Thursday, April 20, 2006

Are you in the Driver's Seat - Part 1

Search Engine Optimization was not something I thought about much before 5 years ago—in fact not many people even knew what SEO was. But today, Search Engine Optimization is a hot topic in businesses around the world, and a critical element for online success.

The World Wide Web is now a multi-layered, multi-use, and multi-media environment used by an estimated 450 million users around the world. Many new and exciting technologies can spice up a website, from sound and graphics to flash animation, but these enhancements and the other subtle nuances of how a site functions can have a serious effect on the bottom line. Search Engines’ spiders only index the text of a website. All the bells and whistles used by many web designers to increase the “wow factor” of a site can negatively affect their Search Engine rankings. And without good rankings, many businesses cannot succeed, no matter how pretty their website is!

When looking at Search Engine Optimization for your own site, it is important to consider the value of all of the design and development factors and how to marry them into a Search Engine friendly site, even before you go about the process of tuning your site. If you were going to build the “ideal” high-ranking website it would contain nothing but text. But for human beings searching the Web, this kind of site would drive us to distraction, bore us, and cause us to click away faster than you can say “SEO”. As a site owner, it is your job to educate yourself on how the Search Engines handle the elements of your site, and how to modify your site to get the most out of your website investment.

Since there are many factors in every website: the content, the links into and within the site, the domain name, the headings and much, much more, every Search Engine uses a unique formula, called an algorithm to determine a site’s ranking. Search Engines’ algorithm weighs the different factors, and by constantly refining and improving their algorithms, the Search Engines work towards giving their visitors the most relevant results—and making my job more difficult!

For most sites, in order to achieve a top 10 – or “first page” position on the major Search Engines, Search Engine optimization experts like myself are hired and these experts must invest a lot of time learning about the different algorithms, and studying up on the frequent changes to the engines’ formulas. So, how can you put together and optimize a site that will be found in the top ranking positions and drive prospects and customers to your virtual door—and keep them there?

The answer is amazingly easy. The basics of SEO are just that—basic. There are many things that you can do to increase your ranking, without needing to be an SEO guru. But it does take a little planning, a bit of knowledge and a lot of patience to optimize your site. Initial Search Engine Optimization can be done by nearly anyone willing to take the time to learn about their site, the Web and the engines. Honestly, the hardest part is just doing it.

Today, there are thousands of companies with websites, and you can be sure that many if not all of your competitors are online. However, with some work, it is still possible to optimize your site, become an e-force in your industry, and capture the online market. Being a successful internet presence involves much more than designing a beautiful website or even having the “perfect” product. Since the majority of Web traffic comes from the Search Engines, it is imperative to have a strong Search Engine optimization strategy, and the ability to carry it out. Unless your site is ranked high enough to be found—within the first or second page—none of the traffic will come to you, and instead it will go to your competition.

And no one wants that!

There are 5 basics in the SEO process:
1. Keyphrases
2. Code
3. Content
4. Links
5. Measurement

These basics may change over time, and their importance varies from Engine to Engine, but the principles stay the same. A well-optimized site will contain these elements, and in most cases, proper attention to just these factors will give you the edge you need to succeed.

I am going to walk through these steps and ways for anyone to do the initial tuning on their site. These key basics are just some of what an optimization professional would do; however, they are currently the most valuable elements, and the easiest for the average person to implement in their own site.

To read this entire paper click here

(c) 2006 Meghan Wier "Are You in the Driver's Seat?"


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