The 7 Harsh Realities of SEO


Do you want to optimize your website for search engines? Search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t rocket science, but there are a lot of little things you need to know about it before you start trying to increase your search engine traffic.

Harsh Reality #1: Links are everything

There are two major aspects of SEO. The first is on-page optimization, and the second is the number of sites linking to you. On-page optimization is something that everyone can easily manipulate, but links, on the other hand, aren’t.

Search engines look at:

  • The number of sites linking to yours – typically the more sites linking to your website, the better.
  • The anchor text of these links – if you are trying to get ranked for “dog food,” it’s more advantageous if the link that points to your website says “dog food” instead of your website name.
  • How relevant your links are – if your website is about dog food, then you want either dog- or pet-related sites to link to you.

The three things I mentioned above make up an ideal link, and because it’s hard to get ideal links, search engines place more emphasis on them than anything else.

Harsh Reality #2: The basics really do matter

Who cares about meta tags, right? Well, search engines do. This is the reason why Google Webmaster Central tells you how many duplicate titles and descriptions you have on your website.

When I first started working with TechCrunch about four years ago, I was able to double their search engine traffic within 30 days. Can you guess how I did this?

Drum roll please…

All I did was make the post title the title tag, and the first sentence of each blog post the meta description.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I did a lot more than that overall, but those two simple changes doubled their search engine traffic.

Harsh Reality #3: What works for one site doesn’t always work for others

As I mentioned, I doubled TechCrunch’s search engine traffic. I did the same for a few dozen more blogs, using the tactic above. In the case of, however, I managed to decrease its search engine traffic by half by doing exactly same thing.

The funny part about this is that all the sites I had helped before were running on the WordPress platform, so I thought that making that same change on blogs would drastically increase its traffic.

But it didn’t. What it means is that what works on one website doesn’t necessarily work on all websites. If you want to maximize your search engine traffic, you have to test things out to make sure your approach works for you.

Harsh Reality #4: Writing content for search engines is bad

Why do you talk about writing content for search engines? Just think about that for a second…Do you see anything wrong with it?

That’s right, search engines don’t read your content, people do. If you write your content for search engines, don’t expect them to convert into customers. On the other hand, by writing content for people, at least you have a chance of converting them into paying customers.

Now, when you are writing your content, you shouldn’t push search engines out of the picture. You should still consider them because there is a way you can write content for both people and search engines.

Here’s how:

  • Titles – the title of your content should be attractive. This will convince people to read it.
  • Keywords – if your content is on dog food, you’ll naturally mention dog food and other related keywords when it makes sense. So, don’t keyword-stuff.
  • Links – if you know of a good site that you should be linking to in your content, then link to it. Don’t just keep all of your link juice to yourself. If no one linked out, search engines like Google wouldn’t work as well.
  • Content – the more detailed and unique your content is, the better. Search engines don’t need another me-too article to place in their index. They need more unique information that people love.

If you follow the steps I mentioned above, you’ll be able to write content for both humans and search engines. Those steps will help you create good content, which in turn will cause other websites to link to it. As I mentioned in the Harsh Reality #1, links are the most important factor in search engine rankings.

Harsh Reality #5: Exact match domain names rank the best

If you are trying to get ranked for a specific keyword, the best domain name to own isn’t one that is brandable. It’s the one that’s keyword rich.

For example, if you want to rank for homes, the best domain name to own is, or Pretty much any exact match domain will work.

If you can’t get a hold of an exact match domain name, you could purchase, but that won’t help you rank for homes as much as would. It will work well if you are trying to rank for cheap homes.

Google has been placing a lot of emphasis on exact match domain names. For example, if you Google the keyword “homes,” you’ll notice that ranks #1 and #2, while ranks #3.

If you do a link check on both of the domains to see how many links each of them have, you’ll find the following: has over 1,000 and has over 3,000 links.

In essence, has three times the number of links that has, but still ranks #1. That shows you the power of exact match domain names. I do understand that these domain names aren’t the best for branding your business, but if your business is heavily reliant on search engine traffic, you should consider purchasing the exact match domain.

Harsh Reality #6: It’s better to be safe than sorry

If you know me, then you know that I have done a lot of shady stuff to get rankings on Google. I have ranked for some of the most competitive terms out there, and I mainly achieved this by using tactics that search engines frown upon.

In the short run, I made a killing, but eventually I got caught. So, if you are thinking about buying text links or any other magic bullets that will help you get high rankings, think twice.

Do the math. Search engines may be already driving you a decent number of visitors and, more importantly, revenue. Yes, it would be nice if you could buy text links and double that revenue, but on the other hand, you could get caught and banned from engines like Google.

So, the question you have to ask yourself is: are you willing to risk your revenue?

Harsh Reality #7: Sometimes things just take time

This is probably the worst reality of them all, which is why I saved it for last. If you want to get ranked for some second or third tier keyword, it’s possible to do so pretty quickly. But if you want to get ranked for something competitive like “poker” or “credit cards,” don’t expect that to happen overnight.

Plus, when you make changes to your website, don’t expect to see big traffic increases right away. Sometimes, it can take a few weeks for search engines to index your new changes. Due to this, it could take weeks, if not months, before you see traffic increases.

P.S. If you want help with SEO click here.


  1. passive income blogger :

    Regarding #5 – most people don’t realize how much of a ranking factor domain name plays.

    PPC/keyword DNs will be the next big thing… just watch.

