SEO Strategies – The Truth About Search Engine Optimization

The Importance of Being Online

Did You Know? Right now, over 81% of people first search online before making a purchase vs using yellow pages, newspapers, traditional “offline” methods.

Did You Also Know? – 60% of traffic that comes to the websites is from searches-From people typing in what they are looking for in Google, Yahoo & MSN/Bing. Now, if your website is not on the first page of the search engine results, then unfortunately you are nowhere. So knowing that, I am sure you would like to know how to achieve first page search results…and it begins with proper SEO strategies.

Let’s get started!

First things first!

“A little bit of information is a dangerous thing”

Well the same holds true for too much information when it comes to SEO or Search Engine Optimization. When you are taught how to drive, was it necessary for you to have an understanding of the combustion engine, correct valve timing or be able to rebuild a transmission?

Of course not!

You simply needed the facts of getting your car going safely and smoothly down the road to your destination. Otherwise you will never get out of the driveway or be too overwhelmed and never learn to drive…never achieving your desired results.

Marketing Lesson #1 “You cannot steer a parked car!”

Unfortunately there is a lot of miss information that seems to be right in line with what people are trying to sell you online today. Imagine that?
The three reasons for this are simple:

1. SEO Companies, Gurus and Consultants want you to believe that only their big brains, experience and magic wands can make your site optimized and that little old you has NO chance, so do not bother and pay us lots of money.

2. Pretend Gurus and Consultants learn a few tricks and sell their wares unscrupulously all over the web for cheap leaving you with a crappy e-book and no results.

3. Lastly, there are the true webmasters out there who take On-Page optimization well beyond where it needs to go. (in my humble & profitable opinion) If you don’t believe me, go ahead and buy one of those 200 page e-books that expect you to have degree from M.I.T. and a full working knowledge of website coding. I would rather eat glass…I know this because I have read not one of these, but dozens before seeing the light.

In other words, they tend to try and paint the Mona Lisa within every site but forget to invite anyone to the museum. I.E. All tech and no marketing. Remember, we did talk about the importance of getting the car moving didn’t we?

Dispelling the Myths of Search Engine Optimization

  • PPC or paid advertising is much cheaper and faster. WRONG. Paid advertising is only as good as long as you are paying for it, where On-Page optimization is a onetime set up. Natural Search Traffic is still 60% of all traffic & you will pay more per click in advertising if your site is NOT optimized.
  • SEO results take months, if not years, to achieve. WRONG. In fact, you can expect immediate results within a few days. Nobody has the time or patience to wait these days…
  • Optimal SEO results can only be achieved by an SEO expert. WRONG. No technical knowledge or SEO expertise is needed to achieve major success when you use the right SEO Strategies.
  • Hundreds of links are needed before I can start to see significant results. WRONG. Have you ever heard the saying, “Work smarter, not harder”? You can maximize your results with very little linking.
  • The Google algorithm is complicated and takes over 100 factors into consideration. It’s impossible to achieve maximum SEO results without targeting them all. WRONG. There are key areas that have the greatest bearing and weighting over search engine results. In fact, these key areas make up the majority of the search algorithm.
  • SEO software yields the best results. WRONG. Simply put, if you know the key areas to target, you’ll outperform any SEO program EVERY time. It’s not a complicated process if you know what you’re doing. (famous last words)

What is SEO All About Then?

All right, you’ve been patient. Here are the essentials of what you need to know about WHAT Search Engine Optimization is all about and then I’ll get to the “HOW TO’s” in just a minute. Let’s walk before sprinting into uncharted territory.

OK so here’s you first curve ball… there are two kinds of Search Engine Optimization! What? Who knew? Well I did and now so do you.

There is “ON PAGE” SEO and “OFF PAGE” SEO.

On-Page SEO is the method of configuring your website’s size, layout, text, photos and videos so that they are easy to find by the search engines when someone is searching for them online.

Off-Page SEO happens outside of the website. It is the method of distributing valuable and relevant content about your products and services onto the internet in the form of blog posts, videos, articles, forums, podcasts etc. that all point back to your website to help raise its rank in the search engines as well as drive traffic.

