If your website is an important part of your business, you have probably heard about “Search Engine Optimization” (SEO). If you are like most other people, you may still be confused about what it is and how you go about making it happen. SEO is a very complex subject - there are firms that specialize in just that - but the basic concepts are easy enough to understand.SEO, at its most fundamental level, is very much like a marketing campaign. You employ a traditional campaign to improve your brand recognition within some geographic region(s); you employ SEO to do the same on the web. Talk to a traditional marketing expert and they will talk in terms of “placements” and “messaging”; talk to an SEO expert and you will hear a very different story, even though the objectives are pretty much the same.
Briefly, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a process that aims to improve your page ranking with search engines (Google, Yahoo, and Bing are the major ones). Ranking determines the order in which all matching sites are displayed for a given search term. For example, if you do a search for “books” on Google, you are informed that about 1 trillion webpages match the search. It then displays the top 10, the first of which is Google Books (hmmm), then Barnes & Noble, and then Amazon, and so on. Obviously, the higher your ranking, the better chance you have of getting someone to actually click on your link.
As mentioned earlier, SEO is a complex subject that covers many different areas. Although no one knows for sure, it is rumored that Google has about 200 different parameters that are used to rank your site against various keywords. Having said all that, there are a few basics that are relatively straightforward and often overlooked.
The first of these is page titles. Look up at the top of your browser window - the word(s) you see there is your page title. Check every page on your site, as they should all be different - make sure none of them say “Untitled”. A good page title should be descriptive of the page contents, so think carefully and review the material on that page to make the best choice.
The second important item - and this is REALLY important - is keywords. Keywords are words that appear within a given page that are important in determining search results. Let’s say you run a florist shop, and you have a page dedicated to custom arrangements. Think about the terms someone might use if they were searching for custom floral arrangements and make sure those words and phrases are used liberally within the page. Try to keep the text tight and avoid too many filler words (flowery prose?). The second part to this is that really important words or phrases should be formatted in a heading style, as these are considered important elements by search engines.
The final item (at least for this discussion) is back-links. These are links to your site, or a page within your site, that appear on other websites. There are a number of different ways to go about doing this, but the easiest and most effective one is to contact anyone with a complementary business and offer to “swap links”, meaning you will post theirs on your site if they will do the same for you. For example, as a florist you might consider contacting chocolate shops, because you will have the same kind of potential customer for a non competing product. The more back-links you have, the more important your site appears for search engines.
If you are running a highly competitive business in a large geographic area, you need to hire an SEO specialist. Before you do, do some homework and learn what you can about costs and results. Unfortunately, there are quite a few self-avowed experts that will take advantage of the fact that this stuff is still considered voodoo. It is complicated, but it is not magic. If your business is small and limited to a local area, you will be fine using a web developer with a good understanding of SEO. Again, do your homework to avoid disappointment, and feel free to give us a shout if you think we can help!comments powered by Disqus