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10 Steps to SEO Success

As evidenced by the phenomenal success of Google, search has evolved from an interesting sideline into a primary function for many, if not most, Internet users. Consequently, more and more companies are putting content up on their Web sites to attract the attention of search engines.

“You can have really great information on a site, but if a potential customer can’t find you, what good is it?” asked George Aspland, president of eVision.

Chances are that most times a person won’t find the company. If a user types in a simple query today, tens of thousands, millions and even billions of results come pouring back in an instant. In most cases, a user will sift though a couple of pages — basically a few dozen links — and either re-enter the query or give up the search in disgust.

The First Few Pages

Consequently, companies are trying to make sure that their sites show up on those first few pages. In response, a booming cottage industry creating search engine optimization (SEO) specialists has emerged. What follows are five tips from such experts that a company can use to increase the likelihood that its name will pop up quickly.

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  1. Keep tabs on search engine rules. The search engine vendors would like to make it easier for themselves to collect information. Consequently, they have devised Web page design guidelines that help their software index new Web pages.

    “The search companies expect to see basic items, such as a site map, so their Web crawling software — as well as your customers — can find information on different pages,” George Chaney, president of SEO King, told TechNewsWorld.

    Repetition is another item that these vendors value. “Keywords belong in page titles, image names, headlines, body content and links,” Todd Follansbee, vice president at Web Marketing Resources, told TechNewsWorld. In certain cases, following this guideline may diminish the graphical appeal of a page or not follow business writing rules, but that is a price a company has to pay to be displayed on those first few search pages.

  2. Pay special attention to the title of a page. Search engines list a company’s title at the top of search results, so it is not surprising that they examine titles carefully. An obvious item — but one sometimes overlooked — is that companies need to put titles on all pages, not just main entry points on their Web site. Also corporations need to be direct, rather than clever, when crafting their titles because the Web crawling software does not have a sense of humor.

    Brevity is an important consideration in regards to the title — the search engines want companies to limit text to less than 80 characters, which translates to one short sentence. All caps should be avoided because it detracts rather than enhances reading comprehension.

  3. Label graphical content. Increasingly, companies are putting more graphical and video elements on their Web sites. “Currently, most search engines are not able to understand and rank thumbnail pictures and video content,” Andrew Frank, a research vice president at Gartner, told TechNewsWorld.

    Since they cannot understand the information, they simply pass on indexing it — although their algorithms are getting better at working with such information. If a company has a number of these items, there are alternative tags that can be used to describe them. When a company uses one of these tags, it should include keywords in the text and clearly label the item. Generic descriptions, such as pix1, and abbreviations should also be avoided because search engines do not value them highly.

  4. Support link exchanges. Search companies have taken on the communal characteristics found in the Internet. If a number of other sites link to a company’s Web page, then the engines give it more credence. “Companies should include link bait, phrases or pages on Web site that others can use to link to it,” eVision’s Aspland told TechNewsWorld. Also, a company can search for sites similar to its own, contact the creators and build a new community. Another option is to join a webring, a string of linked sites dedicated to a certain topic. There are plenty of them on the Web, and more arising daily.
  5. Be prepared to tweak Web content consistently. Search companies, such as Google, determine which items to display by relying on ranking algorithms, formulas they have developed that decide which Web pages best match each user’s query. With the dynamic nature of the content and the vendors’ desire to deliver the best page out of millions and billions of possibilities, these algorithms are constantly being scrutinized.

    Daily, vendors’ engineers work busily to make them more precise. After undergoing a test phase, changes are put into production. No one knows when this occurs — observers expect it at least once every three months — because companies like Google never announce them. The only time it becomes clear is when a company’s page rankings change dramatically. Consequently, firms need to track their rankings and make changes when they are needed.

There was a time when companies could simply boot up a Web site and their content would immediately begin showing up in various search engines. For better or worse, those days are long gone. To have content displayed, corporations need to understand what the search engines are looking for and then provide it to them. If one company does not want to do that, a competitor certainly will.

10 Great SEO Tips, Part 2

This story was originally published on Sept. 8, 2007, and is brought to you today as part of our Best of ECT News series.

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