    • Yep agreed, if you managed to nab an exact match for a hyper-competitive niche you save yourself thousands in link building and content development costs.

      • It definitely helps drastically and yes it can save you a lot of money and TIME on link building. However it is not enough to say that the other work doesn’t need to be done.

    • People are starting to see that but its hard to not be enticed by single word domains.

      • :

        Exact matches for hyper competitive niches are hard to find these days.

        I recently stumbled upon an exact match domain reg’d in 95 by a small business owner. It’s got a really basic webpage for his biz (that appears to be hugely out of date). Massively profitable niche, huge search volume for this keyword phrase, etc. I don’t think he knows what he’s sitting on.

        I’m in the process of trying to acquire it from it either by flat out buying it (ideally, cause it’s almost priceless) or through some sort of JV situation where I build the site / marketing but he retains ownership. Shot in the dark, but def a big opportunity if it hits.

    • Kajabi Review :

      Very true. We are seeing this trend as the Internet progresses. Search engines liking niche sites devoted to one topic. Because of the probability that you would better find the info that you are looking for.

  2. Number 7 is the worst…

    It takes forever to get ranked for anything worth while 🙁

    Could you go into more detail on acquiring links?

    That’s the hardest task and would love to hear your thoughts on the best ways to do it (even shady stuff)?


    • send me an email neil@ . Yes it does take time and it is difficult but so is anything that makes you money.

  3. Brian Armstrong :

    Great post Neil. I was also surprised by how powerful the domain match technique works. I’ve gotten #1 rankings on brand new sites from this one trick alone.

    Btw, the advice you gave me about user badges on is working pretty well. Not a whole lot of users have used them, but the ones who have gave me great likes (some .edu’s since they are college students, etc).

    Link for anyone else who is interested:

    It’s a bit hard to tell the total number of links since I have so many subdomains and Google Webmaster Tools doesn’t let me group them all under one website, but oh well.

  4. Kenan Kapidzic :

    Point five is the thing I am thinking about the last weeks, and I thougt to myself…”what would Neil say…?”.

    In my opinion branding is in the long run better than keyword domaining, because…

    +domain is cheaper
    +you can get all tlds
    +branding included
    +looks more exclusive
    +search is about branding (bmw vs.…in the long run

    -branding needs time
    -who the fu** cares about brands, “I just want to travel”(.com) etc.
    -branding can cost more than an expensive domain

    The real problem is that it is hard to get all tlds: You can own, but not and so on. So you have to invest money, BEFORE you know if this project will be successful. Ok, it depends on the keyword, but you know what I mean.

    • Yeah I understand what you mean… it comes down to what you have as a product and what you expect to make happen with it.

  5. Alejandro Reyes :

    Spot on Neil. The basics & fundamentals really do matter. I see too many people trying to focus on “secret tactics” to try & game google.

    Links, Links, Links are the name of the game. + it doesn’t hurt if they’re from quality websites 😉

    Harsh Reality #8: SEO isn’t going anywhere anytime soon… it’s just evolving.

    Thanks Neil!

    • Exactly, thanks for sharing that Alejandro… it’s important to realize that yes it is just evolving. To ignore it now is to waste away your time because the people who put in time now will reap the benefits sooner than later.

  6. i haven’t visited your site in awhile since i setup google reader, but great summary of seo and nice updated site design. just one point i would add is that older domains typically will get ranked higher than newly created ones and a good place to get older domains is Go Daddy Auctions. I have found a few deals there.

  7. Neil, you are the men, enjoying reading your entries everytime , at this pace, I feel like an expert already, thanks for the great insider, I could manage to rank for a new site I created with some of these technics on yahoo in a couple of days on the top 3, I guess I need to have some backlinks now, well that’s probably the harder part, when you don’t have a content rich website, but a service site. kudo for this post and keep sharing.

    • It’s work… and it will take time effort and energy but realize that 90% of the people won’t do it consistently enough for it to work.

  8. No 7: ya it takes time.. patience is essential and when we make any changes it takes more time…
    I have also made some changes related to host to my blog and of course its taking time to come up. lets see…

  9. Startup Videos & Advice :

    I like the title tag to meta description tactic… I just implemented it to mine.

    Thanks. neil

  10. I’ve purchased a few exact match domain names and within hours of putting up the site I was ranked #7 on page 1. It took a while longer to climb to number 1, but eventually we got there. However, after neglecting the site I’ve dropped back down to #3.

    I guess my point is I definitely agree with Harsh Reality #5 Exact match domain names rank the best. However, depending on the domain name it might cost you a pretty penny.

    • Wow, that was a pretty quick result. I wouldn’t expect results like those to happen too quickly but if you choose the right niche, you’ll get a very good start.

    • Startup Videos & Advice :

      thats true but your site looks fishy when you are trying to get keywords in the domain.. ex [ ]..people are more likely to trust


  11. ChristiaanH - Mind the Beginner :

    Definitely some good tips in there somewhere. Creating backlinks and even asking for them always seems a good idea but I haven’t looked into meta tags, yet…

    But thanks to this post it’s something that I’ll surely be using to get a bit more SE traffic going. But it’s hard to generate if your “niche” is hard to describe. I mean, what would you make of a tagline like “Thoughts from a Zen mind in the Western World”. It’s not exactly as crisp as “Personal development” and “Lifestyle design” but to name a few.

    Thanks for the heads-up on the meta tags. And of course it will take some time to get things rolling.

