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MARKETING MINUTE
by Willetts Marketing

 

 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for the Small Business:
Making the Most of Your Website

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has been a big topic of discussion among marketers and business owners as a way to increase website traffic.  This article will take a look at this marketing tactic, discuss the benefits of an optimized website and also reveal some common misconceptions about SEO.  I hope to also provide you with some interesting practices that you can use to better optimize your site.

An Introduction to SEO

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?  SEO is the practice of designing your website and managing its content with the goal of having a website rank as high as possible in the results of search engines like Google, Yahoo, Live Search, and etc.

The goal of an optimized site is to have your webpage show up on the first page of the search results when a prospective customer searches on a keyword/phrase that is relative to your website content. 

It is probably a good time to mention that techniques on how to fully optimize your site have never been published by Google or any of the other major search engines.  Despite the claims of many SEO experts, there is no “magic bullet” technique or practice in order to achieve a high search ranking.  Instead, there are a few best practices and tactics to follow when developing your website to achieve maximum search engine optimization.

The Benefit of SEO

The Holy Grail in Search Engine Optimization is to have an increase in qualified traffic coming to your website as a result of your high rankings on the search page.  This means that the new traffic that is routed to your site is actually made up of people who want your product/service.  If you are successful in SEO, it can serve as a very cost effective marketing tool to attract new business.  

 

5 Common Misconceptions about SEO

1)  Having Links on Other Websites will help you achieve better rankings.

This is partly true, but not entirely.  Having links from quality and reputable sites does make a difference on how well your site will rank.  The important word in that last sentence is “quality.”  Do not have your website linked with second-rate websites that do not have content related to your website.  For instance, a company who sells bicycles does not want their website link on a site that sells office equipment.  It would be more beneficial to have your website link on a website that relates to your product, like a local Mountain Biking Club’s website.

2) Traffic will increase as soon as I optimize my site.

It could take several months, or maybe years, to reap the benefits of your SEO efforts.  Do not look for SEO to be a quick fix to increase website traffic.  SEO is a committed effort to maintain your website’s content to be fresh and relevant to your business.

3) An Optimized Site =  Increased Profits.

Just because your website may be optimized, it doesn’t guarantee you additional sales.  Do not optimize your site and ignore the actual quality of your website.  It is more important to design your site to be easy-to-use and pleasing to prospective customers, compared to designing a site that is cluttered with text, has unappealing graphics, and is hard to navigate. 

4)  Hiring a SEO Firm automatically means that my site will be optimized.

If you have a firm that guarantees you that your site will achieve top rankings in Google for your particular keyword, turn around and run the other way.  Like I said before, Google and the other search engines do not publish the criteria they use to decide the order in which sites rank.  Therefore, use caution when evaluating SEO professionals and have a clear understanding to what techniques they suggest you employ on your site.  Also, if the firm does not disclose their techniques because they feel that they are proprietary, I would be very leery to hire them.  These types of SEO firms enter into practices that actually hurt your rankings instead of helping them. 

5) Once I optimize, the work is all done

This is where many do-it-yourself website optimizers tend to fail.  Taking the time to optimize your site is important, but analyzing your site traffic and search engine rankings are equally important, if not more significant.  One way to stay ahead of the curve is to run various search scenarios with keywords that have optimized your site to include and see where your website is showing up in the search results. There are also many programs that you can purchase that automate this process for you.

Also, most web tracking software includes data on what search engines people are using to find your website, as well as what keywords they are using to arrive at your site.  Google offers a very robust and FREE website traffic analyzer called Google Analytics.
 
For more information: http://www.google.com/analytics/

 

5 Quick Tips to Better Optimize Your Site?

1) Keep it Simple

First and foremost, keep your website simple, especially the navigation.  I can’t stress this enough.  Do not use complicated menus that use extensive javascript or flash.  The reason for this is not to confuse a search engine’s “spider,” an automated computer that visits your website and scans your web content.  If your navigation is too complex, the spiders may not be able to scan and index the content on your page, meaning it will not store your site’s data in its database.  I recommend using text or image based navigation, rather than flash.  Also, consider including a sitemap as a part of your website.  A sitemap is a dedicated page on your website that serves as a simple index for all the content on your site.  This serves as a gateway for spiders to drill down to even the hardest to reach page on your website.

2) Submit Your Website to Search Engines

So you spent a lot of time creating a new site that not only is optimized, but it looks fantastic.  Don’t forget to go to the search engines and submit your site!  This ensures that the search engines’ spiders will come out to your site and index your content in its database.  If you do not submit your site, the search engines may not ever know your website exists, therefore all your design and optimization efforts may go to waste.

3) Efficiently Organize your content

In the same way you should keep your navigation simple, you need to make sure the content on each page is organized.  I recommend using “heading tags” in your HTML to allow search engines to easily outline the content on your webpage.  Heading tags are used in the actual HTML code, and are not seen by people, they are a way to designate the hierarchy of your content.  For instance, the main heading of a particular page on your website should be marked with the <h1> heading, while a subheading should be marked <h2> to designate it as such, and so on.  By following this form of content organization, it helps search engine spiders easily designate what content on your page is important, as well as what text is not so important.  A disorganized page is at risk of causing search engines to not index content that you feel is important.

For more information about the use of heading tags visit: http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20-TECHS/H42.html

4) Don’t Neglect the Backdoor to your site

If your site is easy to navigate, search engines will index ALL of your web site’s pages.  This means that instead of people entering your site through your homeage, they could end up at any page on your website.  Because of this, it is important to make a good first impression no matter what page of your site they enter through.  Keep this fact in mind when you are designing your site.  Again, remember to “Keep it Simple” and design your site to be easy to navigate and visually appealing, and you should have nothing to worry about.

5)  Supplement Your SEO efforts

I cannot stress this more: No matter how well you optimize your site, you cannot count on it to be the main marketing vehicle for your business.  SEO works best as part of a campaign.  Send out press releases related to your business, continue to do traditional advertising if your budget allows for it, explore pay-per-click online advertising, and also consider doing social marketing (Blogging, MySpace, and etc).   Also, do not forget to list your company’s website with various online directories, most importantly DMOZ (http://www.dmoz.org). By doint this, you will see that your supplemental marketing tools will affect how well your site is optimized.

SEO Wrap-Up

I hope that this article provided you with some information that you can use to not only better optimize your own website, but to also avoid the pitfalls that so many do-it-yourself webmasters fall in. 

Remember that SEO is not a science, it is more of a mystery.  By following the basic fundamentals, such as easy-to-use navigation and organized content, it is possible to create a well-optimized site that tops the list.

For more information about SEO or any other marketing tool, please feel free to contact Willetts Marketing.

 

Need help with your marketing tools? Please contact Willetts Marketing for help with your next marketing project.

 

 

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