by John Eberhard
SEO stands for search engine optimization. The purpose of SEO is to get your web site to rank well for certain specific keywords on search engines, so that you get more traffic to the site from those search engines.
It used to be that SEO meant taking actions to the site itself to make it more likely to rank for your keywords, which is called “on-page optimization.” It still means that, but now the term has taken on the additional meaning of actions you take to build up links to your site, which is called “off-page optimization.”
Local or National?
The first thing to do when considering embarking on search engine optimization is to determine whether your business is local or national in nature. Do you sell products or services to people only in one local area, or nationally or internationally?
If yours is a local company, then your efforts should be directed towards ranking well on Google Maps, Yahoo Local and Bing Local, as well as doing SEO specifically for local oriented keywords, i.e. keywords that contain the name of the cities or towns where you do business. See my recent articles on local businesses and Google Maps.
If you have a national business like mine (I do business with companies all across the U.S.) then you need to do regular SEO. This consists of:
- Keyword Research: This means to come up with a list of possible keywords and then finding out the amount of traffic they are getting (how many people are searching for them), and the number of sites that are competing for them. You want to find keywords that have a low number of sites competing for them, because if the number is too high, you just won’t be able to compete for those keywords, at least not in the short term. I consider the number of competing sites to be more important than the traffic per keyword, and I sort the keywords and group them by the number of competing sites. Most single word keywords are too competitive.
- On-Page Optimization: Isn’t that a fancy word? That’s at least a $10 word I think. Anyway, this means to take the keywords that you select, and to put them into the various pages of your site. You have to write titles and descriptions for each individual page of your site, then put those into the meta-tags, or invisible code of your web page. Those titles and descriptions are then what appears on Google or other search engines when your listing comes up. Usually it works best to select 3 primary keywords for each page, that are most relevant to that particular page, then write titles and descriptions using those keywords. You can also put keywords into what are called “alt tags,” which are tags associated with pictures on your page.
- Link Building: Next it is important to build up links to your web site coming from other web sites. Google has said for years that they consider the number of links to your site to be the most important criteria in determining how well it ranks for any given keyword. I have been engaged in link building in various forms for about 7 years. Here are the most effective forms of link building that I have found:
- Press Releases: Write press releases about your company and then submit these to online PR sites, and post them to your blog or blogs. When you post them to a blog, include text links in the blog post that point to pages on your main site.
- Blogs: Post items regularly to your blog or blogs, and include text links linking to various pages on your main web site.
- Article Marketing: Write articles about your company topic and post these to article directories.
SEO people used to do what is called reciprocal linking, contacting other web site owners and offering to link to them if they’ll link to you. Google took steps to discount these types of links several year ago, so it is typically not done anymore, though I occasionally see companies still offering this or software being offered that is geared to this.
There has been a lot of discussion recently about Google’s algorithm update called “Panda,” which began in February, and there have been regular additions to it every couple weeks since then.
It appears that the intention of Panda is to make it so web site owners can’t do anything to improve their search engine rankings, and specifically to target article marketing, where you submit the same article to multiple article directories.
I have been silent on Panda up until now, other than discussing it with colleagues. First of all I will say that I don’t agree with the overall apparent intention to make it so web site owners can’t improve their rankings. I think this objective is something that is good for Google or makes things easier for them, but is bad for web site owners. Thus I will condemn it here in the strongest terms.
Second I’ll discuss whether this affects link building. I think it will affect link building in the coming year. But since I am doing link building for a number of clients using the actions listed above, I have closely monitored the effects, in terms of the only statistics that matter, namely number of links, keyword rankings and web site traffic.
For the clients that I am monitoring, I am seeing no adverse effects due to Panda, in terms of links, rankings and traffic. The above link building program is still working well and getting good results. Will we have to change it eventually? Yes probably. When the statistics indicate it. But in my opinion we have not reached that point yet.
With an overwhelming market share in terms of online searches, I believe Google has too much power. They hate people finding ways to “game” their system as they put it. But from my perspective, if, as a small business owner, you can’t find a way to be proactive or “cause” over your rankings situation, then you just have to sit there as total “effect.” Their philosophy seems to benefit entities that are already well established and known, but small companies that are just now starting to do SEO are just out of luck.
I don’t agree with that, and will continue to find the best ways for companies to be able to improve their rankings and be “cause” over their situations.