THE ABCs OF SEO – Search Engine Optimization
If you want to be found in the search engines, it is important
that you add search engine optimization to your action list. In
a nutshell, search engine optimization–or SEO for short–is the
process of making your web pages “search engine friendly.”
SEO is a relatively new marketing industry. Although there are
many purported experts, most of us who call ourselves SEO
specialists are learning. The search engines are constantly
in flux, so SEO techniques that worked yesterday may not
necessarily work tomorrow. As a result, it is exceedingly
important to keep up with the fervent pace of the Internet, and
the search engines in particular.
One of the frustrations of search engine placement is that your
rankings are constantly fluctuating. The key to a successful
search engine optimization campaign is creativity, perseverance
and practice, practice, practice. Do not try to fool the search
engines by “tricking” them with unsavory techniques (e.g.,
keyword stuffing, cloaking, hidden text) because you will risk
having your web site lose favor with the search engines, or
worse, getting banned altogether.
If you are developing a new web site or redesigning an old one,
now is a good time to think about search engine optimization.
This article will describe the process of optimizing your web
pages for the search engines, as well as highlight some of the
other components that are important for a successful search
engine marketing campaign.
WRITING KEYWORD-RICH WEB COPY
I’m sure you’ve heard the old cliché: Content is king. Well,
you know what, it is! Although the Internet is graphic-rich, it
is a text-based medium. Information is what your visitors are
seeking. If you web site doesn’t present the information they
want, don’t forget your competitor’s web site is only one mouse
Search engines need copy to know what your web site’s theme is
and how your site should be indexed in their directory. If your
home page consists solely of a Flash movie or an image map,
there will be nothing for the search engines to index. Flash is
cool, but it is not so cool when your web site doesn’t come up
in search engine results.
So, how do you write keyword-rich copy?
The first thing you need to do is identify the keyword phrases
that are important and relevant to your web site. For instance,
how would you describe your company, products and services? More
importantly, how would your visitors describe your company,
products and services? Although the answer may seem like a no-
brainer, it really isn’t, because you need to think outside of
the box. You need to get into your visitor’s head and think like
your visitor. What search terms would they use to find your web
A good place to start your keyword research is by looking at
your log files. What search terms are your visitors using to
find you? Armed with this information, you can begin researching
the popularity of those terms. Researching your keywords is a
very important task, because if you target the wrong terms, your
traffic will suffer. Although your site may rank number one for
some obscure term, if no one is searching for that term, your
site will not be found in the search engines.
There are a number of handy tools available online to help you
begin building your list of relevant keywords. Overture
(formerly Goto.com) offers a Search Term Suggestion Tool on its
web site that will not only tell you how many times a particular
keyword phrase was queried in the past month, it’ll also present
you with a list of alternative terms to consider for your search
engine optimization campaign.
In addition to utilizing keyword suggestion tools to research
your keywords, I highly recommend brainstorming keywords with
your co-workers, employees, friends and family members. Better
yet, ask your clients and customers what terms they would use to
search for your web site. Brainstorming keywords will teach you
a lot about how others think and use the Internet to find
Once you have identified your keywords, you will need to
integrate them into the body of your web page. Your sentences
need to be intelligible and grammatically correct. Don’t forget:
Your web copy will be read by human beings, as well as the
search engines. If your web copy doesn’t make sense, your
visitors will hit their back button never to return again. Bad
web copy will defeat the whole purpose of your search engine
WRITING YOUR META TAGS
The most important tag in the header section of your web page
is the title tag. The title tag is displayed in the bar at the
top of your browser window–above the toolbar. Many webmasters
do not use the title tag properly. For example, their page will
be titled “Home” or “Welcome,” or worse yet “untitled,” because
they don’t include a title at all. The search engines place a
lot of relevance on the words contained within the title tag, so
be sure to include your targeted keyword phrases when writing
your title tag. This tag is generally limited to 60 characters,
so choose your words with care.
The next important tag in the header section is the description
meta tag. This tag is used to describe your web page. Like the
title tag, many of the search engines will extrapolate this
information to summarize your web site. Again, be sure to
include your targeted keyword phrases.
The third and least important tag in the header section is the
keywords meta tag. Because of abuse by unscrupulous webmasters,
the keywords tag is ignored by many of the search engines. Even
so, some do use it, so it doesn’t hurt to include it. Like your
title and description tag, choose your keywords carefully. Do
not include keywords that are not included in the body of your
web copy or irrelevant to the theme of your site.
Much is said about link popularity, but what is it exactly?