  12. I took the unsafe route and got punished big time for awhile. My PR has been 0 for awhile now and last year around this time, my site was taken out of Google (my main traffic source) for all major keywords, ones that I was previously ranking #1 or 2 for. While I have most of my traffic and keyword rankings back, it’s taken a lot more work to get ranked for new keywords. So yes, I’d suggest it’s worth it long-term wise to play it safe.

  13. “The only way to change reality is to face reality.” —John Reese

    Good fundamental stuff, man. I agree that these are harsh because we want to know something others don’t. But if these always work, better deal with them.

  14. pariuri sportive :

    I`m not agree with you on Number 5, are soo many sites ranking well for keywords that are not in their names.

    • It’s not the case for some of the major companies out there but you’ll notice a lot of niche industries taken away.

  15. number eight neil, google sandbox. It took months even years to get to google top of SERP. Google create sandbox for new domain. I have website ‘iphone bla bla dot com’ in google webmaster said that I was 2nd rank for keyword Iphone camera. But when I check with Google serach rank box, it didn’t show up in even 400 🙁 SANDBOX .. that’s terrible

    • It varies … especially with which ever niche you’re trying to capture. The iphone niche is obviously extremely difficult and strong.

  16. “All I did was make the post title the title tag and the first sentence of each blog post the meta description.’

    Wow! What did you do to the keywords then?

  17. This is the kind of SEO post that is good to review once in a while. It’s a reminder of getting back to basics and staying focused on what matters most (more important perhaps than how many RTs a post had).

    And I love KW rich domains.

    • Yeah, sometimes they can get a bit overwhelming but if you do them right… you’re one step closer to an abundance of traffic.

  18. Simple but effective. No. #7 is something that everyone who implements the above 6 must understand. You can’t prove ur worthiness or credibility to search engines the next day after your launch or in a week. Patience is the key to success.

  19. Thanks Neil, great post as always! I really like your point for #6. I think a lot of people like the idea of getting quick backlinks to boost rankings quickly, but if it has the potential of creating harm, that’s a serious problem!

    Can you go into some depth about some of the best white hat techniques to acquire links? I know some of what you did was through doing free work for clients and asking that they link to you – any other examples?

    • The best white hat tactic I know of is to hit up all of the people that link to your competitors and kindly ask them for a link. This is a lot of work, but in the long run you should get results.

      Other than that I love leveraging social media sites like Digg.

      There really isn’t much more to it when it comes to white hat techniques.

  20. Hi Neil,
    Choosing a domain name, can it have dashes in it. Let’s say if ‘’ is taken, would ‘’ still do the job?

  21. Great post! Domain name helps but I believe with the increasing competition it is not easy to find the most relevant domain name. Though with other seo techniques optimization can be done.
    For a long time, I was not sure how websites get optimized for search engines, what all factors does google take into account.
    It is not that it is still very clear but yea I believe it is more about trying and learning from it. It is like if you do some shady stuff and continue doing it for some time, then google does not leave you. But who defines that shady stuff, nobody knows, it is different for each site and sometimes it happens and othertimes you are just lucky.

    • Get a leg up by taking action now… don’t just think that the keyword rich domain is going to be the instant fix, focus on the practical ways to build your site too.

  22. There are advantages to having an unqiue domain name as well, as it differentiates you for you customers, etc.. the downside is that people wont look for it on their own without having seen it somewhere.

    Neil, this has to be one of your best posts yet, totally awesome, keep it up!

  23. Some very good tips for everyone. Though agreed to your point “Links are everything”, there are instances of some fairly big sites who initially did/does link exchange (before they start getting natural links), these bulls are not penalized.

    Somehow things have changed a lot in today’s scenario though where you have this big social crowd supporting you by spreading the buzz, initiating constructive discussions, etc. which itself is natural and cannot be achieved through the above points.

    • Its a time where you can go from nothing to everything with one powerful blog posts. An important thought to keep in mind.

  24. Barb Cameron - Ottawa :

    can you expand on ctreating links with key words in the anchor text? Do you mean: when you leavea comment/link on another blog, use the keywords you want to be optimized for?

  25. Harsh reality #8: Not even the gurus can guarantee top 10 Google search placement, even if they account for all the harsh realities of SEO. Which is why SEO is an art, not a science. But the effort does usually pay off, which is why SEO isn’t dead..yet.

  26. Some realities were easy to understand but the one about time, ah is kinda painful.

  27. Joe @ Small Business Ideas :

    Great Post. I’m recently reminded of increasing traffic by increasing readership with falls under SEM a little more I suppose. I mean I didn’t find you via the search engines to day yet I’m on your blog, right, from the RSS. Converting to readers is something you do well, because that is your intentions.

    It hasn’t been mine. I’ve been concentrating on fresh new content focused on my niche. I feel like I write the same post over and over, (cause I do basically)

    I’m looking at the compounding effect of increased RSS and readership. I need to be better at this.

    Do you think monetizing with ads would decrease your credibility to the point that people wouldn’t subscribe to RSS and make this a blog they read.

    I would still read because your relevent to my interest and you not a wind bag. Regardless of you monetization strategy I’d still read.

    I guess the real point is my content. While I keep it useful to the niche, its not as useful to the person as is yours.

    Guess I’m strategizing in your comments….

    That’s what I want others to do on my site.


    Thanks Neil.

