new SEO is to assume myths for fact and follow the hype that a few bad apples promote. Too soon then, an SEO finds them self buried in development work and the associated stress - when the most fundamental practices could have trumped their targeted market.
Locate Reputable Sources
If you are out to research what you can and cannot do to make your site rank well, then do yourself a favor and start with an accurate and reputable source that is highly regarded. Start with those like Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Watch, J.K Bowman of Spider Food or Paul Bruemmer of Web Ignite.
While some information from articles written by the above noted authors may differ - you will surely gain knowledge from hands on experience.
Of course, there are other sources to consider. Popular online and search engine optimization forums exist - and an abundance of research and learning can be accomplished through these communities. Start with Webmaster World as well as Promotion Base available from SitePoint. Both of these sites feature thousands of members who are practicing SEO on a day to day basis. Create an online identity for yourself and ask any question. Just remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question!
Understand Your Market
Back in the day, you could throw "Britney Spears" in your meta tags a few hundred times with some variations and prominent rankings were gained. Thankfully the search engines have matured along with the level of experience applied by SEO professionals, and there is now an obvious science and technology to be applied for SEO to become legitimate.
Knowing your market transcends the ability to look at the most frequently searched for terms available on systems like WordTracker. Analyze your current traffic and conversions and obtain an understanding of where the most valuable traffic stems from. Often, you find surprises.
Focus then on the most promising niche areas of your generally targeted market. Once you have conversions at a reasonably high point - begin to branch your SEO efforts towards other niche areas within your market. By taking on one niche at a time, you can focus more easily on specific goals - then revisit that progress from time to time. In many circumstances, ranking in the top three positions for three word niche level searches can gain many more visitors and conversions than a few top 20 rankings on less targeted terms.
If You Must Spend, Spend Wisely
Large search directories like Yahoo want a $299.00 subscription fee from you per year for a commercial listing. In most cases, you should feel confident in that investment. In many other cases though, you can spend your money much more wisely.
Inktomi, Teoma, FAST, Lycos and more - all feature some level of paid inclusion. The best advice I would offer based on personal and professional experiences - is to withhold spending on any of these services.
Over time, it is not uncommon to gain access to prominent engines like Inktomi and FAST through consistent link popularity, submission, and patience. Suddenly you are listed within an engine with all of your competitors - and you might be the only one who's in there free of charge.
Stay away from PPC campaigns unless you know that you can afford them and remain confident in their success. Many people will not shy away from a $50 per day spending budget on Google AdWords - but are amazed at the fact that they are on course to spend over $18,000 in one years time. If you target the wrong terms and those clicking do not convert, you are out on a lot of money.
Keep SEO Efforts Within Reach
If you are starting out and really want to learn about what happens within the world that is SEO, take your time and work on your own pace. Perform thorough work that is well received and be sure to revisit that work often enough to remain confident in your holistic optimization approach. If you branch out too quickly and attempt to cover too much ground too soon - your efforts are more apt to mature slowly if at all.
While in the process of starting out, be sure to also document the work that you have performed as well as when that work was reflected on your web site. Too often, webmasters put themselves through fits believing that they have been banned or dropped by a search engine when all they did was remove the assets from their site that once allowed rankings to be held.
Patience Is Key
Sure, you could go out and submit each of your 5000 pages to 20 search engines using an automated tool - but you will eventually be caught and left with nothing in the end. As far as submissions, link popularity, results, and rankings are concerned - take your time and perform the optimization work with a clear mind with clear intentions. Stay focused on the small tasks at hand instead of making an attempt at the all-or-nothing approach.
If something seems too easy or too good to be true - it likely is.
Never Count on One Engine
You can see all over the 'Net that Google is the search engine of choice. Sure, referrals and usage statistics prove that, but do not restrict your efforts to Google alone. The same goes for other engines as well. A well optimized site is a web site that does well for a number of reasons on a number of search engines. Having a reliance on one engine only can put you and your site at a serious risk if ever dropped or banned by a particular engine.

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