Imagine you’re a librarian, but instead of books in a library, you need to have knowledge of books all over the world so that when your patrons ask for it, you can give them the information they need. This system requires a lot of information; knowledge not just of the information stored in every book, but also how the books are related to one another. This is not an easy job.
Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing are the virtual librarians of the internet. Search engines have an algorithm that churns all that informational noise into useful search results for users like you, and your consumers. A high ranking in your search engine results page [SERPs] means a high visibility. So what’s SEO, and why is it important? “If I cannot find it on the first page of the search result, it does not exist”. We have heard this line more than once. You do not want your website to be lost in the sea of white noise among your peers.
When you own a [business] website, search result matters. The key to high rankings in SERPs is to make sure your website has the right combination of qualities; this is called search engine optimization [SEO]. You can think of it in this way; choosing a great store location in a mall is a crucial for the success of most retail businesses. That is, being easy to find consumers, and staying in the sight of your consumers is critical. It is really no different on the World Wide Web. This article is aimed at small start-up companies that have their main content well below, say, 50 pages, and for those who hope to rank only for a small handful of related terms. The goal here is to provide you with the basics of SEO, and then to provide pointers for some more information.
First Do a Domain Background Check
One tip right at the beginning is to perform a background check on your chosen domain name. If it was previously owned by a spammer domain, then your new website is not going to rank very well. Submit a request through Webmaster Tools to look at the keywords listed for your site and see if there are any unwanted words there.
Decide on Your Domain Name
Your domain name preference matters. For example, do you want a ‘www.mybusinessblog.com’ or do you want to exclude the ‘www’ so that your domain name is ‘mybusinessblog.com’? Many large corporations such as Facebook and Google actually keep the former version which uses a 301 direct. The 301 is a safer choice over the 302 is because a 301 is a permanent redirect and it signals to applications like search engines to actually transfer all those indexing properties from the source to the target. A 302 redirect means that the move is temporary. Search engines need to figure out whether to keep the old page, or replace it with the one found at the new location. If the wrong type of redirect has been set up, search engines may become confused, resulting in a loss of traffic. Fortunately, Google recognizes that many people use 302 when they really mean 301, and they are not bound by any law to take people literally.
Verify ownership in Webmaster Tools
This is not really compulsory, but it’s a useful add-on. Verifying ownership in Webmaster Tools will enable email forwarding. Email forwarding means that you will receive email notifications whenever Google has messages for you. Like when Google thinks you may have been hacked, or when they think your site is hosting malware, or Googlebots are having difficulties web crawling your site for indexing, or when they find a large number of unreachable URLs. So any of those messages will get forwarded to Webmaster Tools, and if you have indeed enabled email forwarding, the messages will be forwarded directly to the inbox that you check every day.
Make a Smart Decision on Your Choice of Words
When it comes to your actual internet ad copy, or the information you have on each page, it is great to include relevant keywords that are natural in your text. For example, companies might refer to themselves as a company that sells athletic footwear, but that is not what people use when they search for ‘athletic footwear’. It is more likely that the natural thing that comes to mind is the phrase ‘running shoes’ or just ‘sport shoes’. These are the keywords that people will actually search for. Of course this means that some knowledge of your target consumers is required. What language is predominant, what are their interests and background, and so on. One way is to use Adword Keyword Tool. Every Page that you have should include a:
- Unique topic
- Unique title
- Unique meta description for the snippet in the search result
- Descriptive anchor text for every link on your website.
A unique topic of course helps you in terms of search content saturation, and so does having a unique title. The title is important as it is usually summary of your ad copy and is displayed in search results. The goal of the snippet and the title is to best represent each result and explain how it relates to your potential consumer’s query. This is again not a compulsory, but it is good practice to have descriptive anchor text for every link, whether you are linking internally or externally to another site. For example, instead of a link that says ‘For more information on delivery policy, click here’, a better way is to say ‘For more information, please read our delivery policies’.
Potential Pitfalls in Your SEO
Do not hire rogue or shady SEO companies that ‘guarantees’ rankings. In information economics, there is the saying that if something is too good to be true, then it usually is. Another potential pitfall to avoid is in the participation of link schemes or buying of links to improve your page ranking. Google has algorithms that take these into account, and put more weightage in the SERPs ranking on credible links. As far as crawling and indexing is concerned, a fancy website may look great, but it should not be so fancy that text are ‘unindexable’. Page load time is also another thing you may want to consider, even if you are just starting your business. It is useful to know that Akamai Technologies has done a study that finds that 2 seconds is the consumer ‘acceptability’ threshold for e-commerce sites. In general, the longer your page takes to load, the more likely users can click away.
The E-business industry has been growing and maturing for some time now. Growth however can be unpredictable, and this implies that you as an online business, whether a B2C or a B2B business, needs to stay flexible and agile. This is especially so when critical success factors are often hidden in obscurity on the web. As an internet marketing strategy, SEO allows you to consider how search engines work, what people search for, and the actual keywords and search terms entered into search engines so as to give your website as high an online visibility as possible. It’s a process that allows you to stay competitive, while remaining agile to the online market changes. Social media marketing can be another avenue of users coming through, rather than just search, and this can really diversify your approach and allows you to get visitors from multiple sources. Check out the link on Building a Facebook Fan base [link].