    • Only monetize with ads if you already have a powerful userbase… if you don’t then it’ll just start to turn peple off. Focus on unique content, don’t just patch up old stuff all the time.

  28. Bon Jovi Fan Site :

    ARGH! I was hoping you’d keep #5 to yourself, as it’s been a great loophole that I’ve been exploiting for the past 18 months.. 🙂

    I’ve tried other combinations (.net/.org, with dashes, etc), but unfortunately the standard .com with no punctuation seems to work best.

    • lol… well I’m glad it’s been working for you. it’s not really a secret, and don’t worry, most people who do it will quit within the first 30-60 days anyway.

  29. Columbia Mo Mortgage :

    Wow, #7 is an eye opener every single time I read it; anytime. I have absolutely no control over time. In the mean time what should I do?

    • Keep focusing and work on providing quality content… day in and day out. It’s called repetitious boredom. You’ll need to get use to it.

  30. Remarkably good list; tell it as it really is.

    One complaint: domain names.

    It’s a mistake to say it’s “domain name” as a factor. The reason why keyword rich domains rank well is because most of the times, it’s the ANCHOR TEXT. gets anchor text of “” or “Homes, Inc.” (if that was the name, for example).

    But, you can’t have a domain like “” and assume you’ll rank for “short sale homes” or something like that.

    Domain names alone don’t cut it.

    • It’s not just domain names that do the trick, the other strategies are just as or if not more important. It requires work day in and day out to have powerful organic seo.

  31. #7 is a hard point for some customers to understand. Once you tell them you’ve optimized their site, they expect to be at the top within a few days. Unfortunately, SEO is not 100% concrete and some customers just don’t get it.

  32. NYC seo services :

    hello , i’m just starting in this world of blogs
    I’ve been into SEO recently and gathering helpful information for this.
    and after reading your post it has become a little easier to me , thanks

  33. Captivate Web Design :

    Great point on reality #4. It’s something so simple, but can sometimes be so challenging.

    I would also like to add, a harsh reality, seo isn’t free, when you factor in all the work that you need to do on a continuous and consistent basis to get to the top.

    Nicole M
    Captivate Web Design

  34. I am amazed at the number of websites I see that are trying to rank for a keyword and don’t have it in the url. title. description or keywords.

    • People forget the basics… and they wonder why they’re traffic isn’t up to par. Patience is also important to consider.

  35. Harsh Reality No. 5 – it depends. All things being equal, the exact match domain name has a leg up on competitors. But I see non-exact match domain names at the top of several of my niches because they have a lot of high quality backlinks. Also, some people have bought the exact match URLs and parked them for resale (one dude was asking $3400 for the keywordphrase dot com I wanted).

    • sometimes its worth it and other times it not… it just depends on how you’re doing with whatever it is your selling.

  36. Eric Itzkowitz :

    I totally agree with Neil’s about links and link-getting. One can outrank even the largest of competitors with their niche with fewer backlinks, so long as they are of a higher quality. Getting higher quality links from other high quality websites is always a great way to go. Yes, it’s a lot harder to get these types of links, but the other benefits make it SO worth the effort if you do a good job. Imagine not having to always freak out when Google makes a major algo change. It’s a great feeling to know your rankings can sustain even the largest of changes.

    • Exactly… as long as you do everything legitimately and the right way… and then you add time to the mix… you’ll be headed off into the right direction.

  37. Just joined the SEM department of a company and tasked with merging SEO and social media optimization strategies to grow rankings for clients and vendor (my employer). I was tempted to try some iffy tactics (you can buy 10,000 backlinks on eBay for $400, no thanks!) but have stuck with traditional methods and seeing results after only 2 months through these same methods. Been slacking on my meta descriptions though, so thanks for stressing the importance.

    • Don’t bother with those types of back links as they’re all just trash! Good for you on making that decision. Get on top of the meta descrips quickly as you’ll tell yourself you’re glad you did or you wish you would of 6 months from now.

  38. Drop Shipping Guys :

    Neil, I just found your site, and I gotta say, I am absolutely loving it! I’ve been reading about your failures and your no-fear attitude. It’s been great. We’ll be directing some of our own clients your way in the future I’m sure.

    As an SEO guy myself, I’m in total agreement with this post. Keep up the great work!

  39. Bluegala Prom Dresses :

    Neil – Thanks for the article and the great tips. What are your thoughts regarding content on ecommerce sites? I know the general opinion is that having relevant content on all pages including categories pages etc will help rankings but I am worried it will ruin the aesthetic value of the site.

    • Content is a good thing to have. How about reviews for each product? That is content and it provides value to the user.

  40. Brian Kevin Johnston :

    Nothing good comes easy…. things do take time… the process is where true happiness exists! Best, Brian-

    • Well said… it can takes several months to years to actually see substantial results. It all comes down to how much time you put it in.

  41. I’m new to SEO and have a newbie question. If I buy 4 or 5 domains that have keywords that I want to be associated with and then redirect those domains to my actual site, is that a good thing for SEO? Or is that frowned upon?

    Thanks for a great article!

  42. Thanks for the anchor text tip, I will work on applying that one immediately.

  43. bakteri filtresi :

    good point
    +domain is cheaper
    +you can get all tlds
    +branding included
    +looks more exclusive

  44. Chris Peterson :

    Hi I’m in actuality pleased you publish this post. Second step is more important in out of all steps

  45. Sorry Neil but #5 is bullshit – think about that – is it better to have 1000 qualite links of 3000 shit links? I vote for quality as google does.

