I thought that title might grab your attention. Wouldn't we all like a simple solution to that problem? We've been working on SEO (search engine optimization) for quite some time at The Plan Collection; well right from the beginning 7 or 8 years ago. Before we even released The Plan Collection 1.0 we did a lot of research on the subject of SEO and thought we had it pretty well figured out. We analyzed all our competitors’ websites, and read whatever information we could find on how to build a website including everything from simplifying the checkout process to using colors that make people feel comfortable and safe. I think we had the assumption - like most people do – that there can’t be that much to it, and we’d start to rank highly soon enough. I mean, we weren’t trying to go up against Amazon.com or anything like that. We took a look at our competition and figured we [in our opinion] were building a better looking, easier to use and better optimized house plan site than anyone had. In a few short months we learned lesson number one about getting your website to rank highly on Google, Yahoo and MSN: I’m mentioning this lesson first because I think it is the most important. Why? Because there is a misconception about internet businesses that I think the vast majority of the population has. When I am in a social setting and am asked what I do for a living I am cautious to say anything more than “We run a house plan business.” Why? Because nearly every time I say “we sell house plans on the internet,” I receive the same response that makes two assumptions: 1. Because it is on the internet, we make a ton of money. 2. We make a ton of easy money while we sleep and enjoy the lifestyle of a retiree during the day. My answer regarding what I do for my livelihood is more often than not, “we run a house plan business.” After many years, the addition of over 17k house plans to the database and all of the necessary updates to those house plans and the website to just keep us running is a lot more work than anyone ever thought. And guess what, an internet business is just like any other business; it will take a lot of work if you want it to be a success. And just like any other business, it is rewarding when it becomes a success. So, without further adieu:
Lesson Number One - There is a lot more to SEO than you see on the surface.
We knew it would take a little while for the search engines to find us and like us, but we had no idea how really long it would be. For the first year or so we followed a routine: Research, make some changes, wait and see what happens. Research, make more changes, wait and see what happens. We kept checking all the search engines to see if we could be found. Then we’d re-check our website to see if the checkout process was broken. We couldn’t figure out why the sales weren’t coming in and why it was so hard to get our website to rank highly. Finally after continuing this routine over and over we started to see some results. It took us much longer than we thought before we began to rank well on any of the search engines. We learned a lot of things along the way that we didn’t realize had that much impact in the beginning. Things like file structure, internal linking, external linking, content and continuous new content just to name a few. The persistent research and optimization paid off though and we gained a high rank for most of our most relevant keywords on Google, Yahoo and MSN. Now it’s not going to take everyone a long time to be able to rank highly. There are a lot of variable that can make it more difficult or easier to obtain a good rank. Like how hard your competitors are trying and how many competitors there are. I think there were certain techniques that we neglected initially that we really should have pursued. Since we started another website implementing the same principles we had learned over the years – and some new ones. This website was received well by the search engines and ranked highly right away.
So this brings me to another question I am asked in social settings and the title of my post “How do you rank highly on Google, Yahoo, and MSN.” I have had a lot of good friends ask me that whom I’d like to help in their entrepreneurial endeavors. I wish I had an easy, 3 sentence answer. Something really simple and profound – but I don’t. No one does. It’s a lot more complex than we all wish it were. The truth is it took a lot of dedication, research, and late frustrating nights. So my response is our first lesson, “There is a lot more to SEO [ranking highly] than you see on the surface.” Don’t let the first rule get you down. I think to really appreciate the success you have had you first need to experience the trial of getting your business to that point. In addition, the experience of learning all about SEO along the way will benefit your business much more in the long run.
So that’s the first part of several posts I will write about over the next several months. I wish this article could explain everything in a very short and concise manner. And everyone could get high rankings for the website immediately. But, there is a lot more to getting your website to rank highly than most people think. So if you really want to make your website a real success, be dedicated to the cause. I’m starting this series with “there is more to SEO than you think” because it’s important to realize that having an online business isn’t a cake walk. Sure there are stories of people who have struck it big, but very few struck it rich without a lot of work going into their business. If you disagree, tell me about it.