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    Top 10 Tips for Search Engine Optimization

    One of the most cost effective ways to attract new visitors to your Web site is to obtain high rankings at search engines. Google and the other major search engines are the sites where most Web users start their search for information, products, and solutions for problems.

    The challenge is how to optimize a Web site so that search engines will rank your site so people will actually see — and click on — a link to your site.

    This challenge is made more difficult because most people look at only the first 2-3 pages of search engine results pages.

    The process of search engine optimization (SEO) has been made to look like a complex — almost mystical — process. The reality is that a few simple techniques are enough to achieve relatively high search engine rankings. Later, if you decide to hire a search engine optimization expert, they'll be able to focus on the more complex and difficult aspects of SEO.

    Search Engine Relevancy

    The goal of the search engines is to provide links to pages that are relevant to what the searcher is looking for.

    Google accounts for over 60% of all searches, so most Web marketers optimize for that search engine. Other search engines use ranking techniques similar to Google's, so focusing on your rankings at Google will result in other search engines ranking your site high, too.

    Google's approach to providing relevant results is to look at:

    • Content - How closely the text on a page is related to the search phrase.
    • Popularity - the number and quality of links to a page.

    The first step is to plan your keywords. Determine the search words used by customers and users. Use the Wordtracker keyword suggestion tool tool to obtain additional keywords.

    Search Engine Optimization Tips

    With those concepts in mind, here are some search engine optimization tips:

    Page Content - Write informative text that helps visitors learn about your product category and your specific products. Page length should be at least 200 words.

    Keyword Density - Use important keywords about 4% (i. e., 4 times per 100 words).

    TITLE Tag - Use the most valuable keywords in the title Tag. Limit the TITLE tag to about 7-15 words to avoid diluting their weight.

    Yahoo Directory Listing - Buy a listing at Yahoo's directory. This link will generate significant traffic from this popular site, and it will raise your rating at Google.

    Keyword Emphasis - Use traditional HTML tags to add emphasis to keywords. The heading tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) should be used for subheadings between paragraphs. Use the bolding tag (B) to emphasize text in paragraphs. Both types of tags tell search engines what you feel are important concepts.

    Navigation Links - Use traditional HTML links to navigate from the home page down to detailed content pages. Most search engines do not read JavaScript links, so avoid them if possible. If JavaScript is used for popup navigation links, be sure to also use traditional navigation links.

    Internal Links - Include a link to your home page on all pages. These links should be "plain" (e.g., without extra qualifiers. Include appropriate internal links on all pages, which increases the number of links to each page and makes it easier for search engines to find all pages in your site.

    Site Map - Create a "site map" page that links to all sections. And, for smaller sites, the site map should link to every page in the site. Be sure to use traditional link tags - not JavaScript links.

    ALT and TITLE Attribute on Links - When using graphic images for links (instead of text Links) use the ALT attribute to provide a text description of the graphic link. Also, use the companion attribute called TITLE to provide popup "tooltip" text for the reader.

    Inbound Links - Encourage other sites to link to your site's home page or to specific pages. Send e-mail to site editors and bloggers suggesting why they should link to your site.

    Competing with SEO

    There are other factors that will affect your search engine rankings.

    First is your competition. Other Web sites may decide to target the same keywords as you. If they do a better job then your ranking could go down — even as you apply these techniques.

    To know if this is happening be sure to monitor the keyword density and links on your competitors pages as well as their search engine rankings.

    The other big influence on your rankings are the search engines themselves. Google is known for changing their formulas periodically, so be prepared for shifts up and down in the rankings for no apparent reason. Fortunately, there are many bloggers and discussion forums that will talk about these shifts when they occur.

    As you can tell, search engine optimization is a fluid environment. So how does a Web marketer cope with this?

    The key to successful search engine optimization is to write excellent content that other sites will want to link to.

    This will give you the best search engine rankings, which will generate higher traffic to your Web site much more economically than any other Web marketing technique.

    Additional Resources

    Cliff Allen is the co-author of the book One-to-One Web Marketing; 2nd Ed., published by John Wiley & Sons, and has consulted with companies on strategic marketing for 20 years.

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