  46. Hitesh Punjabi :

    Doing yours basics right hold very important in SEO.

  47. Harsh Reality #7: Sometime things just take time
    “Sometimes it can take a few weeks for search engines to index your new changes. Due to this, it could take weeks if not months before you see traffic increases.”

    Thanks Neil! I think this is the most important point.
    We’re so used to everything with the internet being instant..unfortunately SEO does take time and people need to realize that. Your results WILL be worth it, but in the mean time we all just have to remember to be patient!

    Thanks again, great article!

    • Yes, it’s a long term goal that requires your investment in time… and lots of it. Spend an hour a day or less and within several months you’ll only be that much ahead of the curve.

  48. Hi Neil! I like your take on SEO. I’ve read lots of SEO articles and it’s nice to hear from someone who has quantifiable experience to back up what you’re saying.


  49. Most of the things I agree with here. But most of all, I agree with your advice about content. At work, they usually hire a copywriter to write the content, and I hate it. You can tell when something isn’t natural. Sure, they’re earning money because of it, but it’s just not right.

  50. Nice Post. I appreciate your efforts. I think the harshest reality about SEO is that you can not be certain about the results that clients are seeking from you. Some of my clients ask me that if what time it will take by me to get ranked their website on top 3 for a particular keyword. How would one calculate that time, do you have any idea?

    • You can’t necessarily calculate the exact time, but you can give them an estimated time frame of results you can expect them to look out for.

  51. Neil,

    Excellent article and I pretty much agree with everything you have said. I am surprised though that you don’t mention the vitally important role that pagerank plays in the quality of links, and also the need to avoid nofollow links for SEO purposes (although of course they are fine as a general link that can drive traffic to your site).

    • Those are important Richard, but the stuff I layed out under the 7 harsh realities is what you need to know to get you results.

  52. A nice post Neil. First of all regarding the the 7th reason, it surely is the most ugly part of SEO but is there any way out to make things faster? Maybe few tricks that may catalyze it?

    • Well yes and no… you can get fast results but they won’t last. You need a foundation that helps you move forward through ups and downs… something stabilized.

  53. I want to buy some keyword rich domains, but all of the dot coms are taken. Will .me, .us, .net .info work as well for the SEO

    Thanks for the column, this was very helpful.


  54. I saw this article cited in another website and the link lead me to your site. Your article is awesome. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that can make a difference with regard to on page optimization.

  55. Great words of advice for marketers and web pros! I wondered if I could get your take on a question I just posed to my Twitter followers:

    “At what point does #SEO hinder people searching for official, unbiased resources (not just companies who *get* SEO)?”

    I coordinate SEO efforts for a client, so I know it’s value for driving traffic, but I’ve noticed that in my web research, it takes longer to find the actual organizations and official sources on topics (unless I know the exact name of the group). My Google searches in particular are full of mom & pop opinions rather than well-documented research (not to say that mom & pop don’t know what they’re talking about). I wonder: if SEO is working so well for every new web site start up, is search engine intelligence catching up fast enough to continue working efficiently for the end user?

    • I think it will as hinder it a bit, but search engines are fighting that everyday. It’s just part of the SEO world.

      SEO isn’t working well for all startups and search engines are already pretty smart. They are working for the end user.

  56. You always wonder why some of the ugly sites get ranked high by the search engines. It’s because the look really doesn’t mean much it is more about keeping it simple. Great article so easy common sense stuff but so hard to follow. I added a link to this article from my blog.

  57. If you’re not going to use any suspicious techniques, then SEO is a painful time-consuming job. Of course, if you’re targeting some low-competition keywords then everything is much easier but with high-traffic keywords there is a serious work to be done over a substantial period of time if you want to achieve any kind of success.

    • Yeah… the time consuming part is a bit overwhelming and annoying… but it’s the foundation one needs to build a solid business.

    • It doesn’t matter if it’s time consuming if the results are well worth it. Great results come only with great effort. Many people are expecting to put a small effort and to see big results. Yeah right!

      • Yeah… people think that it works that way and end up finding out the wrong way. Patience is necessary in SEO.

  58. American Entrepreneur :

    First of all, love your blog – you have meaningful things to say, and I am always learning from your insight:
    To Harsh Reality #5, I know there have been some comments regarding this, but do “unconventional” domain extensions like .info, .me, .ws, .tv, .mobi and other such extensions that the average web surfer and general public may not know of (yet) really carry as much weight in Google’s search algorithm as a .com or .net? Assuming all equal, like the exact match keywords within the domain itself, does a site carry the same chance of being ranked as highly as I’d love to hear your opinion. Thanks and keep up the great posts!

  59. SEO is indeed not easy job as one may imagine. it takes lots of effort and time, and on top of that the work may me annoying and discouraging.

  60. Internet Marketing Agency :

    Neil, this is one of the best posts I read on SEO in awhile. And I read about almost daily if not weekly.Love this list and agree with all you said. #5 or or “domains with the exact keywords” is the best tip you gave away for free your readers should be paying for this type of content. I will be adding a link back to this post on my blog later. Thanks for the simplistic, yet very “right on” list.

  61. Social bookmarks
    Article Submissions
    Blog Commenting
    Forum Postings

    Those are all great ways to get good quality links. Would you consider that the shady way?

    The best way is link baiting but you really need to take time to get a good article people actually want to link too. So it comes back to writing it for the user not the search engine.

