What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
According to Wikipedia:
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via "natural" ("organic" or "algorithmic") search results.
The surfing public enters words or a phrase, called keywords, into the search field and clicks search. The resulting page is called the Search Engine Results Pages, or SERPs, and displays two sections of results. The first is the "free" listings as determined by SEO and the second are "paid" listings as determined by Search Engine Marketing (SEM). In the case of the paid (or sponsored) listings, these listings are what is referred to as Pay-Per-Click listings.
Here is an example of what I mean:
The left side of the page displays the "free" listings and the right side displays the PPC listings.
In this presentation, I'm going to present strategies and techniques used to help you move your web pages towards the beginning of this list. Moving up the list is also called improving your rankings.
What are the Search Engines Looking For
Search engines are looking at the words you use on your web pages. Keep in mind that search engines do not look at websites as a whole, they look at individual pages. Each web page of a website is read, evaluated and stored in the massive databases of the search engines.
There are many factors to take into consideration when ranking web pages. Each of the search engines guards it's ranking algorithms fiercely for fear that website owners will find out and exploit them to gain unwarranted rankings. Here are just some of the major factors that search engines look at:
- Age of a domain name
- Content that is included on the page
- Number and relevance of in-coming links to the web page
- Frequency of page updates
Search engines are constantly tweaking their algorithms in hopes of pleasing their customers - the surfing public. The overriding goal of the search engine is to present to the searcher the most informative web pages that will satisfy the searcher's keyword phrase. The last thing the search engines want to do is to provide the searcher with links to spam web pages that are useless to the public.
Tactics to Building a Successful Search Engine Friendly Page
Building a search engine friendly web page is not really a hard thing to do, but it will take some effort on the part of the website owner. Here are the steps most frequently employed to building a search engine friendly page:
- Keyword research
- Incorporating the keyword phrases in the text of the page
- Incorporating the keyword phrases into the HTML of the web page
- Securing links from external websites to your web page
There are many questions a website owner needs to answer when embarking in SEO. What phrases should I target? What is the competition for those phrases? Do surfers actually search for that phrase?
Fortunately there are many keyword research tools available. One of the oldest is the free Overture Keyword Selector Tool. This tool is not the most accurate and its data can be months old, but it will suggest many keyword phrases related to the phrase you entered and the number of searches entering that phrase into the Overture search engine.
There are many paid software programs that will give you more accurate and timely data. Two of the larger programs are Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery. Both come with free trials.
Keyword research can be fun if you're into it, but will also take a lot of time to do it properly. For those who would rather purchase this research, SEO Research Labs offers a keyword research report for only $99. In about 4 to 7 days you'll receive a report containing hundreds of keyword phrases and a realistic understanding of the difficulty of achieving top rankings for each search term, as well as solid advice on how to target the best search terms for your site.
Incorporating the keyword phrases in the text of the page
Once you have identified the keyword phrases you want to target for each web page, the next step is to write the page's content. Each web page should have a main keyword phase that you are targeting as well as two or three more sub-phrases that are related.
It is important to write the text that will read naturally for the human visitor, not the search engine. This is one of the more common mistakes I see. Although it is important to include your keyword phrases many times on the page, don't over do it. Read your text out load. If it reads well conversationally, then you have a winner. Remember spelling and grammar count!
Hiring an SEO copywriter may be the best solution for some website owners. These services can be expensive, but are well worth the money if your budget allows.
Incorporating the keyword phrases into the HTML of the web page
Placing your main keyword phrase properly in the HTML will help the search engine to properly index your page. Here is a list of places that your keyword phrase should appear:
- Title tag
- Heading tags
- Bold and/or italized text
- Bulleted lists
- Link text on other web pages
- Domain and page names
A couple of words about meta tags. The meta keyword tag is virtually ignored by the search engines. Spammers have abused this tag for so long that it is not worth your time to enter in your keywords.
But you should use the meta description tag. This tag allows you to put in a sentence describing the page's content. You should have one for each page and use your main keyword phrase for that page. There are times when the search engine won't have a good description to place under the page's title, so they will use your meta description tag.
Finally, always have properly coded HTML pages that abide by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards.
Securing links from external websites to your web page
Search engines look at links from one website to another as a vote of confidence. So it makes sense that the more links you have to your site, the more trusted your site will be. All things being equal, a site with more in-coming links will rank higher than a site with fewer links.
It used to be that any link to your site was good enough. That's no longer the case. Search engines are smart enough to look at the content of the referring page and compare it to the content of the referred page. If the referring page is unrelated to yours, then the link will not count.
Here are some ideas of sites that should link to you:
- Business associations
- Chambers of commerce
- Businesses of products or services you sell
- Google and Yahoo Local directories
- Networking groups you belong to
- Business directories
- Writing and syndicating articles in article directories
- Related blogs and forums that allow you to comment and include a signature box with a link back to your website
You can always see who your competition has in-coming links from. Go to Google and type in the following command:
What will be displayed on the resulting page is a list of sites linking to your competitor's site. You can then go to those sites and request a link to your site as well. This link command is useful, but it does not offer a complete listing of all in-coming links.
Executing your link building campaign can be a daunting task. For those with a budget, you should consider the services of Eric Ward. Eric is the go to guy in the field of link building. A visit to his site will show you all the plans he has available.
What ever you do, you must avoid participation on link farms. These are websites that promise you thousands of links to your site to help your search engine rankings. Such sites are frowned upon by the search engines and could end up getting your website banned by them.
What to Avoid in SEO
- The following items will have a negative impact on your site's ability to be search engine friendly:
- Use of Flash
- Use of frames or iframes
- Placing text inside of images
- Sloppy code with bad links, broken images, bad spelling and grammatical errors
- Pages with no links to them
- Creating pages with the intention of spamming the search engines
- Link farms
- Not adhering to Google's Webmaster guidelines
Overture Keyword Selector Tool - http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/
Wordtracker - http://wordtracker.com
Keyword Discovery - http://keyworddiscovery.com
SEO Research Labs - http://www.seoresearchlabs.com/
Link Building Services
Article Dashboard - http://www.articledashboard.com/
Google Local - http://local.google.com/
Yahoo Local - http://local.yahoo.com/
Eric Ward - http://www.ericward.com/
Google Webmaster Central - http://www.google.com/webmasters/
Google Webmaster Guidelines - http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35769
Copyright © 2007 The Bouelvard Group. All rights reserved. This article may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.