(Excerpt from Ideas Online, as seen in the Marketing Ideas Academy, Module 4, Online Marketing.)
Let us begin by dispelling a few myths about the art and science of search engine optimization (SEO).
Myth #1: If you purchase a new domain with maximum information per square inch, you'll rank higher in the search engines.
Answer: Yes and no. Domain names are the first things a search engine looks at, so if you have the name of your product or service in your domain name, kudos to you. Google, on the other hand, uses what's known as an "aging delay" for all new domains. This allows Google to weed out many of the fly-by-night's and give priority to the sites that have remained staples the longest (thereby making Google a more valuable resource to those who use it.) This is just one of over a hundred metrics used by Google to ascertain where your site shows up in the search results.
Myth #2: If you pollute your website with your targeted keywords, you’ll propel your site to the top of the search results.
Answer: Maybe. You may also be blacklisted by the search engines, causing you to plummet in rankings or disappear altogether. For months. Or years. Sound worth it?
You must strike the balance between optimizing your website for the search engines and optimizing your website for your target audience. Yes, construct your content with keywords and search engines in mind, but always write for your customer. What keywords are they going to use to find what you're offering (read: What are they looking for?) The keywords your customers are using are the ones you want to target, so once you know those keywords, work them into your site. You will do this a number of ways:
- Domain name (if the opportunity makes long-term business sense)
- Your title (specific to every page)
- Meta tags (description, keywords, et cetera, built into each page’s code)
- Copy (your content about your, your services, ideas, etc.)
- Your links (use descriptive links instead of "read more" or "click here"), and
- Your image "alt" tags (which tell the search engines what the picture is)
While these are some important staples, there are still more items to consider. More about those later.
Myth #3: Pick the top words for your keywords and stick with them, regardless of whether you ever see those keywords generate any traffic for you.
Answer: Continually refine your keywords. You must know what your customers are searching on. It doesn't matter if you sell the best widget in the world. If your customers call your widget a thingamabob, they will never find you. Worse, they will find your competition who may make a very fine widget as well, but they refer to their widget as a thingamabob, which brings them up in the search engines in front of your prospective clients. To see what people are searching on, use keyword research tools such as the Google AdWords keyword tool (https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal.) Create lists of the most relevant keywords and key phrases for your website and choose different ones to embed on each page (in the meta data and content.) The more specific you are, the more qualified your visitors will be to buy from you.
Myth #4: We can save all this keyword optimization mumbo-jumbo until the end of our web project and just add our keywords in later.
Answer: Construct (or reconstruct) your site with your keywords in mind. Once you know what your clients are looking for, now you can ensure your site offers it in the way they would like to see it presented. For instance, if we go back to our earlier widget example, you might consider that people may be looking for a particular brand of widget, type of widget, size of widget or widget genre. The more you know about how they're searching, the better you'll be able to set up your site to show them what they're looking for. When applied properly, your keywords will affect what you name your images, files and folders all across your website, so settle on them as much as possible prior to breaking ground on that big website overhaul.
Myth #5: I made my site in Adobe Flash. It’s really killer. Whoever lands there will be really impressed.
Answer: Maybe, but they have to find you first. Back to optimizing your site for the search engines. There are certain things most search engines choke on:
- Image maps
- Dynamic URL's
Search engines also can't read graphics, so without descriptive alt tags and file names, the graphics may as well be ignored.
When search engines get caught on these things, years ago they would simply stop indexing your site and not dig any deeper. Obviously, this didn't win you any visitors. Search engines are smarter these days and most can sniff past troublesome areas. You can certainly use these technologies on your site, however you also need to ensure a search engine can find what it's looking for. Using text links, linking images to web pages (and using appropriate alt tags), including ror.xml and robots.txt files in your website's home directory, and using sitemaps will help search engines make sense of your website.
Myth #6: See? I have the same keywords at the top of all my pages. This should work, right?
Answer: Only if you’re in a very small niche or your local competition is just as lazy as you are. Make every page title unique. It's terribly easy to use the same title for every page as you're constructing a website. Take the extra time, however, to vary the title, meta description and meta keywords for each page. Ensuring each title is different and uses the keywords used within that page will take you further than relying upon the same title, description and keywords for every page on your website. The search engines rely heavily on page titles, so use them wisely. The title will be what the search engine presents as a link to your site (providing your site appears in the results at all.)
Myth #7: Okay! I’ve optimized my site! I’m done! Right?
Answer: Not quite. Search engine optimization and marketing is a journey; not a destination. Even if you make it to the top of the first page in the search results, you’ll have to contend with other sites jockeying for the same position. Fostering backlinks to your website is a very important strategy for achieving search term dominance and maintaining it. How do you do this? There are a number of ways.
First, ensure people want to link to your site. If you've worked to make your site helpful, informative or just plain cool, you may earn the links from other websites that will increase your standing with the search engines.
What if your site is lame? Well.. it's likely your search engine ranking will be as well. Don't be afraid to approach other webmasters with an offer of "link reciprocity". If your websites compliment each other, a reciprocal link campaign may be just what the doctor ordered to help drive traffic and rankings. Just be sure to link to only the best and the brightest; your links are a reflection upon you and your site to your visitors and the search engines. Other ways to grow backlinks may include social bookmarking, article marketing, news release sites, and posting your link when commenting on blog sites. All these methods need to be handled responsibly and maturely, otherwise you risk rebuke by the Internet community. Strive to provide value in whatever you post and you go a long way toward keeping your reputation in good standing.