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Search Engine Optimization – Low Cost, High Impact Marketing

7 November 2006 17:13
By Tornado Staff


Technology startups today are focused on search engine optimization (SEO) as their #2 marketing technique, following website development. Your company listing near the top of a Google search is the highest-impact, lowest-cost marketing technique available for quickly reaching target customers. SEO, coupled with narrowly defined and clearly positioned target marketing, can dramatically improve your placement in search results and help grow your startup business.

Prospective customers are increasingly relying on Google or other search engines as their first step in finding a product or service resource. This article will help you get started with leveraging the power of Internet search to grow your business.

How Search Engines Work

In the early days of SEO, marketers focused on meta-tags in their website HTML code as the primary way to attract search engine traffic. Meta-tags are HTML tags that help describe the document they are located within. Your position in search results was based on the use of these meta-tags.

Today, search engines such as Google and Yahoo, are much more sophisticated and look at not only meta-tags, but also your website’s content, its internal link structure and link “popularity.”

The major search engines display two types of results on the SERP (search engine results page) as a result of a user search query: paid advertisements (“Sponsored Links” at the right and the top of a Google search) and natural or “organic” non-paid listings.

Each search engine company has its own algorithms to determine which websites meet their requirements and therefore obtain the highest SERP positions (or ranks) for a given keyword or keyword phrase in a user search query. However, many elements are common to all the search engines and will help your company move closer to the top - regardless of which engine it is being searched from.

Developing Website Content for SEO

The content of your website is one of the most important factors for successful search engine optimization. The best way to build long-term link popularity is to offer high-quality content and features that provide real value to your audience.

  • The pages you create should provide valuable information that references very specific terms and concepts unique to your product or service.
  • Search engines usually read and index the first 500 words from each page they successfully crawl, so keep your most important content at the top of the page.
  • People use search engines for very specific names and phrases so, be as specific as you can.

    Keywords / phrases – Quality not Quantity

    The model for SEO has changed from quantity to quality of keywords. Major search engines are increasingly sophisticated and look for naturally occurring keywords that signify quality content. (If Google were to send their users to a site basically composed of a bunch of junky keyword articles, with little or no real information, the users would switch to a new search engine.)

    In the past, placing five keywords per paragraph on every page of your website would give you a keyword quantity that would bring you to the top of the search engines. This is called “keyword jamming.” Flooding the engines with multiple versions of the same page or repeating the same term over and over are tactics the will now lead to negative rankings from search engines and your site could be banned from being listed in a search engine.

    Selecting the right keywords and phrases is critical to the success of any SEO program. Users are becoming more adept at using keyword strings to find exactly what they are searching for. The keywords and phrases you use in your website need to match these searches.

    For example, a company selling test solutions for CMOS Image Sensors in the past might use “Semiconductor Test” as the key phrase. Now, clearly identifying the solution as “CMOS Image Sensor Test” will quickly identify this product to the targeted market.

    Vertical and lateral keyword analysis refers to the discovery process to determine which Keyword Markets are relevant to your website.

    A vertical analysis looks at all forms of the word (singular, plural) and all the popular variations that are used in combination as a keyword phrase. A lateral analysis queries hundreds of other websites that deal with similar markets and extracts those keywords from the title tags, meta-tags and body text. The most frequent words end up on top.

    The following example demonstrates vertical and lateral keyword analysis for the word “Tennis.”

    VERTICALLATERAL
    tennissports
    tennis racquetstennis
    World Cup tennisVanessa Williams
    history of tennisWilliams
    tennis shoesWorld Cup
    tennis playerssports news
    tennis ruleslawn

    The results of this analysis will provide a cross-reference to use when developing your website content to optimize your web pages.

    Wordtracker.com provides a keyword research tool for relevant words and frequency of use. You can spend a few dollars to sign up for a day. You will type in your key points or offerings and analyze what words customers use when they are searching for these things. Use these words to describe your services.

    Website – Internal Link Architecture

    Link popularity starts at home. The easier you make it for your audience to find good information, the more likely they are to link to it. Your link architecture must be solid and easily followed by search engines.