  62. Infrared sauna reviews :

    Yes, Neil, you are spot on. I have found many of my experiences match what you are saying here. In a way, it is perfect. SEO is a time game and one needs to work to it consistently and steadily.

    Of course, all said and done, you still needd to have the right kind of analysis, passion and gutfeel to even start investing your time aka money towards what you want to rank for. But the more competitive keyword you work on, typically the better is the return in the longer run. The shorter term is proportionately harder of course with the same competitive keyword.

    • Exactly, the harder or more competitive the keyword, the more patience you need to have in order for yours to rank.

  63. The article discussed the right methods on and off page optimization and on how to avoid using a black hat technique because your website will penalized or banned by Search Engine. Don’t waste your money for buying links instead look for a link exchange partner that relates or niche to your website. The most important is build a quality backlink that relates or niche to your website.

    • Yes, spending your money here and there won’t do anything for you…. it’s not an overnight thing…it takes time and lots of it…especially for the more highly competitive niches.

      • catalin@paydayfinancial :

        Try to build your site’s reputation with quality links not with paid links because the day when Search Engines will penalize you will come…Be smart not greedy!

        • The paid links usually don’t work and won’t make a difference to your site’s success.

          • Neil – Thank you. This conversation is extremely relevant to an internal discussion we’re having where I work. We have paid for links (an ongoing pay-for-performance situation) but in our case it has had a positive and significant impact on rankings. It’s been nearly a year and everyone is enthusiastic about the results. I, on the other hand, am concerned that there remains a proverbial ‘piper’ to pay. What are your thoughts?

            • If you buy good paid links which are hard to find, thing work out. And you’ll start ranking well… but most people don’t buy good links, they buy spammy ones.

              Either way, I am a big believer that if you keep on buying links sooner or later you are going to get caught. The most successful Internet sites don’t buy links, they build good products so that people want to naturally link.

              • senior homes :

                Yeah I agree, buying links is like a black hat in SEO, or actually a black hat. Being more natural is what Google like. Try to study techniques that are white hat like link wheel building. Just be sure you don’t copy articles that you post for the link wheel.

                • White hat techniques may take a while longer, but it’s better to do thing legitimately then take the risk of being banned.

  64. Maurelle Mejos :

    This is really true. It really needs time and effort to build quality backlinks.

  65. I have been doubling my traffic everyday since I read this post. I realized did not have description and keyword tags. I made the app generate it automatically and voila the long tail began kicking in the traffic. Excellent advice!

  66. SEO is good and all but what do you think of the rise of social networks recently? Will they ever replace search engines?

  67. Weight Lifting Training :

    SEO is unfair. Its as simple as that. Ranking for terms like mine are hard but im just hoping over time i can hit the top 10

    One term im hiting up is 5000 searches and im number 5 so im hoping i can rank higher sooner so i can make some big bucks.

    • It’s not that its unfair, it’s just that it’s difficult. I’ll tell you what though, if you work it the right way, you can make a ton of money doing so. Hense the level of difficulty.

    • Vijay Eswaran :

      Agreed it’s unfair. You have the big and cash-rich companies at the top, who can afford to buy links from authority sites. And at the bottom, you have “internet marketers” who couldn’t care less about using black hat, because unlike us they can always simply start a new site if one gets banned.

  68. I am guilty of number three. My first site was a basic site and it was easy to get to page one of Google. So I went and made a second and third site both using different open source applications. Now I am having a lot of trial and error to find out what works. Wish i just stuck with the first site.

    Glad to hear what you say about the domain name though. Read quite a few saying it does not matter and I believe it does.

  69. senior homes :

    I like what you’ve said in placing link within keywords. I have also a tip in doing that. Do keyword research so that you can have variations when you place your keyword and it will help you to look more natural and not a spam in the eyes of google.

    • Yes, doing the extra research will drastically help you in pin point the words that work.

      • senior homes :

        Exactly. 🙂 Your nice Neil. :-)Your one of the best blogger about SEO that I found in the net. Thanks for the post.

        Till then,

  70. Brian D. Hawkins :

    Great advice. I wish I had know about the importance of keyword rich domains in the beginning.

  71. An important reminder that you can’t throw out the basics. While no one can argue the importance of links and other off-site SEO efforts, the on-site SEO basics lay the foundation for all future strategies you may intend to employ moving forward.

    Search engines factor titles, content, internal link structures, site architecture, etc. into algorithms for a reason…done properly, they all help to improve visitor experience. Can you rank well ignoring those on-site basics? Sure, if you want to do lots of extra work manually building links to a crappy website. Will it help in the long run? Nope.

    Bottom line? Create a great site. Build a site that is friendly to both search engines and users. It will convert higher. It will work and play well with others. Rather than having to rely on manual link building efforts, people will be more likely to link to it of their own accord. A well-built site will reward you with stronger rankings and a long term presence in the SERPs.

    Building a house using the most expensive materials won’t mean much if you’re building it on quicksand. Start with a strong foundation or suffer the consequences later.

  72. Nicely condensed top tips.

    #8, 9, 10 – It’s about the links.

    Hey, now its a Top 10!

    Yes, I realize its the first point mentioned. But well worth stating again. All too many believe on-page optimization is all it takes.

    • Yes, it’s unfortunately become the norm in what people think work. Even though it’s difficult to do things right, not to mention a time constrain, it’s ultimately worth it at the end.

