With so much information - and misinformation - available on the topic of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) it can tricky trying to separate fact from fiction.
Coupled with the fact that SEO changes only slightly less rapidly than the weather, it can be downright overwhelming to know where to start.
So, if you're an SEO newbie looking for a place to start, here's a look at some Search Engine Optimization (SEO) basics. What Is SEO?
Even the most beautifully-designed site won't do you much good if potential customers can't find it. That's where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) comes in: SEO helps ensure your site is more visible in the search engines, drive qualified traffic to your website, and convert that traffic into actual customers.
In short, SEO increases your website's rankings in the search engines by making the pages within your site more attractive to the search engines. The more attractive your site is to Google, the higher its rankings in the search engine results pages. And the higher your rankings, the more likely users will visit your site. Obviously, a site with a result on Page 1 of Google is going to get more traffic than a site buried on Page 14.
If your site is missing from the top search results, then you may not be maximizing your ability to generate new business and add revenue to your bottom line. Let's take a look at some stats:
- 1.3 billion Internet users
- Over 85% start at a search engine
- Less than 25% will go beyond the top 10 search engine results
- Top 10 results get 80% more traffic than those ranked in the 11-30 spots
Besides gaining better rankings in the search engines, SEO is effective in several other areas as well:
- Branding/establishment as an authority
- Pre-qualified lead generation
- Easily tracked ROI
- Cost savings compared to other mediums such as glossy brochures and yellow pages ads (average cost per lead is $0.29!)
Breaking SEO Down
SEO consists of several key elements that work together to generate increases in a website's rankings, traffic and conversions: Keyword Selection, Copywriting, Link Building, HTML Optimization and Analytics. Let's take a look at each element in more detail:
The foundation of any SEO campaign is good keyword research. That's because targeting the right keywords is essential to getting your SEO on the right track. If your sell silver ladies watches, then you're going to want to rank in the search engines for the phrase "silver ladies watches" and other similar phrases. If your keyword research is off and you target the wrong keywords, then you may not get visitors who want what your site has to offer. That's why you need to make sure that your site is properly optimized for the most-searched-for keywords related to your business.
Getting potential customers to your site is only half the battle; you've got to convince them to buy. That's where persuasive copywriting comes in. Be sure to tell people why they need your products or services and include conversion points throughout the site. The search engines like content, so you also need to optimize your copy to include your keywords. This includes things like descriptive product pages, built-out content like biographies, news sections, etc. One important point to remember is to keep your most critical content "above the fold" - that's the area that's visible to your users before they have to scroll down.
Think popularity contests ended in high school? Think again; you're not so lucky. Link building is like one big online popularity contest, and the search engines like the popular kids. Your success in the search engines depends, in part, on the amount of relevant incoming links to your site. Of course, having lots of good links also drives customers to your site, which is a good thing, too. Links can come in various sources, including directories, business partners, organizations, social media sites, and much, much more.
Title tags, header tags, Alt tags, Meta-descriptions -- the search engines want your site's HTML needs to descriptive and clean. Search engines want to know exactly what your page is about; they don't want to sort through a bunch of extraneous code to figure it out. That's why you'll hear SEO types talk about the importance of having clean code and how to use CSS to make that happen.
No SEO campaign is complete without analytics. After all, if you aren't measuring things like traffic, link popularity, and conversions, then how do you know if your SEO strategies are working? Programs like ClickTracks and Google Analytics help make the number-crunching a little easier. When analyzing an SEO campaign, it's important to only make one change at a time so that you know which changes are effective.
If you want to have an effective SEO campaign, you need to include each of the five SEO elements listed above. Keep in mind the information here just scratches the surface of these topics, and there are certainly other more advanced SEO strategies that can benefit your site as well. These building blocks, however, are the perfect way to get your SEO campaign started on the right track.
About the Author
Collyn Floyd is a marketing and public relations specialist with The Karcher Group, a web development and search engine marketing firm based in North Canton, OH. She is passionate about helping The Karcher Group's clients achieve greater online traffic, leads and sales through search engine optimization and marketing.