  • Search engines use the links within your website to crawl and index the pages those links point to.
  • Site maps are valuable resources for search engines. In one central area, the engine can see links to everything. This acts as a “road map” of your website.
  • The more of your website the search engine sees, the more frequently you will appear in a search result for a certain topic.
  • Search engines have problems crawling links contained in dynamic HTML, Javascript and Flash based pages and usually stop crawling deeper into your website once they are stopped by these pages.

    Meta-tags

    Search engines focus on three primary meta-tags to help them determine the relevance of a website for a particular search phrase. These are the title-tag, the description-tag and the keyword-tag.

    Title-tags:

  • The title-tag is the most important meta-tag for search engines.
  • The title-tag should describe exactly what the document contains; contain keywords (but not repeats) of terms you hope to be found for; and be as readable as possible.
  • The title-tag should be no longer than 70 characters and should accurately describe the content of the page.

    Description-tags:

  • The description-tag is a 250-character explanation of the page and its contents that reads like an introductory lead-in for the topic or service you are highlighting
  • Your description-tag should be compelling enough to generate a click through from a search result.

    Keyword-tags:

  • Keyword-tags should contain less than 250 characters including spaces and use important keywords and phrases consistent with the HTML Body Text and Title Page.
  • No single word should be used more than twice.
  • Any keywords you use in your meta-tags should actually exist in the pages they are used for.

    Website External Links

    The number of websites that link to your website is one factor that help search engines determine your relevancy for a search term. Gaining new links from outside websites to your website is a major element in improving your search engine rankings.

    Take the time to attract legitimate links with companies that are complementary to the type of content you provide on your website.

    Be careful of artificially created “link communities.” Links based solely on reciprocal links between businesses are considered a red flag to the major search engine spiders today.

    There are several approaches to build up your link popularity without appearing to be a spammer.

  • Develop a link from Yahoo and the Open Directory Project. Both of these sites are human based directories that have great deal of influence over search results. If your site is listed in the correct category and has a good description, links from these two websites are seen as validating you as “the real thing.”
  • Create an entry for your company or product in Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org), the free encyclopedia with content that is collaboratively developed. Note: Wikipedia is not about company or product advertising but does include companies/products that are “notable.” Notable is defined as important enough that someone independent of the company, a journalist for example, has found it important enough to write about. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP:CORP for specific criteria.
  • Press releases sent out on wires will push your news to wire services, publications and RSS news feeds. Plus, your press release will be listed on their site and on a number of partner websites. When the press release results in a write up by a reporter, or a link to your site, it will improve your search engine ranking. Check out PRWeb.com, an online news and press release distribution service with low-cost services for small and medium-sized businesses.
  • Resource sites listings in applicable trade association and trade business directories may help improve your ranking. A series of high-quality press releases will help you reach this audience and assure that individuals know you exist. Some organizations include a link to your website that they can easily be included in searches.
  • Quality links from partners and vendors is one of the most overlooked techniques for building link popularity. Because you already have a business relationship with these companies or individuals, you are more likely to be able to request and receive a link from their website. These websites help validate your place online and also establish you with in a legitimate community of websites online.
  • Avoid “Link Communities” that create artificial links – these are red flags to the search engines and may result in your being blacklisted.
  • Participate in newsletters and online forums that relate to your website. Participate in discussions as an expert or authority who gives advice then, when you sign your name, be sure you use a signature that includes a link to your website.
  • Search engines also consider the text contained in the link that is pointing to your website. If the text within the links contains key words you are trying to be known for, the search engines consider your site to have even greater credibility.

    Reviewing, Refining, Optimizing

    Be diligent in understanding how people are getting to your site and focus on providing quality content. Once your site has been running for three months, run a report on your log files to determine which keywords and phrases people are really using to find your site. Refine your keywords to bring in the users you do want and not the ones you don’t.

    Overtime your search placement, based on your search engine optimization efforts, can become the major source of high-quality leads and dramatically improve the results of your sales and marketing programs.

    Frances Mann-Craik, CEO, Addison Marketing
    www.AddisonMarketing.com




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