What is SEO? Have you ever though about what you are trying to achieve with search engine optimization, and what you were doing with your website to achieve it? Have you never wondered if there were better ways to get to where you want to be as a result of SEO? I have – frequently. And I have looked closely at what I am doing with my website and whether or not it improves it. In fact, it is not your website that your have to optimize, but each individual web page. I have come to the conclusion that as Google, in particular, make changes to their requirements in order that you get a high listing – or listed at all for that matter – the less I have to do to optimize my website. In fact, when I look closely, what I do in SEO these days is simply common sense, and what I should be doing is to design my site to the advantage of my customers. I have had people write to me proclaiming to be SEO experts and criticizing my bad HTML. ‘Crap’ it was called by one, yet my website with ‘crap’ HTML is higher in the search engine listings that theirs. Perhaps they can’t find the right keywords, but they are the experts. So HTML is not important. We are told that Meta tags are no longer important. So what is left? Ensuring that each page’s title is the same as the keyword it is written round – well, that is just common sense. That is what I would do anyway, so that my visitors would know what the page was about. I should also put these in H1 tags. Ok, that’s simple to do. Nothing mystical there. What else? Oh, yes. The keyword density. Surprise, surprise, the ideal is to have your keyword once in the first 100 characters and again in the last paragraph of a page with 400 – 500 words. Any more words than that, then put it in once again. Don’t believe anybody that tells you that you must have 1% – 3% keyword density. That means 5 – 15 keywords in a 500 word page! That’s old hat and a fast way to search engine oblivion. These days are over. There’s not much left of classical SEO to worry about. The two majors that I have left to consider are internal and external linking strategies. Let’s look at external links first. They are important, and Google have stated so, but for how long? There are rumors that back-links are going to become less important since content is now taking second place to artificially formed links. At one time, Google looked upon links back to your site from another as a sign that your site was considered to be an authority on the subject. I will use the word ‘site’, but it should really be ‘page’ since the Google term is PageRank, and refers to individual web pages, not complete web sites. And rightly so, because if a website thought that your content would be useful to their readers then they would provide them with a link to your relevant web page. Now, however, links are artificially generated, sometimes software generated, and are effectively useless since, although they appear on a website, they do so from a so-called ‘links’ page that is full of nothing but masses of links. Now, the very websites that links and good keyword density were meant to shove off the web are now appearing back at the top of the listings. No content but masses of links. Google know this, and will likely take some action against it. Internal linking is a separate subject, and one on which I specialize. The arrangement of your web pages, and design of your internal linking, are critical to achieving good listings on search engines. Not only your internal linking strategy, but also the design of each individual page. There are certain sites that will not get into the top 10 without radical changes, and I have one or two of them due to the content that I want on each site and the function that I want them to serve. Eventually they will as I increase the number of pages, but for the meantime I am not too bothered. I get plenty of traffic anyway. So that got me to thinking again. Why should I bother much with SEO if all I need do is to design my website logically and make sure that my internal links provide the best possible service to my visitors, without confusing them with dozens of options on each page? Why should I bother with all these artificial links if I can get good links and lots of traffic through article marketing? And then I realized that I had no need of the links purely as an external SEO tool; i.e. to provide me with better Google PageRank, because I was getting plenty of traffic anyway through people clicking on my links in my articles, or resource boxes. So I decided not to! I am now going to run a few campaigns with no SEO at all other than the obvious ways of providing my visitors with a good service when they visit my website. Then I will find the truth about the matter. What is SEO: myth or reality?