What is Search engine optimization (SEO)?

The dirt on getting noticed on the web.

Since search engines are essentially a list of data and images, how do you get your website to appear at top of the search engines for your keywords or keyword phrases? The main search engines to be concerned about are Google, Yahoo!, and MSN.

There is no doubt that promoting your website on the internet can greatly increase the chances of being found and increase your sales exponentially.

Here are some tips on how to determine if SEO is right for your business:

  • You want to reach an audience that goes beyond your geographical area.
  • You run a business from a home office.
  • The nature of your work does not allow you to network often.
  • You sell a product or service that appeals to more than just your neighbours, colleagues and friends.

Without a website today, is like being a business 10 years ago without a business card. The internet can virtually replace business cards when selling your services or products internationally. Many new businesses forget to include the cost to build, maintain and grow a website in their start-up or marketing budgets.

Having a website and being found is one of the cheapest marketing investments you can make. Here's why. You are a small business and you want to get the word out. You have 2 options. Either you take out a small advertisement in a newspaper a one-time shot at getting noticed (highly unlikely) for $1500+ or you build a website that will keep on promoting your business for years to come.

Once your website is built you need to put together a strategy of being found in the search engines. Your search engine optimization strategy should be consistent, on-going and long-term. Fierce ranking competition compels businesses to continually keep on top of their competitors by creating a solid SEO plan.

Here are some great tips on how to get and stay at the top of the search engines:

  1. Write articles to place on your website and submit them to article banks such as www.ezinearticles.com or www.articlebank.org. Also, look for subject specific article banks. Write press releases and submit them to PR Web.
  1. Ensure your website content is focused.

    • Each page should focus on one or two related subjects.

    • Use your best keywords in the copy but don’t overdo it (you could be sited for keyword spamming and expelled from the search engine altogether). Finding out what your best keywords are takes a bit of research (see #3 below). If you don’t know how to do it yourself, hire a professional. It’ll be well worth the investment.

    • Write compelling content. People who read it should have a pleasant experience. What would you want to hear if you were the visitor? One of the biggest mistakes people make is to try and put all their information on a few pages. Unless you are just writing one sales letter and selling one product it is best to avoid long pages of copy. If you have a variety of products and services, have a separate page for each one. It is worth it when it comes to gaining business from organic search results.

      Example:

      You are a professional organizer and you do workshops and public speaking as well as image consulting. These 3 different yet related subjects should each have their own page. Optimize each page for the keywords and phrases that people are using to search for your type of business. See a site we built for a good example of this: www.gettingittogether.ca.
  1. Do deep keyword research. So often we have asked our clients if they know what their keywords are. They give us all the buzz words for their business, field or industry. Great, yes those may be keywords, but they may not be what most people are looking for, or they may be too broad and therefore competing with thousands of other sites.

    It is important to understand the difference between using a popular keyword that is also popular amongst your competitors as opposed to using a less popular keyword that is not as well used on competitor’s sites. There is definitely value in that. Ask you search engine optimizer what they can do for you in the department. You may find it very useful.
  1. Once you have established your keywords, then it is the job of implementing them. This involves writing text (or copy) for your site that uses those keywords effectively. Reading up about how to write effective website copy is an excellent idea. Ensure, however, that your resources are extremely current, as the “rules” change often.

    Continually check up on Google’s web developer guidelines. Most important however, is to never, ever sacrifice visitor readability for search engine optimization. The reason for this is twofold:  i. you may lose the potential customer anyway, and ii. you may be penalized by the search engine and dropped in ranking.
  1. Write compelling title and description metatags. Ensure that your metatags are consistent with the content of each page individually. That means, each page on your site should have unique metatags. If you have the same metatags for every page, you are wasting a powerful tool for optimizing your site. The keyword metatags have virtually no power, so our advice is not to focus on them at all.

  2. Ask other sites to list your site or submit your site to them. Ensure that the page linking to you:

a. Is related to your subject matter.
b. Has good search engine ranking.
c. Isn’t a link farm (lots of links on a page and not much else).

  1. Avoid reciprocal linking. Search engines love pages that stick to one subject matter. So if you have a Links or Resources page, ensure that the links are quality links for your visitors and that relate to the subject of your site.

    Example

    There is no benefit in an interior designer placing a link to a hosting company or a dog-sitting service. On the other hand, linking to an architect and a furniture company would have great benefit to both visitor and search engine rankings.

  2. Launch a search marketing campaign. Now this is getting a little more involved and may not be for everyone, but it will give you thousands more inbound links. Check out www.google.adwords.com or www.yahoo-search-marketing.com.

  3. One of the most important rules is of SEO is never stop. Once you have established the ranking you desire, you’ll have to work to keep it there. Refresh your content and metatags often (at least once per month) and the search engines will continue to index you favourably. Since the internet is always evolving and new players are coming on the scene constantly, it is never okay to sit back and relax. Keep on top of it. If necessary, hire a professional to keep on top of it for you.

Remember that not one of these SEO techniques alone will give you good rankings. Rather, using a combination of different techniques simultaneously, will no doubt produce fantastic results. Be thorough and be vigilant as business from the internet is very powerful.

This article gives you a good start in understanding what is search engine optimization. But if you don’t have the time, energy or interest in doing it for yourself, then ensure you find the right professional to do it for you. It can be tedious and painstaking, and you should focus on what you do best instead.

For more information on creating a Google-friendly website click here: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=40349&ctx=related
 

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