Tag Archive: Search Engine Optimization and Marketing

  1. SEO is a Journey, Not a Day-trip

    The early age of the search engine optimization trade (think 1996) was a simple time.  The number of Web sites on the Internet was much smaller (meaning less competition for search results) and the rules of the game were pretty straight-forward:  put up a page, insert a few relevant keywords, submit your site to the engines, and watch your position rocket to the top!  This is perhaps an oversimplification of the process and the expected result, but a fairly accurate description no less.

    Somewhere along the way, however, the game changed.  Some started to manipulate the system unfairly and search results became slanted toward those who were the most manipulative–not necessarily the most relevant.  All the while, the number of Web sites vying for prime positioning skyrocketed–naturally making search even more competitive.

    But perhaps the biggest game-changer was the birth of Google in 1998 and its rise to prominence in the few years that immediately followed.  Among other reasons, Google began to dominate because its search results were more relevant than other search engines.  Why?  Because Google’s system disqualified (not rewarded) would-be manipulators and boosted the search positioning of those sites with the most sites linking to them.  Google started classifying a site’s inbound links as votes of endorsement from others (it can be a revealing exercise to actually skim through Google’s patent awards).  While some still try, theirs is a very difficult system to manipulate.  And while no one knows for sure, there a number of other factors that Google is thought to reward in its search results: how often a Web page is updated, how long a Web page has been on the Internet, and a host of other items.

    Most of the above is common knowledge.  But it sets the stage for sound thinking when it comes to attractive positioning.  Unfortunately, though, getting attractive search engine positioning isn’t as easy as it used to be.  And while most companies want to have a quick and easy solution (an undertaking that begins and ends within a few weeks), the truth in today’s environment is that there is no such thing.  Good search results require some research, a plan, and an ongoing commitment to the cause.

    While there is no cookie-cutter process for all sites to follow, here are a few simple steps that represent a sound methodology for gaining search engine momentum:

    1. Perform sound keyword research to determine what word searches might represent those looking for your company.  It is not wise to rely solely on your “hunches” in this area.
    2. Filter keyword research according to the competitiveness of the terms; it may not be wise to pursue ultra-competitive terms.
    3. Structure content, page names, and tags according to the terms you wish to pursue.
    4. Develop a linking strategy to trade links with other sites that may have overlapping relevance with yours; this can be tedious and time-consuming, but well worth the effort.
    5. Use sites like www.backlinkwatch.com to monitor your progress.
    6. Keep your site’s content fresh.  Consider adding a blog to your site to facilitate this.

    Most importantly, recognize that search engine success is not a one-time event; it’s an ongoing journey that requires much in the way of time and effort.  If you have dabbled with a few activities to try and improve your search ranking, try broadening (and lengthening) your perspective first.  While the road may certainly be long, the benefits are considerable.

  2. Google: Getting to the Top

    Almost every day I entertain the question of how one can snatch a number one listing on Google for a particular keyword or keyphrase. As anyone who has worked with search engines know, this is not at all a simple answer. There are too many variables to consider in terms of industry, stature in the marketplace, target market, and longevity. My typical tact is to try not to give a definitive answer (because, often, one does not exist) but to help clients think about how Google functions and how it might work for them. Similar to the ‘training versus educating’ line of demarcation, the first step toward Google success is learning how to think about it.
    In my conversations with clients, I try and help them think through several concepts related to how Google functions with a Web site and how it assigns rankings. Many of the mechanics of Google are trade secrets (think the Coca-Cola recipe) and unknown by anyone outside of a select few employees. There are several widely accepted principles, though, that guide search engine marketers in how to cozy up to high Google rankings.
    For the sake of simplicity, let’s think of these accepted principles in two categories:
    1. On-site factors: Google takes a look at the content and structure of your Web site to determine how relevant it is to a particular keyword or keyphrase
    2. Off-site factors: Google looks at the greater Internet (factors external to your Web site) and how it relates to your site
    Once you understand this delineation, you’re on the way to understanding higher rankings. Let’s take a look at some of the invididual principles within each of these categories.
    On-site factors
    1. Google cares about your content, how original and genuine it is, how often it is updated, and how many times a particular keyword/keyphrase is used.
    2. Google looks for specific, descriptive tags (called META tags and TITLE tags) and the keywords therein.
    3. The presence of a site map (similar to an outline) within your Web site denotes structure, organization, and a specific hierarchy to Google.
    4. Google evaluates your site to determine how structurally sound (i.e. strong coding) your site is as a measure of its relevance.
    5. Google can’t often interpret images and FLASH content, so the site must contain a balance between readable text and graphics.
    Off-site factors
    1. Google counts the number of sites that link to yours.
    2. Google determines how relevant/important those linking sites are; a link from a heavily-visited site is more valuable than a link from a site with little traffic.
    3. Google looks to see how long your domain has been existence and in its database; as a rule of thumb, domains with longer lives are seen as more legitimate.
    4. Google evaluates the text within incoming links as a way to characterize what words are associated with your site.
    5. Google looks to other closely-related sites like a corporate blog or other affiliated site as a way to determine how relevant your site is.
    This list isn’t meant to represent a be-all / end-all. Anyone who tells you that they have such a list is likely exaggerating (or violating a Google patent protection). It hopefully is, though, a start toward helping you to strategically think about Google and how to find your way to the top!

  3. Keyword Research & Search Engine Marketing

    Many of the marketers and business owners that I speak with are highly interested in being highly ranked in search engines–especially Google. Many have gone to the trouble of performing some surface level research on the basics of search engine success: things like meta tags, title tags, and incorporating keywords and phrases into the site’s text.
    But one of the key issues that is surprising to people involves keyword selection. I have found that those keywords and phrases that you assume will be successful are often not. Using software tools, we often explore the real data reflecting the words/phrases that searchers are using and how often they are being used.
    I’m usually surprised when I look at the search volume of various terms (which I assume to be popular) in contrast to those phrases which are similar in nature. For example, I once saw that ‘personal injury law’ didn’t have close to the level of search volume as ‘auto accident attorney.’ Humans search differently than that of the marketer’s perception. Keyword research is essential to search engine success.
    Brian Clark has a great piece on his blog describing the art of keyword research and why it is important.

  4. Google Image Search

    Most businesses are very interested in being at or near the top of the list when a user searches for an associated or relevant term on Google. Many users often use the ‘Images’ search within Google to look for various images, logos, or photos. Chris Pearson has an interesting post about the trends he is seeing regarding this delineation. Marketers should be aware of the increasing popularity of image search. Designers and developers should take note of the importance of using specific terms within the ALT field of image tags; the more descriptive, the better.