By Jill Whalen
There are many misconceptions about search engine optimization (SEO) that make it difficult to know exactly how to optimize your Web site correctly.
Short for search engine optimization, SEO is the process of increasing the amount of visitors to a Web site by ranking high in the search results of a search engine. The higher a Web site ranks in the results of a search, the greater the chance that that site will be visited by a user.
It is common practice for Internet users to not click through pages and pages of search results, so where a site ranks in a search is essential for directing more traffic toward the site. SEO helps to ensure that a site is accessible to a search engine and improves the chances that the site will be found by the search engine.
5 SEO Tips
There are many misconceptions about search engine optimization (SEO) that have sprung up over the years, says Jill Whalen, CEO and founder of High Rankings, that make it difficult for those in charge of online traffic to know exactly how to optimize their Web sites correctly. Here Whalen shares five on-page tactics that professional SEO companies use to drive the most targeted search engine traffic possible to their clients’ Web sites.
1. Do your keyword research
Keyword research is the cornerstone of everything you do in search marketing. Optimizing for keyword phrases that nobody is searching for is truly a waste of time. With today’s numerous keyword research tools at our disposal, there’s no excuse for optimizing for the wrong keywords. Try Google’s free Keyword Tool for starters; if you have multiple Web sites or product types, paid subscription tools such as KeywordDiscovery and/or Wordtracker are well worth the price.
2. Redo your Web site architecture
You’ll want to ensure that the most popular areas of your site (ideally the pages you optimize) are featured in the main navigation that’s on every page of the site. The search engines rightly assume that the most important stuff on your site is in your main navigation, and therefore give extra weighting to those pages in their ranking formulas.
Think of it this way — the pages contained in your main navigation are linked to from every single page of your site. That’s a powerful way of building up the internal link popularity of those pages, which is a key ingredient to SEO success. Use this to your advantage by optimizing them for the most highly searched upon, competitive phrases, and save your deeper pages for the more “long-tail” type phrases.
3. Choose which keyword phrases belong on which page
Armed with your researched keyword phrase lists, go through the key pages of your site and choose three to six phrases that apply to each page. Many people believe they should optimize each page for only one keyword phrase, but nothing reads as poorly as a page that has only one keyword phrase as its focus.
Ideally, you’ll want to use different sets of keywords for each page, but some overlap is fine. Avoid targeting any one keyword phrase on every page of your site — you gain no advantage in doing so. After all, the search engines will only show two pages at most from your site for any search query, so the idea is to show up for as many different phrases as possible. This works out nicely as no two people search in the same manner. You may use certain words to describe your product, but your prospects may use very different ones.
4. Use keyword-rich title tags, meta descriptions, marketing copy
Using the keyword phrases you chose for each page, write or re-write the visible marketing copy so that it uses those phrases naturally. This may sound easier said than done, but it’s actually quite simple . just think more descriptively when you write.
In other words, instead of using generic phrases such as “our software” or “our company,” edit the copy so that you mention what type of software or company (e.g., marketing management software or project management software company). You can almost always work in keyword phrases in a natural manner when you do this. This is so powerful, in fact, that if you do nothing else after reading this article but go back to your current web site copy and make those changes, you may start gaining targeted traffic for those keyword phrases within a few weeks.
5. Measure success from targeted traffic and conversions
SEOs have traditionally measured success by tracking the rankings in the search engines for various keyword phrases. However, due to numerous factors such as personalized search, geo-targeted search and multiple search engine datacenters, no two searches will show the same results.
In fact, it’s common to do a Google search using a particular phrase in the morning, then perform the same search in the afternoon and see different results. Rankings are simply not a good measure of success. All the #1 rankings in the world won’t mean a thing if a) you’re the only one seeing those rankings b) you’re ranked for keyword phrases nobody is searching on or c) the rankings bring Web site traffic, but not from people interested in what you are selling. The fact of the matter is that rankings do not help your bottom line. Today, SEO success is measured by how much targeted traffic is delivered, and more importantly how much of that traffic converts from visitors to buyers.
Following these five tactics will undoubtedly take some time and hard work. SEO is not a quick-fix endeavor. However, this type of investment in your Web site’s infrastructure will pay high dividends later as your targeted traffic increases, ultimately leading to additional leads and sales. A professional SEO campaign is a long-term proposition that often provides an extremely high return on investment . so be sure you get it right.
DID YOU KNOW… What is keyword stuffing?
Keyword stuffing is an SEO technique used by some Web designers to overload keywords onto a Web page so that search engines will read the page as being relevant in a Web search. Because search engines scan Web pages for the words that are entered into the search criteria by the user, the more times a keyword appears on the Web page the more relevancy the search engine will assign to the page in the search results (this is only one way that search engines determine relevancy, however.) Search engines often penalize a site if the engine discovers keyword stuffing, as this practice is considered poor netiquette, and some search engines will even ban the offending Web pages from their search results.
See more SEO terms in Webopedia’s Search Engine Category.
Jill Whalen, a pioneer of search engine optimization, is founder and CEO of Framingham, Mass.-based High Rankings, and is a member of Search Engine Marketing New England.
This article was originally published on July 30, 2008