As a former advertising sales representative, I heard it over and over throughout the years from business owners: “I am moving my budget to the internet.” It made sense, 80% of all searches for products and services are done online. A serious business needed to put their money there. My only question was how their potential clients were supposed to find them amidst the hundreds or thousands of competitors that have flooded the web? The answer was SEO – Search Engine Optimization.
SEO is defined as “the process of editing a website’s content and code in order to improve the visibility within one or more search engines”. However, like with any new technology, there was a certain amount of rumor and confusion involved. This mystery allowed for unscrupulous providers to over-promise and under-deliver. Anyone who has heard and fallen for, “We can get you to the top of Google in 30 days!” can attest to that. As a result, many decision-makers have given up on SEO as a scam, deciding instead to just hope for the best. If you are one of those unfortunate people or someone who has never heard of SEO, we have great news! When a website has been customized and optimized properly for publication on the Internet, search engines will respond by making that page more visible in the search results.
So what are the most important steps you can take to improve the rank of your page in a search result?
- Careful Keyword Formulation
- Creation of High Quality, Unique Content
- Website Code Implementation Voodoo
- Registration with Top Tier Directories
Careful Keyword Formulation
Conducting keyword research as a first step makes perfect sense; every decision you make after this point is based on the right inclusion of words and phrases. In this process you, as a business decision-maker, collect the words or phrases that best target the visitors you are looking to attract and which best describe your business. Once you have formulated a list of core words the next step is running them through a keyword research tool. There are several out there, but we suggest Google’s Keyword Tool – it is free and has relevant, accurate data. Once into this process you can sort by exact or broad terms, but you need to keep in mind (and this is the point in this step where the most mistakes are made) to make your decisions by relevance to the visitor, not by pure volume of the searches. It is tempting to be where the most people are, but think of this example; A person searching for a used Toyota will not look under the search term “cars” even though that term has 100 times the volume. If you sell used Toyotas, your best bet is to drill down to the specifics, not dwell in the general headings. A thorough research and targeting of keywords and keyword phrasing is the single most critical step in SEO for this reason. Quite often you find keywords and niche markets you were unaware of and, more often than not, this knowledge changes the whole focus of your SEO campaign.
Creation of High Quality, Unique Content
Using the keywords you identified in the first step, you should now be ready to implement these throughout your website. Your site content and the way you structure and present it to potential visitors will make or break your online marketing efforts. Everyone asks at this stage “How can I make unique content that isn’t in twenty other websites?” The answer is simple; write it yourself! A big mistake people make in this situation is to put syndicated and recycled materials in their site to save time and effort, and the crawlers who rate the site have caught on! Instead, think of cool tools people can use on their own websites, write articles with unique insights and, perhaps most effectively, write articles that are remarkable or even controversial – something that sparks the curiosity of the reader, getting them to take a look, whether they agree or not! After all, Google sees a link as a link; it doesn’t know if the link is from someone who hates you or loves you, uses your service, or is just stopping in to satisfy their curiosity. The best thing you can hope for is to create enough of a buzz to generate momentum through the websites, blogs and social media platforms to create mentions of your article and linking to it.
Website Code Implementation Voodoo
Content may be king but it can easily be overthrown if the visitor can’t logically find it! That is why I am putting tag implementation as a top four step. Think of the tags throughout your website as road signs saying “over here is used Toyotas, if you are looking for our used Fords, they are over there…”
There are two main types of tags; Keyword and Description. Google is beginning to rank these as less and less important, but they are still vital at both Bing and Yahoo. Make sure you do your due diligence on each of these. Let’s look at each and how they help
- Keyword Tags let the spiders know which keywords are on what page. You can keep it reasonably long (10-20 keywords at most). Do not put more or put keywords in the tag that are not there as that is called “keyword stuffing” and will devalue your site
- Description Tags are the primary source of information search engines review and this is also the information that appears along with your site name in the search engine results. When filling this in keep it concise and accurate and under 155 characters.
Registration with Top Tier Directories
Hopefully you caught the Top Tier in the title because it is a very important distinction. All directories had their purpose up to a few years ago, when search engines had yet to develop their sophisticated ranking algorithms they currently employ (which devalue sites and pages with just links on them with no context or surrounding value), but the majority of them are now in decline. The two directories we will focus on that will immediately improve your website’s status are Yahoo directory and the similarly operated, but free, DMOZ directory. Both are massive, human edited and human approved directories that give your website authority to the spiders’ search mainly because the directories are not automated. Many search engines get their host of websites from the list at DMOZ. If you can get listed, you website will eventually spread throughout the major search engines automatically.
This is so important in that it is the first highly valuable step in building links. Link building is so wide and vast, we will cover it by itself in a future newsletter. Suffice it to say if you follow the previous four recommendations, your links, both internal and external, will begin to build themselves and you will see improvement in placement of your website and a greater base of targeted clients coming to your website, buying what you want them to buy.