SEO Formula For Success

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 05/24/2006

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) has formalized into an established discipline with clear rules for success and widespread adoption in great part because Yahoo and Google have turned it into a 7 billion dollar industry (with most of the money going to them), and there are really only two interfaces and sets of rules you need to learn: AdWords and Yahoo Search Marketing (formerly Overture, formerly GoTo.com). The formula is easy for media buyers to wrap their minds around. It’s a simple value proposition. If you write good copy and outbid your competitor, you will get a visit from a qualified prospective customer. They are qualified because they sought you out based on them proactively searching.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has not formalized into an established discipline because there is no clear set of rules, and no interface to learn. By definition, once the rules are too clear, all the spammers jump on the bandwagon and ruin it for everyone. That’s what happened in the early days of search with AltaVista, and that’s what’s happening again with Google. In today’s case, it’s aggravated because the very people who improved search (Google) are incentivizing its users to spam it through the AdSense program. Merely by pouring garbage out onto the Internet, you can make money through happenstance ad clicks. Add to that the hypercompetitive landscape caused by affiliate programs, blogging software, and mainstream business trying to crack the SEO nut, and you’ve got Spam 2.0.

None-the-less, there has been an underlying theme since the days of AltaVista, through the days of Google, and I believe onto whatever tomorrow brings. It’s the “content is king” theme. Google added to this equation clues about real-world reputation—specifically back-links in their case. But there are dozens of other real-world reputation clues, such as length of domain name registration and correlation between the domain and professional association membership. My sites had made the transition quite nicely from AltaVista to Google. The so-called Florida update and current BigDaddy updates have been almost non-incidents for me.

That’s because I’ve reduced SEO to a reproducible formula that anyone can apply, and which will probably work for years to come. I’ve kept it as a back-room tool, first applying it at Prophet 21, and later at Scala. I joined Connors Communications in NYC in August of 2004 and started applying it to their clients, wrestling with my heart-felt belief that SEO can only be done from inside an organization, and that outside firms (of which I was now a part) had no chance in hell of performing effective SEO. But the big discovery was that every company has a latent SEO expert just waiting for their chance to shine. And what I developed with my SEO formula was different than Google’s AdWords program that empowered anyone with half a brain. My system, which I have named MyLongTail, empowers anyone with three-quarters a brain. So, it is admittedly more difficult than AdWords, but the reward is worth it. It is a proven SEO formula for success that has outlived many engines, and I believe will be applicable for years to come.