Now there is a middle man (more like a Judge) in the process and that is the search engines themselves like Google, Yahoo & Bing/MSN. They go around creeping and crawling around the internet and index or rank your website based on their own formulas known as algorithms.

No one knows the exact formulas (except those web geeks at Google, but they’re not talking) but we have established some definite Do’s & Don’ts when it comes to optimizing your website. The other thing to understand is that the Google’s & Yahoo’s use both On-Page & Off-Page optimization when ranking your website. For now, we’ll concentrate on the On-site SEO which is the foundation for all other web marketing anyway.

Even paid web traffic from ads will cost you less with an optimized website because the search engines will reward you for playing by their rules…And simply the one theme that governs the rules of the search engines is to protect the consumer.

The Search Engines primary job is to bring the most RELEVANT results (websites, videos, articles etc.) to the consumer or person doing the search based on the search term they type in. For example: If you were to Search for “Snake Poison Antidote” on Google, you would be less than pleased and understandably angry if it pulled up websites on snakeskin handbags and boots. You get the idea.

Getting Started with SEO Strategies

1. KEYWORDS: Prior to the SEO (or the process of correctly placing the right search engine friendly elements on your site) Optimization really begins with understanding the search terms people are using to look for products and services in the first place. These search terms are commonly known as “Keywords”. Proper Keyword research is where most people (even seasoned marketers) fail before they even get started. Fortunately there are plenty of free and paid tools you can be using in no time to pick out the best terms to optimize your site with.

2. PLACEMENT: After you have thoroughly done your keyword research, it is time to strategically place them in all the elements* of your site (Header, Title, Description, Meta Tags, Navigation Links, Images, H1, H2, H3 tags, Alt Tags, Body etc.) to effectively have Google and the others to index or take account of all of them to be able to rank your site’s relevance for those keywords.

*Note: All of these “elements” are simply fields easily accessible to fill in on most commonly used website platforms.

Ok, that’s it!

It can’t be.

Yes it can! Sort of…

Like I said there are much geekier aspects of on-page optimization which includes things like which type of site structures to use, frames, types of scripts etc. However, with the advancement of template driven and WYSIWYG* sites, many of these aspects are already pre-coded for optimization or ease of readability for those Search Engines out there doing their creeping and crawling thing…also known as indexing.

*WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)- An interface that provides the user with the ability to point and click to insert objects, images & text into most sites today.

So with Keyword Research and proper Placement in your site are the broad strokes of On-Page Search Engine Optimization. However, “How” to do the right and profitable Keyword Research for your niche and “How” to place them properly in all the elements of your sites is where you earn your stripes.

Your SEO Strategies Next Step

Fortunately I have put together a step by step guide that will not only walk you through on-page optimization but also how to drive FREE traffic through off-page optimization as well.

Remember that Search Engine Optimization is an Investment, not an Expense. Unlike paid ads, the efforts you put in to truly optimize your site today will continue to pay off well into the future.

With a proper search engine optimization guide, you can easily dominate search-engines like Yahoo, Google and MSN. Ranking high on search-engines is easy and can be very profitable for your website.

Understanding Search Engine Optimization From a Beginners Point of View

So it happened that we received a query from a new client who has been following our company for sometime and has been thinking of using our search engine optimization and marketing services. He became very keen after we redid the website completely and focused all our attention towards on-line marketing. He finally decided to contact us and enquire about our services. We talked on the phone and had discussed in essence most of the things when the client started to ask some very simple and basic questions. It turned out that the questions actually covered almost all aspects of SEO and the small sales pitch call turned into an on-call Wiki lecture. So after the call I gave it some thought and decided to put in this article together for those of our visitors who know what search engine optimization is but have a need to understand it. In this article I plan to put in the very basic aspects of search engine optimization and search engine marketing for our clients who would like to have a better understanding of what is being done to their websites when they hand over their websites to us. I will not be explaining the process but will be explaining the elementary basics of what is what and what SEO curtails.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization is the process of optimizing a website or a web page to increase its visibility or ranking on a search engines result page (also known as SERP’s). The visibility or ranking is increased in the search engines natural results or organic results, hence the term Organic SEO. This is usually the first and foremost step that an experienced SEO SEM company will recommend a client as part of its on-line marketing strategy. This part includes On-page and Off-page aspects of search engine optimization and are explained below. Search Engine Optimization or SEO follows how search engines work with actual search terms also known as keywords that are put into the search boxes and how the results are portrayed. Depending on a clients requirements SEO can be offered as a separate service or as a part of a complete on-line marketing strategy.

