A Primer on Search Engine Optimization


Okay, I can’t tell you everything you need to know about search engine optimization (SEO) in700 words. But I can tell you what you, as a small business owner, need to know when looking for help in this area.

First some definitions …

SEO is the process of making your website easy to find by search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. It also helps the search engines “understand” the content of each page on your website.

SEO is also about helping your pages rise higher on search results pages, naturally, without having to pay anything to the search companies.

The ability of an SEO provider to achieve higher rankings for you will directly depend on how well your competitors have optimized their sites. So anyone you are considering hiring should take a peek at your competition to properly evaluate your situation and give you a realistic perspective.

Recently, I was speaking with a prospect, who handed me a sheet he had received from another SEO provider. It listed all the services they would provide for various fee levels. Most of the items mentioned things like submitting site maps to over 200 search engines, directory submissions, Dmoz submissions, hundreds of article submissions, securing links from hundreds of sites, etc.

Most, if not all, of these practices are poor SEO at best. Generally, site submissions are not necessary, as search engines will find websites just fine on their own. And some practices like buying links are dangerous and might get your site banned from Google. Massive article blasts fell into disrepute earlier this year with Google’s Panda update; many top-ranking sites fell from the Google heavens because of Panda.

So what do you look for? You look for a provider who will focus on researching keywords relevant to your site and embedding those keywords in excellent content on various pages. Just a few keywords per page.

The person should also mention that he will be personally writing title and description tags. Many web development companies have systems that automate the tag writing process. This is better than nothing, but not much. Title and description tags will usually show up on search results pages as “snippets.” They are what your prospective customer sees and they sell your company. Do you really want a machine to write your sales copy?

There are other technical issues that some SEOs focus on like rewriting the file names of each page. This can be helpful, but it can be very expensive and it’s not worth doing until you’ve tried less intrusive measures first.

Inbound linking is very important to SEO, but you need to have your key pages in good shape first before you worry about your linking strategies. But, go ahead and make sure your vendors are linking to your site and any professional associations you belong to. That’s a good start. Whatever you do, do not pay for links!

You might be wondering why SEO and writing go together. It’s because search engines can’t read images … not yet anyway. They are programmed to read text. So if you have a page full of images, the person should mention that he will be adding some text to the pages or, at least, captions and alt tags that are keyword rich.

Last, but not least, always remember that Google is the gorilla in the room. If the SEO provider emphasizes that he optimizes your site for all of the 200+ search engines out there, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Your provider should emphasize Google, as it gets close to 70% of all searches. The other engines will also pick up your pages, but you should be striving to rank using Google’s guidelines.

Oh and one more last thing. Either the SEO should be a copywriter who knows how to write standout copy or he should be working with one. The last thing you want are keywords awkwardly stuffed into copy. That’s a real turn off for customers.


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