While researching an interactive marketing industry forum recently I cam across a question about the best way to improve search engine rankings and wanted to share a few insights on SEO since it’s a common question for small businesses and outdated information abounds.
First, there is no silver bullet with improving search engine rankings and traffic. Search engine optimization is an elegant mix of technical/creative and art/science. What’s important, is to start with the basics.
Despite all the changes that have happened in the search engine world over the past year from the introduction of Universal and personalized search to social search and dynamic keyword suggestions, the core of SEO is based on the fact that keywords and links make the search engine world go ’round.
However, before you go there, the most common issue web sites have with search engine visibility concerns technical issues. Search engines send out programs called “bots” or “spiders” to find web pages that they can copy and build into an index. That index is where search results come from when you look for something on Google, Yahoo, Live, etc. If the spider cannot find your web pages due to technical issues, then they don’t have a chance to be included.
Google has an excellent resource for Webmasters on this topic:
Once you solve spidering/crawling issues keyword research and analysis is the next big step. Think about what are your customers looking for and compare that to the content, links and organization of your web site. Make changes to make it easier for both customers and search engines to understand and find the content of interest to them.
Add important keywords to the titles of each individual web page. Important keywords first, but not too many. The Title and meta description of each web page will display in the search results, so they need to both include important and meaningful keywords as well as convey a sense of urgency or call to action for the searcher to click and learn more.
Use keywords where it makes sense in the on-page title, categories, links between pages and in the body copy. Focus is important. Trying to get one web page to rank for 10 different phrases makes little sense in most cases. Focus on a small number of key concepts that make the most sense for a site visitor.
Don’t limit content being optimized to text either. Search engines index all types of media and file types, so consider if it’s practical to include images, video, audio in addition to publishing a blog and RSS feed.
Marketing a web site and the content within is just as important as adding proper categorization and keywords. Attracting other relevant web sites to link to your site will send visitors as well as provide search engines a way to find your content. Links also help search engines decide how to sort search results. The pages with a quantity of quality links to them from other related web pages will tend to rank higher.