I’ve been doing this Internet thing for 25 years, the world wide web thing for 20 years, and running a business doing it all for 18 years. I’ve learned a thing or two. No, I’ve learned all of it.
I’m really lucky to work with a team of people who I respect greatly and who I consider my friends, and to get to teach things I’ve learned to hundreds of people each month through my books, online classes, internships, articles, and live training. This is my role and my passion these days: to pass on stuff I know about how things work and to figure out how to run and continually improve a business that does this.
I know that I don’t know the ins and outs of every programming language or platform that comes around – but I know the patterns and the inner workings of all of it, I’ve taught it to thousands, and I can write pretty well too.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned something about but never mastered, it’s “marketing”. Unfortunately for all of us (I believe), our world right now is awash in marketing like never before. I stay away from social media because of it (I’ve been delegating it, in case you haven’t noticed) but I still find myself thinking in tweets (I pass them on to an audience of 1 or 2 occasionally).
All of this leads up to an interesting development, in which my teaching assistant, Eva, and I just finished revising and are now teaching a class on search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is essentially the art and science of getting search engines to like your content.
I know a lot about SEO. I’ve built programs for indexing web content, I’ve studied how search engines work, I keep up to date on the subject, and I spend some of my time on every project my company does helping my clients to improve their SEO.
But, it’s difficult to get beyond the fact that no one outside of the search engines (aka Google) actually knows for sure how search engines do what they do. If we did know this, we could quickly game the system to get higher rankings. Effectively, then, search engines are a black box, and optimizing websites for them would seem to be a matter of guesswork.
However, that’s not actually true. If you understand search engines and the motives behind people who use them, and the motives behind people who build them, it’s all pretty simple.
- Search engines exist to help people find content that they’re looking for. But, people are really bad at searching for things.
- Search engines try to be be good at helping people find what they’re looking for, even though they’re really bad at asking for it.
- Attempts to trick search engines will all eventually fail, because search engine programmers program around tricks in order to help people (almost all of whom are, I guarantee you, doing a bad job of searching).
What should an SEO course teach, then? In my opinion, it should teach students how to be relevant by understanding the underlying principles of the Internet and how people search.
There are no quick answers to the question of how to get more traffic and top search engine positions if you don’t deserve them.
There’s no marketing in the world that can be effective for long in fooling people (or search engines) into believing something that is fundamentally not true. But, at the same time, how do you bring attention to the true things that you have to offer? How do you make people aware of what you have to offer without sounding fake?
This is what SEO is to me. And, I hope you’ll take my class to learn more, because, quite honestly (of course), making you aware of my class so that you’ll sign up is one of the main points and purposes of this newsletter.
Thank you for reading and have a great day!