Making Sense of SEO

by Ryan Burke

Confessions of a Greenhorn Web Analyst

The very idea of search engine optimization (SEO) instantly conjures feelings of both dread and excitement. For many small to mid-level companies, beginning the SEO process is a lot like sailing out into uncharted waters: you’re sure to discover something new for better or worse. The simple fact is that SEO is an absolutely critical component to any successful business with an online presence.

At the end of the day SEO is all about showing value. Is your website important? Is it trustworthy? Does the content have value? These are the questions that a search engine is asking, and that SEO implementation can help you answer with confidence.

Subtle SEO techniques will assist your website rank higher in the organic (unpaid) search results, thus helping people find the product /service you offer with increased efficiency. Proper SEO utilization will increase convertible traffic to your website; however a mismanaged approach can result in disaster.

Do you want to improve your website? Of course.

Can you risk damage to your site and/or reputation? Absolutely not.

In order to improve the visibility of your website within search engines you must first turn the mirror on yourself and the website in question. Here are three important questions to ask yourself:

1) How relevant is your content?

Content is king. Attracting people to your website is one thing, keeping them on your website is a whole different ball game. If information on your website is dated, grammatically incorrect or difficult to understand you’re doomed. Copying text or having duplicate content is also highly frowned upon and provides no value to potential customers.

Search engines like Google keep a close eye on websites to see if they continually make relevant content updates. Simple actions such as maintaining a blog relevant to your business and ensuring product/service description accuracy can go a long way towards getting you noticed in search engines. New content will keep old visitors coming back and will attract new ones.

2) Is your website properly designed to get search engine attention?

Basic optimization guidelines must be met in order to get noticed by search engines. Failure to do so can be very detrimental to how search engines interpret and grade your website.

The title tag of the homepage should list the business name and primary focus areas. It is a good idea to create a unique title for each  page on your site, because page title contents are displayed directly into the search results. Choose a single word or phrase that is most relevant to each page. Wisely choose a URL that will be easy for people to understand. Be sure to avoid lengthy URLs or generic page names. Visitors are likely to better remember the URL when it’s as simple as possible so your directory structure should be simple and easy to navigate. URLs show up in search results, where simplicity benefits you most.

Also be sure to use the “alt” attribute for all content images. This allows you to specify alternative text for the image if it cannot be displayed correctly, and it increases the likelihood of your images appearing in search results. Simply put, search engines can’t read pictures unless there is accurate “alt” attribute applied. Do not, however, use this as a place to stuff keywords.

3) Are you promoting your website correctly?

By properly promoting your site you will increase traffic that can lead to conversions. Simple efforts such as regularly updated blog posts let your visitors know what you’re up to; whether it be adding new products/services or just commentating on the industry you’re in. Implementation of a RSS feed makes it easier for followers to notice when new content is updated.

Obviously social media is very popular, so creating accounts for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (among other sites) is important if you can deliver value through them. Not only does this give you added ways to find potential customers, but you can also reach out to professionals who work in the same field as you. Building a strong professional network can go a long way to securing online success.

Oddly enough, a lot of online success depends on offline promotion methods. Make sure your URL is listed on business cards, letterheads or even mail-based newsletters. If people don’t know your website exists they won’t be contributing to online revenue streams.  Get it noticed!

If you answer these three questions with an honest sense of constructive criticism and act upon strengthening your weaknesses your web traffic will increase. Success won’t happen overnight, but with proper SEO implementation and diligence your website’s potential is limitless. The next step, of course, is for your web analyst to track the results of SEO changes over time, by matching traffic from your targeted keywords to the actual initiatives. After all: if you don’t measure results, how do you know if your efforts are paying off?

Notice how these questions and recommendations are around improving the content of your site rather than tricking search engines? The most important thing to remember is that search engines are looking for good content. That’s their goal. Being the site that search engines want to find always trumps any gimmick of the week.

Ryan Burke

Analyst

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