HOW IMPORTANT IS SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION?
How important are search engine results to your business plan? In most cases search engine results will benefit you, but it pays to be realistic about how signifigant the benefit will be. If benefits are likely to be minimal, then resources might be better off directed to other areas of the website.
SEARCH ENGINE TERMINOLOGY.
Inbound Links – hyperlinks from other websites to yours also known as return links or backlinks.
Page Rank [PR] – A number between 0 and 10 given by Google to every page on the internet as a rating of how popular the page is.
Reciprocal Links – Links between two websites – each site agrees to provide a link to the other website so both will benefit.
Robot / Spider – An automated piece of software scanning the internet for web pages and storing them in the search index.
Search Algorithm – The “equation” used by a search engine to decide which web pages are the best match for a search term.
Search Index – The database of web pages used by a search engine. When a search is performed, the search engine looks in this database to find the best matches.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization – The process of optimizing.
SERP – Search Engine Result Page, i.e. the list of web pages shown when you perform a search.
Targeted keywords are those specific words or phrases that will be used in a search. Select words that apply to a ‘potential’ customer, one who doesn’t know your business by name. Review the popularity of your keyword list – how many other sites target the same keywords?
Page Title – should describe the page content and if possible include keyword(s)
Metatags – the ‘description’ and ‘keywords’ metatags are essential for inclusion and indexing into a search engine database
Heading Tags – many search engines place more emphasis on the text within the heading tags <h1></h1>, <h2></h2> include keywords if possible
Page Text – include keywords and/or phrases within the text of a page
INBOUND LINKS [BACKLINKS]
Inbound links are followed by the search engine robots. Many search engines view inbound links as favorable points and a better or higher page ranking is given. A general rule of thumb is the more sites that link to you – the better.
Create natural links by listing your website in directories such as: Yahoo (free/charge), DMOZ (free), Gimpsy (free/charge), JoeAnt (charge), GoGuides (charge), Web-Promotion.Net (free/charge).
ADVANCED SEARCH ENGINE STRATEGIES
Search engines work differently and there is no single method which guarantees high visibility, except for paid listings. Simply SEO strategies are either content-based, or non-content based. Content-based SEO is competitive based on the topic a website covers. Non-Content sites, often business sites will find that Content-based SEO provides no benefit as there is no unique content within the pages. One solution is to create content for non-content sites. For example, a website selling furniture might create pages of advice on how to choose furniture, care, simple repairs, etc. Quantity is also important – the more text, the better the chances of matching search phrases. Search engines also sometimes perceive quantity as quality and assign a higher ranking. It is not a case of quality vs quantity, but rather the goal to achieve both. There are a number of methodologies used in non-content SEO and the techniques are a study in themselves. The methods and algorithms used to rank websites is just one of the factors and can require many hours of effort. Search engine technology also changes, so the process, or service rendered, should never be considered completed.
MY APPROACH AND POLICIES TO SEO
I believe in the “White Hat” theory; keeping optimization efforts honest and not applying trick methods to gain ranking. Arguably this method can take longer to produce results, but the penalties imposed by some search engine companies when discovering that fraudulent methods were applied can last for years.
SHOULD I HIRE A FIRM THAT SPECIALIZES IN SEO?
My answer would be not initially, probably not at all. Use statistical data provided by the hosting company such as visitor counts, referral url’s, and keyword searches. Monitoring the server data on a regular basis, and developing content that addresses the direct needs of the visitor. Keep abreast of the changing technologies related to the search engine world. These are not responsibilities placed on the content owner, but a function of the web developer [webmaster] responsible for the site. Web Statistics and Analysis Data provided with each hosting account should provide all of the data needed. Knowing that this information exists, and having access to the reports is a discussion between site owner and site developer. Any fees paid to a third party to provide this same information as a colorful PowerPoint presentation, if paid to anyone, should go to Google for a higher ranking paid listing. I would prefer it goes to the web developer, who should be providing this information as a service.
Much of this is included within my standard development approach, however beyond the scope of these services, I provide a fee based service for development with Google’s AdSense, Yahoo’s Sponsored Search and other online advertising and marketing options.