Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Newbie – Home Brewing Veteran
With any new endeavor we face in life, it is only natural to compare these with previous, more familiar life experiences. After immersing myself into Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for a little over six months, I was immediately drawn to the similarities that some SEO tactics have with my previous area of expertise: craft beer brewing. Both SEO and home brewing, when done right, will have terrific outcomes. Creating a home brewed beer can result in a high quality product, and proper SEO will steadily increase quality organic traffic to your website. These two skills can provide a great benefit to the masses but, when cheap materials and cheap techniques are used, the consequences can end up giving you or your website a terrible hangover the next day.
In SEO, there are only a select few who know exactly what makes up that elusive golden recipe satisfying the Google algorithm that determines search rankings. The Google algorithm is constantly evolving and the only people that know its exact recipe are the Google employees writing it. Despite the fact that I haven’t received any high fives, chest bumps, or fist pounds from Matt Cutts (yet), I do know that there is a simple recipe for good SERP rankings; good content, quality links, proper keyword research, and a well-organized website. Beyond the core list of ingredients, there is no one uniform method to perfect Search Engine Optimization across the board for every website. There is no limit to what can be done and the minor tweaks that can be made. Keywords can be refined, links can be acquired, title tags and meta descriptions can be updated, proper re-directs can be put in place; the list can goes on. As long as you stay inside of Google’s guidelines and practice “white hat” SEO, all of those ingredients can produce a superior product and increase quality traffic to the targeted website.
Craft Beer Ingredients
You may be asking yourself, what does all of this have to do with beer? Well, similar to SEO, when brewing beer we have a list of major ingredients: water, grains, hops, and yeast. Even though we know what these ingredients are, it is what we do with those ingredients that make an individual beer distinct and delicious. The grains can be toasted or malted to different degrees, the hops can be added in different amounts and at different times during the boil to affect the flavor and aroma of the beer, and different yeast strains impart distinct flavors and bring in varying levels of alcohol percentage.
Heck, you can put just about anything in during the brewing process. Rocky Mountain Oysters from Wynkoop Brewing Company and Ghost Chili Peppers from Keegan Ales, for example, are the two most interesting ingredients I have seen used in the craft beer game. Sour beers are another example, as they get their flavor from the brewer intentionally (I hope!) letting bacteria strains live inside the beer during the fermentation and aging process. As you can see, there are some extreme ingredients that can be included in the recipe, but the main ones still to be accounted for in order to bring out a quality beer. This should start to sound like a proper white hat SEO campaign that will eventually drive quality traffic back to a website.
Home Brewing an SEO Ale
Now that we’ve identified what ingredients go into a quality brewed craft beer and an SEO campaign, it’s important to state that there are ways that these ingredients can be manipulated into a mixture that is unpleasant and just downright dirty. For instance, have you ever read a blog post and reached the comment section only to find twenty spam comments with phony anchor text pointing to a Chinese website? That is an example of a “black hat” SEO tactic. In the brewing world, taking shortcuts is viewed the same way by attempting to pass a mixture of pre-hopped liquid malt extract, carbon dioxide, yeast, and alcohol as a quality beer.
Using cheap ingredients and patching up the recipe with corn sugar to make up for a lack of fermentable sugar from grains can only be passed off as decent beer for a limited amount of time. You can only fool consumers for so long. Same with Google. As websites were black-hatting Google and gaining mass quantities of spam links on irrelevant sites, they found themselves sitting on top of the world (and the SERPS). The traffic was flowing like beer from an unending tap. This was the golden age for those performing black hat tactics and it seemed like the party would never end with there was no hangover in sight.
Then, out of nowhere…BAM!…two cute and cuddly animals came to rain on the black hat parade; Penguin and Panda. Now it is a couple years later; these cuddly animals have matured and so have black hat SEO’s. The inevitable hangover has caught up with them. Long gone are the days of going out to drink cheap beer all night and waking up without a hangover. The next morning after drinking the liquid mixture of fermented corn sugar now leads to a pounding headache, bloodshot eyes, and the thoughts of “why would I do this to myself?” Sounds like the same feeling that a black hat practicing website owner had as they looked at the analytic traffic from their website following the Google Penguin update. Ouch! Still hungover? Don’t fret. Jason White provides a remedy for how to properly recover from the Google Penguin penalty.
What This Brewer Learned from Search Engine Optimization
Since my transformation from a brewery apprentice into a student of SEO, the main thing that I have learned is that slow and steady will produce the best results every time. Using cheap ingredients and rushing the brewing process will lead to an inferior product, just like using an inferior link-building strategy, buying links, and spamming sites will lead to the inevitable hangover when looking at your traffic analytics. Playing by Google’s rules and remaining white hat is a practice that you, and your website traffic, will appreciate long into the future.