July 11, 2007

"It isn't about tricks. It is about good structure and good writing practices."

I recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat about the future of the internet with talented author and professional speaker James Huggins. James is a professional speaker on technology, ebusiness, and other technology related topics. He's also a technologist with more than 30 years of information technology experience. He runs a personal website over at jamesshuggins.com, where you can read more about him and the things he has been doing for technology over the past few years.

When I first got in contact with James, I was interested in his philosophy on link trading. He's got an entire page devoted to link exchanges. "I believe that if a site truly wishes to benefit its own visitors, then it should link to another site, if, and only if, that link would benefit its visitors," says James.

While planning for links, keeping your focus on your visitors while working on your website - rather than focusing on search engine results - has its clear benefits. And by keeping your visitors in mind, search engines such as Google will automatically deliver your results - if they are what searchers are looking for. As James puts it, "Google's goal is to serve the searcher. That is, Google's ability to make money depends on its ability to deliver relevant pages to the searcher. ...Create the best pages for your readers and Google will deliver them."

In the market of websites today, there are countless websites that chose to focus on search results directly, rather than benefiting their visitors. "Many site owners think that rankings are a matter of tricks and they spend too much time looking for tricks and trying tricks," James tells me. "You have to write the page that the reader would want to read, in a way that Google will know that and deliver it, with appropriate information that will allow the reader to make the next decision you hope they will make (e.g., buy the product, subscribe to your newsletter, write their congressman, rescue a dog or cat ... whatever it is)."

I asked James why he believes there are so many webmasters that focus on rankings instead of visitors. "Many site owners own sites as a pure investment," he replies. "They read somewhere that by putting up a site they could make millions in their pajamas. They don't have a personal connection to the topic of the site nor to the customers who use that site."

Obviously the internet has become a superb breeding ground for multi-million dollar corporations, but unless a webmaster goes into building their website with their visitors in mind, their success won't be as great as companies such as Google, or eBay.

"[The success of a website] depends on your goals. ...Success is personal. Each person must define it for themselves. ...The best SEO writes for the searcher in a way that the search engines will recognize. It isn't about tricks. It is about good structure and good writing practices."

When James brought up the success of a website, I asked him what he thought about the success of the internet, where he thought the internet would be in the next five years, and if the internet will be a success in terms of social and business interactions. "I see two possibilities," says James. "In vision one, the internet has an increasingly positive impact on our [lives]. It allows social interaction and business data sharing. It works to reduce the cost of information. ...Competition can't work effectively if you don't know the competitors features, options, benefits and prices," he tells me. "In vision two, the future is not so bright. The internet has helped reduce the control of mainstream media, and given everyman the opportunity to become a journalist, an information creator and a critic of government, business, society and each other. There are many in the business community who see everyman not as a contributor, but only a consumer."

A perfect example of James second vision of the future of the internet can be seen today, with such things as YouTube becoming a part of CNN.

"I fear what Richard Stallman wrote in his classic short story "The Right to Read". And I fear the possibility of the internet to empower the powerful, both the private power of business, and the nominally public power of government, to steal the private information which you and I own by right of our lives, making it part of massive databases that make Orwell's 1984 look tame."

In conclusion, James left me with some good advice that all webmasters should consider: "I'm not saying these are likely. But I fear that when we do not recognize the power of lightening, we are more likely to take shelter in a storm by standing under a tree."

Next time you have a minute to spare, read up on some things James has done over at his website and drop him a line.

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