What is On Page Optimization?

On Page Optimization as the phrase suggests is the adjustment of the website or the webpage to optimize it in the best possible way to make it easily accessible by search engines for particular keywords or search terms without any hindrance and to remove any parameter that may prevent a search engine from ignoring that website or webpage. This is achieved by optimization of content, HTML and other coding as per the business related keywords of the website or webpage to be optimized so that search bots find it relevant to the search terms entered by a visitor. So no matter what you do, search engine optimization and on-line marketing strategy as a whole will not give you the desired results if your website or webpage are not correctly optimized as per the search engine guidelines. In all on-page optimization has to do everything related to your website directly.

What is Off Page Optimization?

Off page optimization is the exact opposite of on page optimization. This process is related to all the tasks done outside of your website and optimization of external aspects that effect the factors of how your website is found on the internet. This involves of placing your website information on external sources so that they make your website accessible from various locations on the internet. By placing your website on reliable and relevant resources on the internet your website gains popularity and makes it for search engines to easily relate to your website for relevant search terms and hence place you higher on search engine rankings There are several ways of putting your website on the internet:

Link Building
Directory Submission
Article Writing
Article Submission
Press Releases
Blogging

The above are not all but some very important ways to place your website on the internet and need to be done with great care as they can make or break your websites popularity. Search engine algorithms are pretty smart these days to define if the resources displaying content is relevant to the search terms and if they are to give relevance in terms of search results.

What is SEM?

A very common misconception is that Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are the same things since a client has to pay for both of these services to an internet marketing company and if a company’s Sales Manager is not able to explain this in a clear manner it can be a deal breaker and the potential client may chose to go with another SEO SEM company. So to put it into simple words SEM is a process of promoting your website through paid aspects like advertising, AdWords, paid placements in results etc. To explain this in simple words we can compare SEO as advertising your website in the free section of the classifieds of a newspaper and SEM as advertising your website in the paid section of the same newspaper where your advertisement is highlighted and put on top of all other advertisements. An experienced Internet Marketing company balances SEO and SEM while planning your on-line marketing strategy to get the optimum results while keeping in mind your budgets, although if you have a very competitive business niche and if you are looking for faster results be ready to spend a major chunk of your SEO SEM budget on advertising/paid results.

As I had mentioned earlier that I will not be writing about the process but about the very basics if SEO SEM. Please feel free to let us know what you think in the comments section and of-course feel free to contact us at Felix Labs to get a free website analysis and a free quote for your website. Happy Reading!!!

Questions to Ask Your Potential Search Engine Optimization Company – Part 2

Last month, I went over questions that you should ask your potential search engine optimization company regarding its tactics. That set of questions is critical, as before moving forward with any of the myriad of search engine optimization companies out there, you should always determine whether or not they will put your site at risk of penalization in the major search engines (leaving your website worse off than when your campaign started).

However, many people researching search engine optimization companies are unaware that potential penalization is even an issue – they are primarily interested in the results that the search engine optimization company can achieve. This installment of the three-part series will focus on questions to determine the competence of any search engine optimization company that you are considering. To find out whether any particular company is worthy of your trust in terms of results, consider asking the following:

“Do you require that I make changes to my website content?”

Any search engine optimization companies that answer “no” to this question are either using shady tactics or are only scratching the surface of true search engine optimization. Certainly, there are some elements that can be changed on a website that are largely transparent to the user, including title tags, meta tags, and alt tags. While making changes to these elements can create a boost in rankings, it will not give you the search engine dominance over your competitors that you desire. Remember, search engines are interested in matching content (what appears on your web pages) with search queries (the phrases that people are typing into search engines).

