What is Search Engine Optimization?
Commonly known as SEO for short, it is the process of increasing the amount of visitors to a Web site by ranking high in the search results of a search engine. The higher a Website ranks in the results of a search, the greater the chance that that site will be visited by a user. It is common practice for Internet users to not click through pages and pages of search results, so where a site ranks in a search is essential for directing more traffic toward the site. SEO helps to ensure that a site is accessible to a search engine and improves the chances that the site will be found by the search engine. Since most traffic for most sites are generated through referrals from search engines, it is vital to use SEO when creating a Website.
- Each page in your site should target just a few keywords to maximize the chance your site will appear in a search result.
- Ensure your pages have some text. Graphics, Flash, and Java look great, but the search engines can't read them. If you want to put these features in place then ensure the text is repeated elsewhere for those people with scripts turned off, and the search engines can use that text.
Invisible text is text that is not rendered by your browser. It is embedded, but does not show up on the screen. Invisible text includes such things as title, meta tags and Java. When writing this invisible text, remember:
- Title - Make this your one-line advertisement for your site. Leave out your company name and just tell the consumer what product or service you are offering and why they should visit your site.
- Meta Tags - Originally designed to help search engines catalog pages, they're largely ignored now. However since some engines still use them, they're worth taking time to set up. Spend some time researching the search terms you would like to show up for your site and ensure your meta tags reinforce this.
- Don't use keyword stuffed comment tags, these are beginning to be seen as spam.
Visible text is rendered by your browser and is visible on the screen. When writing the visible text, remember to:
- Make sure the text of your document supports your keywords. But be careful you don't spam the search engines or they will drop your site.
- Add more pages, the more pages the better. Each page can target a different search term, but more importantly each page will be different and therefore search engines will index them differently. More pages the more chance of one of your pages being relevant to a search phrase.
Make sure you use a reliable hosting service. If your site is down at the time the search engine spiders come crawling you could be dropped from the search engine.
Inbound links to your site will raise its importance to the search engines. Search engines believe that if other people link to your site then it must be worthwhile. If you have no inbound links some search engines won't even list your site. The more inbound links to your site the higher your site will rank but be careful of link farms - sites designed just to link and no other reason - search engines don't like them and have started banning sites using these farms. Changes to the Google algorithm have downplayed the importance of inbound links, but inbound links are still necessary for other search engines, and to ensure your site is found by the myriad spiders crawling the web today. In addition to reciprocated inbound links, non-reciprocated links to pages on your site other than the home page have raised in importance. Now it is important to get your site listed in all the vertical search engines and directories that are related to your product or service. These one way links are votes of confidence in your site, and because they're not reciprocated the search engines know you haven't 'bought' them.
You can ensure your site is visible to consumers by:
- Making sure you use the Free Search Engines. You can still submit to some of the best engines, such as Google, for free.
- Making sure you use the Pay for Inclusion search engines. They're cheaper than pay-per-click and give a good ROI (return on investment).
The following chart gives you the essential submission or registration links to the major search engines and directories.
||Results from Ask Jeeves editorially selected answers, Teoma and Overture.
Paid inclusion Ask Jeeves and Teoma
Pay per click (Overture)
||Pay per click SE. Feeds results to metasearch engines
||Pay per click
||Promote your Web page
||Google search engine. Adapted ODP directory. Provides search engine results and AdWords text ads to AOL and others.
Add URL for free (home page only is sufficient)
AdWords pay per click text ads
Google Support Forum
||Pay per click SE. Feeds results to Netscape, Ask Jeeves, Dogpile, Lycos, HotBot, AltaVista, Yahoo! and more
||Pay per click
||List your site now
||Search engine results from Yahoo Search (Inktomi). Paid results from Overture
Submissions to search engine (Inktomi)
Pay per click (Overture)
|Search engine optimization tips
||The Yahoo! search engine delivers regular search results at Yahoo! Yahoo! has also its own directory (see below). Pay per click ads from Overture. Delivers search results to AltaVista, AlltheWeb, Lycos, MSN and others.