  73. Mark McClure :

    #4 plus Pareto Principle are the online equivalent of natural selection 😉
    Good SEO post! Thx.

  74. Do you ever just hire a company neil? Much easier to have people do directory submissions then me doing it.

  75. Baby England Kit :

    Links have always been everything, but the way to gain them is changing – link building must now be exponential in order to get far with competitive phrases, and this means having demonstrable value in your onsite content and going the extra mile to get links naturally.

  76. sell textbooks :

    This is a great post. I was trying to explain to my friend that although my job seems easy it isn’t. And when one thing fails it all could so you better have a backup. I actually had google bump me from searching for the day. Granted I was doing it a lot and not finding what I wanted but it made me look like a bot i guess.

    • Wow, sometimes when you’re good, too good, people are surprised. It happens, but then you just got to prepare for the worst yet expect the best.

      • sell textbooks :

        I couldn’t agree with you more. You also have to realize that people are not as informed as they they think they are and sometimes it’s best not to waste your time.

  77. Net Age | Web Design :

    Links, Links, Links… can never have enough links… can get very obsessive compulsive, but links are what drives the algorithm, and if you want to rank for your keywords you need links to push you past your competitors.

  78. ProbusinessGuy :

    Seo is a hard game thats why i think you should hire people when doing seo. Dont pretend to be good at somthing your clearly bad at.

    • Learn to delegate what you’re not good at. The art of delegation is what will help your company grow.

  79. Winston Muller :

    Its hard to come across domain names you want but arent already in use, so I guess a lot of people go for the brandable domain names.

    Maybe its possible to make up for it using tips 1 & 2, meta tags etc.

  80. After reading this post, I suddenly wanted to create a new blog – something that would follow all the tips and advices from blogs like this.

  81. Nice article. As for SEO goes, it always takes time to get indexed. And ranking takes time as well. However, If articles are written well and regularly, SEO ranking is quick.

    • It’s a process really. a tedious one at that. At the end of the day though, it can work out perfectly.

  82. Regarding #7 – Sometime things just take time

    I can relate to this perfectly, you spend some time launching the site. Then start checking it straight away to see if the search engines can see it.

    That wait, its a long one, then I was checking it every 24 hours and find that I can see it. The another 24 hours to check its ranking, then another 24 hours to see if its climbed in rank.

    I’m now coming to the conclusion that I could just keep adding content or building another page and let the ranking take care of itself, then wait for 2 pages.

    I was like a kid at Christmas could the amount of sleeps until Santa arrives.

    Great post as usual Niel 🙂

    • Yeah that happens and it’s very normal… you’ll need to eventually gain control over your emotions but it’ll come to you over time.

  83. Thanks for this information! Your advice about putting the first sentence in the description meta tag is nice to know. I have optimal title, so the title tag is taken care of.

    I’m using the SEO all-in-one WordPress plugin and it really streamlines the process of doing this.

  84. Also, I agree with you about it taking time to generate traffic. I was on the website today and I was looking at his first post on the site and it was posted I think in September of 2004. It did not receive it’s first comment until January of 2005.

    So like you said, it takes time to make generate the traffic that you want to have. As your blog grows in content; eventually, Google and the other search engines will give it more rank.

    You definitely know your stuff and I just bookmarked your site. I will be checking out this site regularly.

  85. So like you said, it takes time to make generate the traffic that you want to have. As your blog grows in content; eventually, Google and the other search engines will give it more rank

  86. SEO is becoming more and more challenging. At the beginning, merely keyword-spamming a page was enough to get you ranked. Now, directory links have been demoted, PR links have little to no value, blog comments have implemented no-follow, etc.

    • Yeah it is…. and it’s going to continue to become harder and harder as time moves on because people are learning it faster and faster.

  87. Hi Niel,

    I’ve been building links to a site for about a month.

    I notice that the links are starting to drop off. My position in Google is slipping down, which I assume is a result of the back links decreasing.

    2880 July 2010
    1980 Aug 2010

    Why does this happen?

    Catch Ya 🙂

    • Some sites just take links down and there isn’t much you can do.

      You just have to keep on building links.

  88. Thanks for the SEO lesson.

    I had bits a pieces of information for different sources and your post put some frame work around it, I am beginning to understand it a lot more.

    Thank You 🙂

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  90. hi Neil, great points, #2 – I found that placing a short description with main key phrases at the bottom of the page in addition to your technique, also helps tremendously.

  91. Kajabi Review :

    I am an avid fan of SEO… sometimes to a fault. I just love it. I have just adding more methods of driving traffic to diversify. Anyhoo, you tips on fundamentals and exact match domains are so right on. Actually, as you already know, the whole article is, but those were what stood out in my mind.

  92. Nice guide for seo. I`m trying to implemente all on my site.
    As for step 7 i totally agree with. You must have patience and work the site .
    Harsh reality with links, but that`s life . You must work hard to get some.
    Thank You and good luck

  93. I think most people have the biggest problem with #7. People just don’t have patience and want everything right away. — Blame it on the age of fast food restaurant and fast weight loss programs. =)

    • People want things right away and that usually forces people to make mistakes they normally wouldn’t if they had just a little bit of patience.

  94. Anchor text! Coming from a marketing background, I did the whole online marketing thing using traditional thinking of “branding”; although that’s important it actually pull us down by using a Brand Name rather than anchor text as a link.

  95. Singapore SEO Guy :


    Good Work! Great list of “harsh” SEO realities.