A few years ago, people were joining “link farms” to increase
their link popularity, but today that is frowned upon and can
actually be detrimental to your quest for higher rankings in the
search engines. Now the emphasis is more on the quality of the
links pointing to your web site versus the quantity.
Many of the major search engines use link popularity to gauge
the relevancy of your site in its search results. Plus, links
are what makes the web go-round. Many webmasters have the notion
that links are bad because they are sending visitors off of
their web site. Although this is true, links to and from web
sites that complement yours helps to build credibility and sets
the stage for making your web site an authority in your field.
Much is written about the importance of getting links from
directories like Yahoo!, Looksmart and the Open Directory
Project, because they are reviewed by human beings. If you want
a link in the first two, however, it will cost you money. A
listing in Yahoo! and Looksmart is considered “paid inclusion.”
Your marketing dollars will be well spent, though, because
listings here will not only generate increased traffic, it will
add greatly to your web site’s link popularity.
SUBMITTING TO THE SEARCH ENGINES
Once your web page is fully optimized, it is time to submit it
to the search engines. Although there are hundreds of search
engines on the Internet, only a handful are truly important.
Recent statistics show the top three search engines as:
Although there are automated services that promise to get you
listed on thousands of search engines, it is recommended that
you manually submit your site to the top search engines. Some of
the search engines view automated submissions as spam and will
not list your site. Others put a higher priority on manual
submissions. And others–such as Inktomi–required an annual fee
to list your site. It can take weeks (sometimes even months!) to
get listed, so again, be patient. The search engines are
important to the success of your web site, so treat them with
the respect they deserve. Most of all, do not over-submit!
For more information about search engine submissions, request a
copy of my article “Web Site Promotion 101” at
TRAFFIC REPORTING AND ANALYSIS
Once you have allowed an appropriate amount of time to lapse (I
usually wait six weeks), it is time to generate some reports to
confirm the success of your search engine optimization campaign.
Search engine positioning reports provide a wealth of
information, such as your site’s position in the major search
engines, how you rank on your targeted keyword terms and
phrases, which sites rank above and below you, where you’ve
declined in rankings, and so on.
To automate the process of generating your search engine
positioning reports, download a free trial of 1stPlace
Software’s highly-acclaimed WebPosition Gold at
In addition to your search engine positioning reports, be sure
to regularly check your traffic logs. Is your traffic
increasing? Are people finding your site with the search terms
you targeted? Which of the search engines are referring visitors
to your site?
There are many variables that affect rankings, including:
1. Keyword density
2. Link popularity
3. Click popularity
4. Keywords in the title
5. Keywords in the description tag
6. Keywords in the keywords tag
7. Keywords in the names of linked pages and in the linked
8. Keywords in the alt tags
9. Keywords in names of images
10. Paying for ranks
11. Listing in online directories
Source: Search Engine Optimization and Placement: An Internet
Marketing Course for Webmasters by Renee Kennedy and Terry Kent.
CASE STUDY OF GRIEF LOSS & RECOVERY
In October 2001, my web site, Grief Loss & Recovery
(http://www.grieflossrecovery.com), was averaging 98 visitors a
day and 573 page views. Reviewing my traffic logs, I noted that
the most popular search term for my site was “grief poems,” so I
decided to optimize my site for that phrase.
Since October, my traffic has steadily climbed the charts.
In March 2002, my daily unique visitors averaged 325 and my
page views 1962, an increase of 69 percent and 70 percent,
With regard to my rankings in the search engines, they have
also improved considerably. For example, for the search phrase
“grief poems” in Google, my site ranks number one out of 102,000
results; and for the search term “grief,” my site ranks 15 out
As for traffic referred by the search engines, Google far
exceeds all other search engines in driving traffic to my site
with 2,953 referrals in March, followed by Yahoo at 1,428. (In
comparison, my October 2001 numbers showed Yahoo referring 535
visitors and Google 423.)
All-in-all, I am pleased with the results of my first attempt
at optimizing Grief Loss & Recovery and am beginning to note
similar results with some of the other web sites I have recently
When playing the search engine optimization game, patience is
important, because results do not happen overnight.
To be competitive online, your web site needs to be search
engine friendly. Search engine optimization is a function of
Internet marketing and is the most cost-effective means of
marketing to your target audience. With an estimated 84 percent
of web users turning to the search engines to find information
online, it is important that your site rank within the top 30
results if you want to be found. A successful search engine
optimization campaign will not only boost your rankings in the
search engines, it will bring qualified customers and prospects
to your web site who are already on the web searching for your
products and services.
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