How I Accidentally Discovered Affordable SEO for my Business

Accidental SEO Expertise

I got into Search Engine Optimization (SEO) quite by accident. I was managing our family-owned apartment complex in South Florida. I created our first website myself with a text editor, long before any good HTML editors came along!

One day, as I was looking down from the top floor to the view below, the idea struck to install a webcam. I had hoped that the camera would bring people to our site to rent apartments.

In 1996, there were very few webcams on the Internet. Our buildings were beautifully nestled along the Intracoastal Waterway, with a beautiful vista in every direction. But the real money shot was the adjacent bridge. It went up and down regularly, and there were a lot of beautiful shots every day. As you might imagine, on cloudless sunny South Florida days, the view was spectacular.

Affordable SEO from webcam

An image from my early webcam in Boca Raton, Royal Colonial Apartments

So I assembled the tools necessary and hired a security firm to install a camera just under the roof line, pointed in the direction of the bridge. The cable came down several flights of stairs and into my office, where I had placed the host computer.

Broadband was not available anywhere near us at the time. So guess what? The first pictures were uploaded to a dial-up connection to our host server — now that’s old-school! It remained that way for many years.

How does any of this relate to SEO?

Link Building

As it turned out, webcams from scenic locations became all the rage. We had about 100 sites linking to us. Our site had become authoritative. We rarely asked for links. We didn’t have to. The quality of our content was enough to have webmasters link to us without being asked. Fortunately (I say fortunately, because the literature was still pretty sparse), I had given the page a good title and webmasters used it as their anchor text. Their links had given us even more authority.

It was not long after the webcam went live that our ranking on the search engines was No. 1 on ALL the popular search engines. And that wasn’t just for a “webcam” search… that was for the words “apartments Boca Raton.”

Inbound Marketing Worked!

We had stumbled on to creating content that people wanted. They were willing to tell their friends about it. If Twitter had existed, I’m sure that we would have seen tweets sharing our page. I received many requests for advertising on my page. We were not interested in cluttering it up. We figured that our page was advertisement enough for our own apartments. We didn’t want to clutter up the page with conflicting messages.

However, these requests for ads made me think. I should be linking to our other businesses from this page. So I added a small section of links at the very bottom. I called it “Sponsored by” and added a few links to our own other businesses.

I hadn’t realized that the search engines would give any authority to our other sites. I just figured that it would help them find our other sites. And my hope was that anybody visiting our page would click on these links, too.

To my surprise, my other sites’ rankings began to improve, as well. We had passed on some authority to our own enterprises in an unobtrusive way.

But the Pool Started Turning Green

I’m not talking about the beautiful swimming pools at the apartments, but the pool of content. (For a complete explanation, see this post…). You see, we sold the buildings. The new owner kept the site up for a while, but soon took the webcam down and let the page languish. They had stopped creating new content (which wasn’t very difficult at all). The webcam practically ran itself by the time we left.

Today, nearly 10 years later. Instead of remaining No. 1, they are hard to find. I just did a Google search for “apartments Boca Raton” my old complex is now found on the 6th page. That means they went from a rank of 1, where I had left them, to a rank of 57. From the first page to page 6, where only the persistent continue to search.

How sad

They had been handed something that is difficult to achieve. They squandered an asset. In real estate, equity is a big goal. We had sold them not only apartments, but equity on the Internet. They wasted their content equity just as surely as if they let the buildings come into disrepair (which fortunately they have not done).

But the principle is the same. Content creation is brand equity. Content and ranking are assets to be protected and nurtured.

Don’t let this happen to you. Keep creating fresh content. Keep serving people what they want to see.