SEO Baptism of Fire
SEO Baptism of Fire
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short, is a competitive undertaking and many fall victim to the same mistakes. I'm no exception and this is my story.
In November 2005, my wife and I decided to build an online shop to sell gift baskets and roses to the Australian market. I set about researching how best to establish a Web site and my wife designed gift baskets and sourced products. What we didn't know was how we would promote the site!
The new site launched on January 1, 2006 and I began thinking about promotion strategies. This is when the learning really began. The first lesson was just how costly pay-per-click advertising would be and that to effectively promote the Web site for organic search (i.e. to position well in search engines for chosen keywords) should be a consideration before building the site. I'd already made the first mistake made by so many Web site designers, I designed the site without considering search engine optimization, or SEO.
Nevertheless I had to plough on. I read as much as I could on the topic of SEO from experts online and bought a book so that I could learn more. I learned many other lessons and began making incremental changes to my site as I learned. By end of February we were spending a fortune on advertising (my biggest expense by far) and I was beginning to make progress with the search engines; I was on first page for MSN and second in Yahoo but nowhere in site with Google (like the pun?).
This is when the grind began. I worked on the site and with "off-page" optimization techniques and managed to get the site to the top of page 1 on both Yahoo and MSN by end of March (positions #2 and #1 respectively). Google was nowhere to be found! What was going on?
Many SEO practitioners talk about the Google sandbox. This is alleged to occur with new Web sites only. Apparently Google quarantines the new Web site until it's proven. When I learned of this I was so frustrated that I decided to ignore Google and focus on the other search engines. This protest lasted only a few weeks as I could see that Google was the most popular search engine in Australia and the Adwords campaigns were still burning our hip pocket.
I then focused a month's effort solely on creating off-page optimization strategies for my site (which Google apparently prefers) and at the end of August my site suddenly appreared on page 6. This was encouraging.
For the next three months I persisted. No matter how hard I tried, the site never seemed to do better than page 3 or 4.
In November my wife and I realized we weren't cut out to run business operations. We both love creating businesses and building them but the day-to-day operation requires a different motivation and a discipline that we didn't have. So we decided to sell while the business was growing.
We sold the business and the new owner took possession on December 1; and then it happened! On the day the business sold, literally that very day, a search on Google for the most common keyword (gift baskets) listed our Web site (well not exactly ours anymore) on page 1 in position 4!!!! I couldn't believe it! My emotions swayed between the exhilaration experienced with victory (at last) and the frustration that we wouldn't benefit from the increased traffic.
It's been a month since we sold now and I've come to an important realization. SEO is for competitive people. If you like winning and are determined to succeed then SEO is for you.
Finally, give yourself a head start by designing new Web sites with SEO in mind. I've built several sites since and I've been successful with the search engines in a short period of time; even with Google!
Created: March 27, 2003
Revised: January 25, 2007