Free URL submission
Overture pay per click
How do I improve my rankings?
||The Yahoo directory still exists. Commercial sites must pay to be included. Note that the Yahoo site fetches defaults search engine results from the Yahoo! search engine (see above), not the directory. Pay-per-click listings from Overture.
How to suggest your site
Pay per click (Overture)
How to suggest your site
How to Guide
Business Express Help
||LookSmart directory. Powers directories at AltaVista, iWon and more
Looklistings small business (pay per click)
LookListings (for larger companies
Free submission for non-commercial sites to Zeal
LookSmart Site-Submission FAQ
||Netscape, AOL, Google, Lycos US and more.
||How to submit (free)
||How to submit
Depending on your budget and your audience, the final two marketing options may be in a different order:
- Pay-per-click can be useful to test new search terms to see your conversion rate. Pay-per-click can be expensive, so you need to use your money wisely and only go this route if you feel it would prove cash positive. You can determine this quickly by subtracting the total cost of clicks from the total profit from sales.
- E-zine advertising is one of the unsung wonders of Internet commerce. It’s extremely cheap and extremely targeted. There are e-zines out there for all manner of consumer interests. Find the one that matches your market, and sit back and wait for the traffic. Remember to set up a special page to record the clicks you're getting to ensure you are spending your money wisely.
You can also use our free Search Engine Submission tool to submit your pages to a variety of search engines.
Free Search Engines
The biggest search engines on the Internet are still free. But for your site to appear high up on the search list, you need to know how to arrange it so that it is indexed correctly. You need to:
- Choose the search terms that will lead customers to your site
- Modify your site to improve the relevancy for these search terms.
- Add features to ensure the search engines can read your site and index other pages within your site.
- Operate within the strict guidelines search engines have for setting up your Web site.
Pay for Inclusion Search Engines
Some search engines require you to pay for inclusion. Others will include you but will take a long time to index you if you don't pay. Currently, the top pay-for-inclusion services are FAST and Inktomi. Inktomi is sure to rise in importance now that Yahoo has acquired them and stated they will change their famous Web site to use results from Inktomi. Even though these are pay-for-inclusion search engines, you still need to take the same steps to optimize your web site as you would for free search engines. After all, if the pay-for-inclusion search engines can't understand your site or choose the wrong search terms, you end up paying – but with no results.
Offline and Non-SEO Marketing
Search engine optimization should not be your only method of promoting your site. Algorithms change, your search position rises and falls at the whim of an engineer at Google, Inkomi, Teoma, etc. The change to the Google algorithm in November 2003 caused many sites to lose ranking just before the critical Christmas buying period. Don't put your eggs in one basket, you need to make sure that you are not relying exclusively on free traffic to drive your business. There are newsletters, magazines, periodicals, trade shows, and countless other ways to promote your site offline. Get a name for your site and your product and people will seek you out regardless of where you come in the results.
Usability - Make Buying Easy
Sounds obvious, but how often have you found a product or service you like but could not work out how to buy, or had questions that stopped you buying from that particular vendor. What seems clear to you as the site owner may not be for your visitor. Confused customers can be some of your best sources of information - you need to find out why they're confused and fix the problem, better that than leaving the problem in place to confuse other visitors.
Search Engine Optimizers
SEO is also the abbreviation for "search engine optimizer." Many SEOs provide useful services for Website owners, from writing copy to giving advice on site architecture and helping to find relevant directories to which a site can be submitted. However, there are a few unethical SEOs who have given the industry a black eye through their overly aggressive marketing efforts and their attempts to unfairly manipulate search engine results. This free SEO guide from Google offers some tips that may help you distinguish between an SEO that will improve your site and one that will only improve your chances of being dropped from search engine results altogether!
There is an excellent article hosted on WebMonkey giving a lot more free advice.