What is search engine optimization? Why do I need it?
If you’re relatively new to online or internet marketing, you’re probably wondering what all this “SEO” chit chat is that you’ve been reading about. Then, when you try to research it and start diving deeper, the amount of information totally blows you away and you’re left with scrambled eggs for brains. Don’t worry! This happens to nearly everyone. You shouldn’t feel like this is something you can’t accomplish simply because it’s overwhelming at first…and believe me, it is overwhelming initially. That’s okay…set out with the expectation that to learn SEO techniques, it will take time, effort, and more than a little of your brain cells…but you’ll get there.
Search Engine Optimization, put in its simplest terms, is the practice of improving a site’s visibility in the search engines (i.e. Google) via unpaid/natural/organic strategies. What that means is, you’re not paying to push your site up to the top of page one. You’re using certain strategies that don’t cost a dime to do it.
Most online marketing companies will tell you that to be marketing your company properly, you need to do a combination of paid advertising and search engine optimization. Search engine optimization helps get your company visibility with no cost to you, but it will also benefit your paid advertising strategies as well. Your site will probably be considered more relevant to the user’s search query, which will lower your cost per click…but that’s another monster all in itself.
The SEO Checklist
Now, we want to warn you that no one out there knows the exact algorithm of any search engine and how they decide what ranks higher. Experts will test and analyze certain practices until they know that there seems to be a positive effect on their overall page rank in search engine listings, and that is how most of this information is come by. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, the search engines will change their algorithm on you. Here are a few things you can do to improve your SEO strategies, and, luckily, these items don’t appear to be disappearing from the algorithms just yet.
- Keyword Research – We’ve seen this error too many times to count. So many companies through up their website without a single keyword in their meta tags. Now, the biggest search engine, Google, does not take meta keywords into account…so they say…but don’t let that deter you. Other search engines and directories certainly do. So while it may not help you with Google, it WILL help you elsewhere. Bear in mind, that Google ignores META keywords. There is a difference between meta keywords and keywords on your page. Do you know what your customers are typing in to find your company? For example, if you are a veterinarian in the San Francisco Bay Area, many people would probably type in “San Francisco Vet” or something similar. Try and put keyword phrases like these in both your meta keywords and your content throughout your site. Also, don’t make the mistake of being too general with your keywords. In the above example, “veterinarian” and “San Francisco” as separate keywords would probably be too large to yield any desirable or effective results. Instead, do phrases like “san mateo veterinarian” and “nob hill vet”. Spend your time doing keyword research. It’s not something that should be taken lightly and finished within a matter of 10 minutes, and your keywords should always be updated on an ongoing basis as search trends change. For a great and free keyword research tool, try Google’s Keyword Tool.
- Site Optimization – Make sure your page load speeds are decent. If you use Firefox, and you use the plug-in Firebug, a great tool to test page load speeds is YSlow. It will give you a report card for your site, as well as tell you things you can change to improve page load speed. Also, take care of the little stuff. Make sure you put your meta title, meta keywords, and meta description for each page of your website. All important keywords within your title, keywords, and description should be at the beginning, since search engines will cut you off at a certain point. If you can, have different titles, keywords, and descriptions for each page.
- Blog – Adding a blog to your website can be extremely effective for SEO purposes. Search engines love blogs…no one really knows the whole story as to why, but here are a few things that come to mind. First, if your blog is attached to the same domain as your main site (i.e. ebbwebdesign.com/blog), it will give the appearance that your site has continually fresh information. There’s nothing search engines hate more than stale, outdated, stagnant data. They feel it would provide their users with poor search results…and therefore they’d jump ship and start using another search engine instead. Next, the URL structure of a blog, especially if set up properly, allows your pages to be keyword SEO’d in a way that would take forever with a normal website.
- Build Links – Look for relevant sites, forums, etc. that will allow you to leave your link. The more of these types of links you have, the more search engines go, “Hey! Their information must be relevant and good because all these other sites are linking to them too!”