What is SEO and why is it important?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is a set of procedures carried out during the web design process that help produce a high page ranking for your website on search engine results pages (SERPs). SEO is essential if you want to increase traffic to your website. Why? Because the majority of internet users (around 90%) use search engines, most visitors (87%) come from the first page of a search, and after the third page a good number of your potential visitors have lost interest.
What is involved in search engine optimization?
The main techniques used in search engine optimization include making sure each web page has appropriate title tags and meta tags, and that the keywords or key phrases for the page are distributed throughout the content. Search engines index web pages using spidering software that reads these tags as well as your content, looking for your key phrases and keywords.
It's important to design a website using clean (web standard) code, to include a good amount of editorial content (400-600 words per page) and to provide links between pages enabling seach engine spiders to crawl through your entire website and index (or catalogue) each page.
It is also essential to use different key phrases and keywords for each page and to repeat these key phrases and keywords several times on the page both in the tags and in the content. However, don't over do it so that your content does not make sense. This may drive your visitors away and you don't want that!
SEO, and ultimately, page ranking, is also improved if you update your content on a regular basis and re-index your site with all the major search engines. This does not mean you need to rewrite every page, but adding a new page, article, products or event listings on a regular basis, with links to and from other pages, will indicate to the search engine spiders that your site is not dormant. Also, if your visitors know you update your content with new articles or events they are more likely to return and this, too, helps search engine optimization.
How do the search engines know to index my site?
They don't. Once a website is published you or your website designer should index your website by submitting your URL to all the major search engines so the spiders "know" to catalogue it. The spiders will periodically crawl your site looking for new or updated content. If your content has not been updated for a long time, the spiders will assume your site is dormant and will eventually stop indexing it and it will slip further down the SERP (search engine results page) list.
If you don't update your website often, it's a good idea to resubmit your URL so that the spiders can re-index your site. This will help bring it back closer to the top of the SERP.
How do I know what key phrases and keywords to use?
Depending on your budget and/or your time available, you have three main options:
- Hire a search engine optimization specialist
A search engine optimization specialist will do all the research and write the content for you. However, it is the most expensive option and you must trust and rely on the expertise of the specialist.
- Do your own research and write your own content
If you are on a tight budget, which is usually the case for start-ups and sole proprietorships, you will probably choose this option. It will obviously require a lot of time and commitment on your behalf. But, in the long run, it will be well worth the extra effort if you are unable to afford the services of an optimization specialist. Need help with your writing?
- Do your own research and hire a good web content writer
The third option is probably the best solution for those on a tight budget but who feel their writing skills are not up to par. A good content writer will not only ensure your content includes all your key phrases and keywords, they will write dynamic headlines that gain the reader's attention as well as content that makes sense and flows smoothly to keep them reading. They may even make suggestions for key phrases that you have not considered.
Note: The price for search engine optimization specialists varies considerably and higher fees do not always equate with better service. If you do decide to hire a SEO specialist you might want to read the following two articles from ecommerce-guide.com. They are from 2005 but you may still find them very useful.