How I became an SEO

By Steve Perrett of IT Wollongong

I first began using internet search engines to find information from the mid 1990s while I was a student at UNE in Armidale and had a basic understanding that keywords were important. However I had no knowledge of how search engines actually worked. In 2001, I decided to build a website for my business, which was called Friendly Computer Coaching & Problem Solving at that time. From looking at the HTML code of other websites, I knew about the keyword meta tag and included my important keywords there. I had also read somewhere that to be found, webpages needed to be informative and written well.

So I built my first website, providing informative text and placing relevant keywords in the meta tags. To my dismay, my website was no-where to be seen in any of the search results. This remained so for quite a few years. I concluded that there must be something more to it and that perhaps my business was too small for the search engines to even consider including my site in their search results.

My next experience with SEO was when I had the opportunity to work with a client to help them use a program called Web Position Gold. This program provided my client with instructions on what to do to get found on search engines. My task was to help my client with the technical aspects of implementing the advice the computer program had generated. This experience helped me learn a little bit about SEO jargon but I don’t think what we did together ever resulted in any search engine success.

In 2006, while I was looking for possible domain names for another client, I noticed that the domain name thegong.com.auwas available. I decided registering the domain name was potentially a great opportunity and excitedly registered it. I decided that I would use it for a local business directory that I would create myself. To build the website, I had to learn PHP programming and how to work with a MYSQL database. It took me a while but within about 6 months I was able to launch what I labelled the Wollongong Search Engine.

Initially, new website comprised a database of local business contact information mostly gained from the advertising material I had received in my letter box, an alphabetical index of business names and a simple search algorithm to help visitors find relevant businesses. My search engine was far less sophisticated than Google relying on relevant keywords being I had manually associated with each business listing. Although I didn’t know it at the time, the process of building a search engine helped me gain a solid foundation for understanding SEO.

What I discovered soon after launching my new website was that I getting quite a few visitors from Google, something I was not at all expecting. People would type in something like KFC Dapto and my page for KFC Dapto would be listed first in Google’s results. I soon found I had many different pages occupying the number one spot on Google. I wondered how it was that some very simple pages that merely listed the basic contact details for a business could do so well. I started to analyse what I had done and started reading lots of SEO articles. I discovered that the most important difference from my earlier SEO efforts was that I had actually included a popular and relevant search phrase in the Title Tag for the business listings on my website (e.g. KFC Dapto). Could SEO really be this simple?

I decided to have another look at my first website with my new SEO understanding. A big mistake with my first site was that I had included my business name in the Title Tag on every page. Although my business name reflected what my business was about, it didn’t contain any popularly used search phrases. I began changing the title tags on my website to include more relevant and popular wordings like ‘computer training courses Wollongong‘. I soon found my web pages appearing prominently in Google’s search results for important search phrases. Wow!

This success put me well on the track to becoming an SEO expert. I built several websites soon after that for clients and applied the same techniques and again and again, I was able to get websites high in Google’s search results for important keywords.

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