Back to Basics in SEO
By Shawn Campbell
There has been a lot of talk about Google and MSN's new algorithms and Yahoo's search engine changes. When these changes finally do occur, it is always important to remember the number one rule in SEO: Don't Panic!
If there is one guaranteed constant in this business it is that there will always be changes in the search engines' rankings. Our job, as search engine marketers, is to stay on top of the changes and to monitor how the change affects our clients' site's traffïc.
I am actually excited about any algorithm change, because it means that the search engines should actually get better.
What follows is a "back to the basics" on getting good rankings:
First things first: Always be sure to research the keyphrases you intend on using. Find out what keyphrases Internet users most often employ to find your product or service. There is no point optimizing your site for "online web marketing" if everyone types in "Internet marketing".
Once you have a list of potential keyphrases with a high amount of Internet traffïc, comb over that list and see which keyphrases best describe your product or service. These are the ones you should consider.
Hëre are some sites that can help you in your research:
Research your competition with these questïons in mind:
- What keyphrases are they using (take a peek at their keyword Meta tag)?
- What are the titles of their sites?
- When you do a search for the keyphrases you are considering, who comes up in the top five rankings?
- What is their title/keyphrases?
- Are the top ranking sites your competitors or are they industry associations?
Use the keyword effectiveness index (KEI) tool at Wordtracker to compare the effectiveness of your keyphrases. A higher KEI signifies a better ratio of demand-to-competition for a keyphrase.
Do a link search to see who is linking to your competition. In a search engine, type in "link:" (without the quotes) followed by the URL you want to verify. This will allow you to see all the important links to the site that the search engine tracks (I would recommend doing this in both Google and Yahoo).
- Can you get links from the same sites as your competitors?
- Are there industry associations or organizations that are linking to the top sites, but not to you?
Get your link campaign going! (see the article about linking for search engines to learn why links are important)
Optimizing Your Web Site
Now that you know what keyphrase you are optimizing for, hëre is how to optimize your site: write good quality content that focuses on your keyphrases.
Above all else, this is the single most important factor.
Sure there are other on-site factors such as:
- Getting the keyphrase into the title (this is the second most important factor)
- Getting the keyphrase into the Meta description tag, the Meta keyword tag, the headers and sub headers, the alt tags, and into some link text (some of these factors are VERY minor)
- Having a good site map so that the search engine spiders can easily navigate your site
- Having a robots.txt to include the pages that you want the search engines to include
- Don't use frames
- Use flash wisely (not the WHOLE site in flash)
- Use external files for your java-scripts
- Use cascading style sheets (a .css file)
- Use dynamic URL's wisely (Avoid using URL's with ? or & in them)
Content is king
Oh...and did I mention that you need to write good quality content that focuses on your keyphrases? All of the points above are superfluous if you don't have good content. Content is the food that the search engine spiders like to gobble up with a voracious appetite. The items below are just the side dishes. You need good content to get decent rankings, but you need the side dishes to become a serious competitor in your market.
- Write about your keyphrases.
- Write extra pages.
- Write about your industry.
- Write about your product or service's uses.
- How will your product/service improve the life of the consumer? Find out, and then write about it.
- Why is your product/service better than your competitor's? Think of a reason and write about it.
- What is the history of your product/service? Or your industry? Write about it.
- Who are you? Everyone always enjoys "about us" pages...
- And of course, be sure to serve the search engine spiders with a tasty main dish full of keyphrases!
Whatever you do, be sure that you don't write junk or filler copy and double chëck that everything reads well. Keep in mind that writing about your keyphrase doesn't mean adding the keyphrase unnaturally into the text. If you have any doubts, employ the talents of an expert to do the writing for you!
Start soliciting links today! Get people in your industry to link to you. Contact:
- Industry associations and organizations
- Web sites about your industry
- Sites related to your product or service
- Competitors who don't compete in the same region
- Sites that sell products/services that relate to yours, but don't compete directly
Submit to all the directories you can find, so long as they are related (e.g., don't submit to the Abba directory unless your site is about Abba). Submitting to a directory should not be a mindless activity. Read the directory's directions on how to submit Very Carefully. Write your description very well, and tailor it to each directory in order to follow their guidelines. Make sure you submit (and get in) to www.dmoz.org - it is probably the most important directory out there today.
Do research and find "vertical directories" that focus on your industry, and submit to them. These directories are very important because, for example, if you have a dodo bird site, what better potential client than someone who found you through a dodo bird directory!
Search engines and directories are different. Do not confuse them. You can submit to all the search engines you can find, but it usually won't do much because the good search engines will find you anyway. Submitting to random search engines will usually only increase your email sp@m. Don't waste your monëy on search engine submission software for the same reasons.
Hëre is a partial list of the current important search engines:
- Build your web site for your customers, within the guidelines that the search engines set out.
- Don't make the site awkward by over-conforming.
- The site's first focus should be on what your clients want.
- Create good content. Good, quality content that reads well and flows seamlessly.
- Update it regularly. An active, living site is healthier than a stagnant, dead one (the search engines spiders like their food alive and full of life).
And remember: Content is King!
About The Author
Shawn Campbell firstname.lastname@example.org is the co-founder and Chief Search Engine Optimizer at Red Carpet Web Promotion, Inc., www.redcarpetweb.com.
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