Computer Doctors - SEO

 

Search Engine Optimization Simplified...

Search engine marketing is already an industrial powerhouse generating billions in revenue and fuelling hundreds of start-ups. It is one of the hottest trends in Web site promotion. How hot? Consider these statistics:

• Some 84% of adult Internet users, about 108 million Americans, have used search engines to help them find information on the Web.

• 68% of users say that search engines are a fair and unbiased source of information.

But like many billion-dollar industries, search engine marketing is complicated, with different specialties and its own language. This paper will take one of those specialties – Search Engine Optimization – and explain it in lay terms while providing a framework to evaluate its utility for Web sites.

What is Search Engine Optimization ?

Search Engine Optimization , or SEO, is focused on what can be done to your Website to make it more visible to search engines. Search engines have sophisticated formulae they use to determine the order in which sites are listed when a search is performed. Understanding the basic elements of these formulae and tuning a Web site to capitalize on them is the basis of Search Engine Optimization .

"I want my site to be #1 on Google!"

Everyone wants to be ranked number one on a search engine. However, it is largely dependent upon the actual search term used. It's fairly easy to be highly ranked for an obscure search term. For example, I can guarantee with 100% certainty that your site can achieve a top listing on Google when people search for the term "psychokinetic granularity." I can also guarantee that it won’t help your business.

To achieve a high ranking for a relevant search term takes some finesse and depending on the popularity of the search term, lots of money. Take for example the broad (and potentially lucrative) search term "consulting services." This search term generates 24.8 million results with IBM Global Services sitting atop the list. Care to compete with them for #1 placement?

SEO Simplified

Selecting search terms

The selection of search terms is one of the most important elements to the ultimate success or failure of optimization. You must answer the question:

What phrases are being entered into search engines by my most promising prospects when they are looking for my services?

Seems easy enough, but there's a catch. You have to distinguish between what they enter and what you want them to enter. Seems subtle, but because you know so much about your business, you likely suffer from specificities. For example, a recent health care client offered the following search term suggestion:

"Paediatric Services"

It turns out that not too many people searched for that term, in comparison with the term "sick child" which had ten times more occurrences.

Look outside your organization to help determine what search terms people use when seeking your services. Ask friends, family and, of course, customers. You might be surprised at their responses. To be successful, you must break out of your industry mindset and into the mindset of a prospective customer.

Lastly, if your business is local add localization to your phrase. Remember, you are trying to replicate what search terms your most promising prospects are using, not what you want them to use. Just because you want to be a global gemstone provider doesn't lessen the fact that your most promising prospects are around the corner from your jewellery store. Therefore tuning for the search term "jewelry stores in chicago illinois" will greatly increase your chance to achieve the coveted top placement for those that are at the top of your prospect list.

What to do with search terms?

You've selected your search terms and honed them to perfection, now what? It is time to weave them into your Web page. There are two areas to consider. The first is within the title of the page and the other is within the page content itself.

Every Web page has a title. It appears in the colored bar at the very top of the browser. A page title looks like this within the page code:

<TITLE>The Title of the page</TITLE>

To see the page code, go to any Web site and view its source code. In Internet Explorer look under the "View" pull-down menu. This is the underlying code that makes up the Web page. At or near the top, you should see the title.

The title of your Web page is considered highly relevant by search engines.

Squandered title: My Store Name Homepage

Optimized title: jewelry stores in Chicago, Illinois | My Store Name

Body content

Search engines have an insatiable appetite for words. Plain old text – they can't get enough. It's like catnip for cats. The more words the better.

Use words, lots of words in your Web site. Make sure your home page contains an abundance of text, rich with your search terms. Use them multiple times in different combinations throughout the text of the page.

Placing your search terms within text higher up on the page is better. So is placing them within headlines. These are all elements of the search engine formula.

Inbound links

Besides search terms, another primary tool used to rank a Web page is the number of relevant other Web pages that link to the page. The more Web pages that link to your page, the higher your page rank. To understand this is to understand how search engines work.

All day every day, big computers owned by the search engine companies are collecting words from Web pages, following links on those pages and collecting more words from the linked pages, and so on. It’s what they do – it’s all they do – just a big, dumb computer collecting words and following links. It can't independently determine if your page is worthy of a high ranking. So, it does the next best thing.

It looks at how many pages link to yours. It looks at the words on the pages that link to yours. Through its formula, it makes the following conclusion:

If other people have determined that your page is important enough to link to it and if the words on those linking pages are relevant to your key phrases, then your page must be important and I will rank it high for these search terms.

It follows that inbound links from the Woman's Jewelry Association or the Chicago Chamber of Commerce to my jewelry store site are highly relevant and should be cultivated.

So if you’re a member of any industry organization or if you’ve been featured in an article that appears online, you should make sure that your Web site address is hyperlinked. If it isn't, ask. Create a Related Links section on your site and offer to link to their page in exchange for a link to yours. It's hard work, but once in place inbound links are gold.

Think before you make changes

Search engine ranking grows over time. Keeping content in the same place fosters that growth. Often, companies will restructure their Web sites without thinking about the impact on search engine ranking. Content is shifted to different areas on the Web site with harsh consequences to search engine ranking. How often have you clicked on a search result only to find a “Page Not Found” error? If the content is no longer where it’s expected to be, a search engine will eventually drop it.

Put some thought into the informational design of your site and don’t make changes lightly. If you need to shuffle content, seek the advice of an SEO expert who can assist with special redirection codes that maintain the ranking.

Black hat optimization

As with any industry, there is a seamy underbelly of which to be aware. Its lexicon includes terms like doorway pages, link farms, cloaking, blog spam – all trickery to increase traffic to your page. Traffic for traffic's sake. They care little about the method used or the quality of the traffic. They are all used to "trick" search engines to artificially increase page rank and deliver misdirected traffic

The main difference between black hat and white hat is the type of traffic delivered. Prolific unqualified traffic is the defining characteristic of black hat. Qualified traffic, no matter the volume is the defining characteristic of white hat. The question to ask yourself is simple:

Which is more important, getting 100 unqualified people to visit my site, or one qualified person?

Black hat optimization can be risky. All it takes is one of your competitors to report your black hat optimization to the major search engines and you can be completely dropped from their index. Search engines want to make sure that its users find exactly what they're looking for. It's in their best interest to do so. Black hat optimization jeopardizes their ability to do this so they are more than happy to penalize firms that practice it.

Conclusion

Search engine marketing is big business. Online retailers live or die by small variations in search engine formula. But, every Web page can benefit from a basic implementation of optimization principals. Focusing on the core principals of key phrases and inbound links will yield positive results and qualified traffic, no matter what your business. It can take months, sometimes years, to gain top search engine ranking and minutes to lose it.