Twenty years ago, when the Internet first took off in the UK, there were hundreds of UK directories and search engines. Yahoo! was king and a listing in dmoz, the open directory, was a real boost to any site. Google was just getting going and the upstart was courting the early adopters of the Web with cool tools, widgets and APIs. Linking to sites you liked was an instinctive and free process, and everybody did it because that was how people found your site.

Oh how times have changed! Yahoo! has retired the directory they once charged £200 for a rapid review of your site (which still didn’t necessary mean it would be listed!) and dmoz is dead too. Google is king and Microsoft’s Bing the only real challenger left in the general search market. Links are still the best way of finding your site but now they determine where sites are listed for any Google search too. You could have bad links as well as good links now too, as Google developed new methods to separate spam sites from genuine hub sites. Link farms and paid links replaced natural links from blogs and hobby sites, then Google killed them as well.

What’s left is a disaster for those who want to get ahead but can’t compete with businesses and their deep pockets. While SEO has never been more important, it’s now also much harder than it was. The ‘anything goes’ experimental sites have been squeezed out by a handful of giant players and while it’s never been easier to create a startup, it’s also never been more difficult to succeed.

So what can be achieved by the blogger, hobbyist or small business in SEO terms today? Good question, and one your SEO Friend here is going to explore as we test what’s possible, what’s good, and of course, what’s bad in website promotion on a shoestring.