The problem with a search engine optimization company only manipulating the largely unseen elements is that search engines recognize that these elements are determined by the owner of the website and may not actually reflect the real content that appears on the pages. In order to perform well across the most popular engines, you must make certain that your search engine optimization company accurately addresses popular search queries within your pages. And this almost always requires changes to your content.

“Will you be adding additional pages to my website?”

If a search engine optimization company answers “no” to this question but answers “yes” to the question above, it likely means that it will be employing what I call the “shoehorn” approach to optimization. This means that the firm will try to shoehorn keyphrases into existing pages on your website, rather than expanding your website to include new content.

The trouble with this approach is that your existing pages are unlikely to directly address the search query. When search engine optimization companies shoehorn in keyphrases, they may achieve high rankings for you, but you probably won’t have many long-term visitors. For example, assume that your company makes widgets and you have an “about us” page on your site that gives a brief history of your company, as well as contact information and driving directions. If your search engine optimization company optimizes this page for “custom widget pricing,” and you subsequently achieve high rankings for the phrase, it does not necessarily mean that you will see much benefit. One can deduce from the query that people are looking for actual pricing information, not information on where your company is located or when it was founded. Another web page that directly addresses their search query is just a click of the back button away.

Adding new, informational pages to your website is a standard approach for the inclusion of quality search engine optimization phrases. Think of it this way – your search engine optimization company should not be thinking, “Where can we shoehorn this phrase in?” Search engine optimization companies should instead always be thinking, “How can we best address this query with a new page?” The difference in results can be dramatic.

“What will you be doing besides working on my site directly?”

If a prospective search engine optimization company tells you that it will only be making changes to your site itself, this means that it will not be spending any time working on your site’s link popularity. Link popularity plays a tremendous role in determining rankings in every major search engine. Simply put, sites that have a good number of quality and relevant incoming links are held in a higher regard than sites that do not. This is because a link from another site is considered a “vote” for your site – but all votes are not equal.

Quality search engine optimization companies will spend a great deal of time looking for industry-specific directories and portals where a link to your site can be added. They will also review all of your existing incoming links and make certain that the website owner has configured them in such a way as to give your site the highest chance for high search engine rankings.

“Will you be adding additional pages and targeting additional keyphrases over time?”

This is a very important question. Even search engine optimization companies that have a reputation for providing quality initial results can fall short on this, but it is one of the most important aspects involved in improving your optimization results over time.

When your campaign is kicked off, your search engine optimization company will target an initial list of phrases. Although good search engine optimization companies will rely on readily available software to determine which phrases are being searched on most often, and common sense to determine which of those phrases will bring buyers and not “tire-kickers,” it is in all honesty an educated guess.

Forward-looking search engine optimization companies treat the initial keyphrases as the “testing” phase of the campaign. They track these individual phrases and find which ones are working (bringing in the people that actually buy something or take the point of action on your site that leads to a sale). Armed with this knowledge, such search engine optimization companies will regularly expand your campaign to include phrases similar to the ones that are working the best. Without such expansions based on real data, you are merely relying on the best educated guesses from the initial campaign, and not the hard data that comes from true metrics as the campaign progresses.

“Can you give me references and case studies?”

This one seems obvious, but there are search engine optimization companies out there who claim that their clients all wish to remain anonymous, so that it is impossible to provide any specifics. This is usually a smokescreen designed to defer proof of concept. Certainly, there are businesses that hire a search engine optimization company that wish to keep it a secret, but these are generally in the minority. Forward-thinking companies generally enjoy showing off their success stories, so you should insist on seeing some real (not anonymous) case studies and talking with some references.

When dealing with references, find out how long they have been working with the search engine optimization company. If all references are less than a year old, it may mean that the company has been unable to demonstrate value over the long term, which is certainly something to consider. After all, long-term value is what you should be trying to achieve from a search engine optimization company, and search engine optimization is not a one-time endeavor.

Armed with these questions, you should be able to determine whether a certain search engine optimization company is worthy of both your time and your marketing money, or whether you instead will wind up with empty pockets and a useless site. Remember, high rankings don’t always mean good leads, and great keyphrases are not helpful unless they are used properly on your site.

In the third and final part of this series, I will discuss the assurances that search engine optimization companies offer – or fail to offer – from guarantees to exclusivity agreements.