    Considering how fast things move online, it’s amazing that everything you mentioned is still relevant in today’s 2011 SEO context.

    Still absolutely gutted with the power of domain name though. I was so sure that it was not longer to last long! And Google manage to prove me wrong again, as always.

    A quick research on keyword “homes” reveal the following backlinks count: 0*PR8, 0*PR7, 2*PR6, 9*PR5 (Still No. 1) 2*PR 8, 13*PR7, 29*PR6, 75*PR5 (STILL No. 2)

    Seriously… Either PR counts for nothing today or power of domain name just got stronger. (Barring the fact that Google might be penalising for overly aggressive link buying!)

  96. I feel that different people have different opinion about SEO, Some say that onpage optimization is a difficult task and offpage is an easy one as even a new seo learner could build backlinks with link exchange, forum posting, social networking and so on. What must be understood and learnt is on page optimization. Don you think that we must know the proper place and count of keywords to used on a page?

    • I would get a tool like SEO for firefox or whatever browser you use to get a better feel for the on page stuff. I think off page is much harder and takes up more time in the long run, but that’s what the game is all about.

  97. SeriousLuxury :


    Love all of your editorials! — All of them add great values. =) SEO just takes time, we are so used to “fast” in America! LOL.

  98. haha that’s true. Americans want everything fast (fast food). Those who have patience, thrive.

  99. centrophenoxine :

    SEO depends on many points such as back links , authority and contents but most important point is only one that is how much your site is useful for users not only for Search engines. Because sites are not only for search engines but for users also.

    • Yes, very true. You can’t build your site purely for search engines because your conversion rate will drastically drop.

  100. I agree with your post. All realities you have explained are really very important to know about. I was not aware about reality # 3. I was in thinking that if the sites are sharing same platform that I would be good to make changes in one site only. I really didn’t know that it does not work.

  101. centrophenoxine :

    Be careful Google update again , Don’t try to copy a single word in your content if you don’t want to get banned by Google and stay optimize your site’s speed

    • Yep, that’s very true. It sounds like a small bit of info, but just know that it really does make a huge difference.

  102. This is really true. It really needs time and effort to build quality backlinks. 😉

  103. entertainment news :

    Hi Neil,

    recently i have started an blog,need to increase pr and traffic for my blog can you suggest me the best ways as you have crossed

    • Build high quality links, comment on do follow blogs and forums. And most importantly, write high quality content.

  104. Hi Neil,
    That’s very useful information on SEO. I have also tasted success with keyword rich domain. One of my site ranked in top ten with this strategy. But what if i want to rank high for plenty of keywords what is the best strategy?

  105. SEO is getting more and more complex, in the recent google panda update content now is everything. I am currently using more old age domain method to speed up my seo after the panda update.

    Anyway great post !

  106. sweaty armpits :

    SEO is becoming more and more challenging. At the beginning, merely keyword-spamming a page was enough to get you ranked. Now, directory links have been demoted, PR links have little to no value, blog comments have implemented no-follow, etc.

  107. Nice posts you write Neil. SEO must be naturally looking to google,if you push too much there’s only one word – sandbox.

  108. Ottawa Wedding Photography :

    I think the whole idea of “being on the first page on Google” is kind’a wrong, as doing good SEO not necessary providing good services.

  109. Can someone give me a definitive answer on Duplicate Content?
    9 out of 10 SEO gurus say that it is a no no, and content must be unique to avoid being penalized by G. However, there are experts who disagree and claim that the duplicate content rule only applies if its on the same Domain.
    It doesn’t make sense to me to be penalized for Dup content. For example if I were to slave all day and create some great unique content and put it on my site, and then several people immediately copy it and put it on their site, would I get penalized same as them?
    Be great to hear your thoughts. Thanks, Mango.

  110. Hey Neil, another awesome post.

    Just digging through your archives like this one turns up some real gems. On EMDs, still favored by G even now post black and white fuzzy animal updates in 2012 – but do you see ranking for partial matches off the main EMD easier to rank for as well?

    We have a client who bought an EMD for “(name of city)”. In your experience, with good keyword rich blogging, will “personal injury lawyer (cityname)”, “car accident attorney (city name)”, etc. rank easier by association with the EMD?

    Thanks for putting out such quality info.

    • Ralph, I have the exact same question as I’m launching a real estate website for my girlfriend. I’m looking at “(name of city)realtor(her name).com”. My intention is to load the site with lots of great content from her experience as a realtor.

      If you google “small business seo”, it appears the EMD or partial EMD still works well as sites like and are both on page 1 with EXTREMELY thin content. What have you found since writing your post 2 months ago?

  111. hey neil,
    great insights. i really liked this post. this is really an informative article.

  112. Jessica Kollen :

    REally some good tips in there somewhere. Creating backlinks and even asking for them always seems a good idea but I haven’t looked into meta tags,

  113. unitel direct reviews :

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  115. Hi Neil,

    The above info is quite similar to what i paid to learnt in class. Great stuff!

    • Yvonne, I try to get my information from a wide range of sources, which may be why it’s kind of like the stuff you may have learned in a course. Thanks for reading 🙂

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  117. Hi Neil, I read through and you have pointed out some points in which my SEO class didn’t. Thanks!

  118. Neil, some good points but aren’t these outdated due to changes in Google and the latest info from Google themselves Matt Cutts and others of late on webinars and q & a. where do you stand on that today?

  119. Infoprodutor em 24 horas :

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