SEO – Sorting It Out

Google, Yahoo, BingIf there is a “Holy Grail” in the web world it’s search engine optimization or page rank. Everyone who builds, designs, owns or has a stake in a website entertains the fantasy of occupying the exalted number one spot in a results set of a Google search. But despite dizzying advances in technology there is still no way to absolutely guarantee search engine placement. And that’s not a bad thing. In the old days the axiom “build it and they will come” was all web designers needed to know. Not anymore! There are just too many websites and too many new ones popping up daily. While search giant Google may be justifiably criticized for some things, it has actually had a beneficial effect on web design and web based business in general. How so? Google has changed the landscape by rejecting tricks like spamming, ghosting, link farms and all the other dark arts that used to work. So what works now and what do you need to know?

Organic or Natural Search Engine Optimization

Natural search is searching that is not sponsored or paid for but is the result of keyword selection and placement. The theory is simple. Users type keywords they believe to be relevant to the type of business they are looking for into the search field of their favorite search engine and the spiders (software the search engines use) scan the internet looking for matches to the words the user typed in. Keyword placement and density tend to increases the chances for a match but this can be tricky as Google is very wary of scams and tricks.

Sponsored Search

Pay per click advertising (PPC) is a search engine marketing technique that requires you to pay a fee every time someone clicks to your website from an ad you’ve placed in a search engine’s results ( Google Adwords, Yahoo Pay Per Click, etc). The more you agree to pay per click (or bid) for a specific keyword and the more effective your ad, the higher your site will rank in the paid search results. According to Jupiter Research online marketers will spend $7 billion dollars on PPC advertising by 2010. This is a good way for a new website to achieve instant visibility but like anything else, there are tradeoffs. It can be expensive and there is no guarantee that a user landing on your site will become a customer.

Submission

Don’t waste your time and money on companies that promise to submit your website to hundreds of search engines. The truth is that only three or four matter. Google has not only changed the search marketing landscape, it has reinvented it. Yahoo and Bing are the other significant players in the search engine universe. Once your site has been properly optimized, there is no substitute for manually submitting it to the major search engines.

Patience

There are millions of websites out there in cyberspace with hundreds of thousands of new ones every day. Don’t expect your website to show up in the first ten results of a Google search the morning after it is launched. Understand that it can take between two and six months for even the most highly optimized site to be indexed with the major search engines. Be patient. If your search results are still poor after a few months, it may be time to reevaluate your search marketing strategy.

Here are a few important points to consider regarding search engine standing:

  • Content, content, content…SEO may have become very sophisticated but good relevant content is still the best strategy for achieving high search engine placement. Concise and well-written copy that clearly details what you do will dramatically increase your page rank and placement.
  • Take advantage of every opportunity to include keywords in your site. i.e. page titles, image alt text, meta-data like keywords and descriptions, link text titles…these can be different for every page. If you have a page you are calling About Us, for example, don’t insert About Us into the title tags. What is the likelihood that someone searching for your business will type “About Us” into the search field? Zero!

The SEO strategy you choose depends on the nature of your business, your overall marketing budget, your revenue goals, etc. Your business may simply require that your site be built using best practice natural search techniques or a more comprehensive program of regular monitoring and fine-tuning.

Did this post help you understand SEO a little better? If it didn’t, let me know what you’re still confused about.