Week 4: A Conversation with Guest Speaker Clark Benson of Ranker.com

By UCLA X425 Student Denice Savant

Denice Savant

SEO: Science, Art or both? 

Statistics tell us that people searching the web generally do not look past the first page of search results. This behavior presents opportunities for the savvy SEO professional who understands how to create great content, generate inbound links and leverage social media. At the same time, it presents a problem for what I would call early SEO rogues, who have in the past manipulated the system at the cost of content and integrity.

Clark Benson, CEO of Ranker.com, is a seasoned entrepreneur and a classic example of someone who jumped in and realized quickly that when it comes to SEO, he didn’t know what he didn’t know, and then without ego proceeded to surround himself with those who did. Through collaboration, hard work, and trial and error, his team at Ranker.com uncovered some critical leanings.

Historically, (historical timelines certainly have taken on a new meaning) the mantra had been that keywords were the gold standard for SEO, but now we’ve learned that they alone will not get the job done. Coordinating keywords with well-crafted META tags, quality content and in-bound links that create authority, are all part of the process. In addition, SEO increasingly involves social media and the creation of social signals on platforms such as Google+, a website that has a greatly improved a brand’s ability to bring its listing to the land of the highly ranked.

What’s a META tag you may ask? Good question. META tags are the brief descriptions seen bellow the searched links. These are HTML coded attributes that concisely explain their web site’s content by providing snippets for any given page. The most carefully crafted META tags can be as important, possibly more so, than keywords alone. But don’t misunderstand, the best way to score a higher ranking is to implement all the above.

For many who have not yet attained the level of expertise of someone such as Clark, it is common to rely on a more primitive system which may provide decent results but only for a limited time, and at a substantial cost. Known as the “black hatters” of the SEO world, such rogues would inundate their web pages with the same or similar keywords, often to the extent of compromising content. The good news for now is that the “black hatters” have become a rarity in the SEO world due to the daily diligence of Google’s monitoring systems, commitment to ongoing product improvement, and consistent tweaking of their algorithms.

As technology continues to develop at what seems like lightning speed, we no doubt will see another iteration of “black hatters”; at least that’s what history tells us.

Our hopes are in the Clarks of the new digital age. Those who will always win out through their perseverance for excellence, integrity, and a willingness to say “I don’t know, let me find out who does and then implement that knowledge.”

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