My Path to Search Engine Enlightenment
My name is Peter Handley, and I am a search engine marketer.
I’ve been interested in computers for as long as I can remember – starting out with my Spectrum in the 80s, moving on to an Atari after the tape deck died (and I was happy to learn that they are remaking Carrier Command as I spent a lot of hours on that when I was younger, some old pics are on Wiki, though they look terrible now), before moving on to a “proper” PC a few years later, using DOS and Windows.
My first experience of the “the web” was using AOL in the mid 90s and this was my first exposure to the term “keyword”. I talked in Internet chat rooms, searched for information on these keyword, looking for information to help with school projects, and even built my first website with a few friends, a site dedicated to the joys of cheese (sad I know, but we were only just teenagers and still hadn’t found booze then).
I quickly came to realise that AOL was at the time a very closed system – it wasn’t all that easy to find the “real” web, and it was all through their rubbish proprietary browser, and although AOL did have a wealth of information, it quickly felt restrained.
I feel lucky to have grown up in the age of the computer, and the Internet revolution. I see the difficulties that some people that have come to technology late have with doing things on computers or the Internet, but most of what I have to do comes naturally. Then again for years in my circle of friends I have been the expert “go-to” man for all things computer.
Throughout the years, I’ve supplied free tech support to plenty of folks, but I’ve always tried to educate at the same time, to prevent similar problems and maybe to prevent being phoned up again to come fix the same problems.
This is something that I have brought into my working life with clients as well, there is no point being mysterious about what you doing, and it helps to engender trust in what you are doing if you can explain how and why this is going to help.
Having come from a family that has always done hard physical labour, I’m glad that computers have helped me to escape that kind of graft. When I was younger I worked at my dads concrete making construction business, and part way through education was offered the chance to potentially take it on in the future, but it was something that was never going to appeal to me. It was only a few months after I turned down this opportunity that my dad sold the business and moved on to being a gardener, so I wonder if I did him a favour here saying no!
I went through school, where the IT facilities were terrible (and ironically in a school that is now a specialist in IT), and did ok, but messed up college the first time around, partly due to breaking an ankle. This led me to taking some really shitty jobs, like Asda’s and the Co-op, and working for a company that refurbished computers that were shipped off to Africa. I tried and nearly succeeded in getting a job with IBM/AT&T, but was told that they would only take on a graduate, and at that stage I didn’t have grades good enough to get me onto a degree.
This is what made me in life, as it made me re-evaluate what I wanted to do and got me back into education.
So, I went back to college, ended up getting on ok, and got grades that got me into University at Portsmouth, studying Entertainment Technology. I started messing around with HTML and Dreamweaver whilst here, and made a few websites whilst there. The degree also consisted of graphics, animation, music & radio production with some video thrown in too, but I was always interested in the web based elements, and the surrounding project management theme.
At this time I got my first paid work as a web designer, working for some local music producers. I also managed to use this as extra credit on my degree, which was handy. I remember at the time that the lecturer marked me down on the project because the proposed domain name was too long, although looking back on it now, it would have been a great keyword rich domain.
This is also when I first installed a tracker on a website, although one of those horrible hit counters, and in hindsight, supplied me absolutely no useful information at all – but hey I didn’t know better, and thought it was great to be able to see how many people had visited the website.
It was at this stage that my interest in search was first apparent, as I was baffled at how to actually direct traffic to the website that I had built.
The first website that I ever built that went live was made entirely of images – so none of the text was readable for the search engines – I didn’t “get” at this stage, that they needed the words to be in text to be able to read them, though it seems so obvious now!
So, I stuffed the Meta Tags full of things that they probably should have ranked for, as well as spammed it to death with a list of every keyword that they would want to rank for. I didn’t know any better, so set a pretty useless sitewide Title and Description too!
I pretty much killed this websites chance of ranking for anything, and although it did get some visitors (that hit counter did keep going up), I think that they were mostly direct visitors.
That’s it for part one of my path to search engine enlightenment – part 2 will be coming soon.