This is a repost of an article I wrote for the company newsletter. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you should. We send out new information all the time. The mini-article is a very brief overview of some basic steps in search engine optimization and was written as an introduction to search engine optimization.

Finding Success in Search

Search represents a new and effective method of marketing to your customers. With search, you don’t hunt for customers – they hunt for you. If someone needs water purification services in Los Angeles, they load up Google and type in “Water purification in Los Angeles”. Instantly, that person will be presented with a list of web sites, all relevant to that person’s original search. The amazing part of this situation is that the businesses never went out to find the customer, instead the customer found them. Additionally, this customer is not just any regular customer. This customer is already interested in your product and your service.

Search engine marketing is one of the most effective means of attracting interested customers to your product and service. If you have a web site and you aren’t actively engaging in search engine marketing, you are neglecting a huge share of online traffic.

Gather Information

Before you embark on a search engine marketing campaign for your website, you’ll need some information about your visitors and your product. Gather as much information and any statistics you can. Are your visitors looking for product A or product B? What terms are they using to visit your site? (Check your referrer logs or Web Analytics Programs) What products do you offer? How would you search for your product online? How would your visitors? Is your name a well known brand? Are any of your products?

Can your web site already be found in the search engines? Load up Google on your computer and search for your web site. What comes up when you search for your company’s name? What comes up when you search for one of your products? One of the biggest problems with search engine marketing is getting your web site indexed. A web site is considered “indexed” when its pages can be found by search engines.

All these pieces of information will be useful when you start your search engine marketing campaign.

Plan the Campaign

In this step you will be determining the plan for your search engine marketing campaign. You’ll need to decide whether your campaign utilizes search engine optimization, pay-per-click marketing, or a combination of both. Define short and long terms goals for the campaign. Ask yourself what you want out of the campaign. Is the campaign to increase brand recognition or increase sales?

You’ll also need to investigate whether or not you should hire an outside search engine marketing firm or do the job in house. Be realistic, if you don’t feel confident in your ability, you should hire an outside company to handle your search engine marketing campaign.

Build a Keyword List

After you finish gathering information, it’s time to build a keyword list. Keywords are the words people use to find a web site. For example, if you are searching for a web site about Dell laptops – you may search for “dell”, “laptops” or “dell laptops”. All three of these search terms are keywords related to a web site about Dell laptops.

Your goal in this step is to take the information you previously gathered and brainstorm as many keywords as you can that relate to your web site. Avoid overly general keywords. If your web site deals with Water Conditioning and you serve the Los Angeles area, a great keyword may be “Los Angeles Water Conditioning”. A keyword like “water” is not a good keyword – people searching for “water” could be looking for a web site about bottled water or the chemical composition of water. Targeting a generic keyword may attract many visitors, but most of these visitors will not be searching for your specific product or service. Typically one word terms are too generic and you would be much better off building a list without them.

During this step you will also want to check Overture’s Keyword Suggestion Tool and Wordtracker. Both these services will give you a better idea on what keywords people are using to search for web sites.

Assign Keywords

Now take your keyword list and assign keywords to pages on your web site. Aim for two to three highly relevant keywords per page. If no page exists, you may want to develop new ones to target these keywords.

Don’t make the mistake of assigning keywords to an irrelevant page. Visitors arriving from a search engine expect to be taken to a page with pertinent information. If the keywords do not relate to your pages, visitors will leave your web site and never return.

Page Optimization

Once you’ve assigned specific keywords to each page, it’s time to optimize your web pages. In this step you will change your web code to make it more friendly and relevant for search engines. Make sure all your code is not broken and clean. Edit your titles and page content in order to emphasize keywords. Whenever possible, fix your web page navigation to ensure that search engines can easily crawl your entire web site.

Organize your content so both humans and search engines can determine what is most important. On first glance, it should be obvious what keywords are most important on the page. For instance, if you are targeting “New York Drinking Water” – you want to craft your content around these keywords. Your web page body should contain content describing New York Drinking Water, with a header and title containing keywords.

Emphasizing keywords should look natural and unforced. Remember that ultimately you are selling to humans, not search engines.

When building your web page navigation, aim for descriptive links over generic links. For example, instead of using a link called “Resources”, use a link called “Water Purification Resources”. Your goal is to help the search engines determine what your web site is about. Add descriptive text whenever possible to encourage the search engines to rank your web site higher for your topics.

Link Building

Link building is essential to achieving a high ranking on search engines. In addition to creating unique content, you should also actively seek links from other web sites. Unique content will encourage other webmaster to link to your web site. But most times, waiting around for free links is not enough. You will need to participate in your own link building campaign.

While building links, try and gain links from web sites covering the same topics as your web site does. Contact webmasters to see if they would be open to trading links. Encourage previous clients to link back to your web site.

Update Your Site

Search engines love updated content. So spend the time to update your site regularly. Add some company news or spotlight a new product. An updated web site represents an active company to both your customers and search engines.

Keeping Current

Search engines are constantly changing their algorithms so you will need to keep updated with these changes as they occur. After an algorithm change, expect to spend time testing and researching the changes. Take the time to fully analyze the update before making any changes to your web site.

Successful Search Engine Marketing

A successful search engine marketing campaign is hard work. You’ll need to manage many small details from keyword analysis to link building. So whether you decide to manage your campaign yourself or hire a search engine marketing campaign, realize that a search engine marketing campaign will need a great deal of expertise and effort to be successful. Following the tips above will give you a great start towards ranking well in the search engines.

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