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Search Engine Optimization – cont’d
The SEO Campaign Process
A typical SEO campaign starts with keyword analysis, and then emphasizes
insuring your site doesn’t impede search engine bots and follows
up with ongoing link and traffic analysis. If you like pretty pictures,
What’s a Bot?
is a program used by a search engine to read the content
of your site into a directory. I mentioned this briefly
in ‘What is Search Engine Optimization?’
above. Keep up, now….
Step 1: Keyword Analysis. Ah, keywords.
If you say the right word enough times on your site, you’ll
get that coveted #1 spot, right? Wrong. Choosing the right keywords
starts with you making a list of the keywords or phrases under
which you’d like to be found, and typically ends up somewhere
completely different. Typically, selecting the best keywords is
a four-step process:
- List the keywords and phrases under which you’d
like to be found.
- Find out whether anyone searches on those keywords,
and whether they’re searching for relevant items.
- Find out how many other sites are struggling
for rankings under those keywords.
- Pick keywords with the same meaning but a better
Maybe I want to rank #1 under ‘Search Engine Optimization’.
Guess what? There are 686,000 other URLs in Google trying for that
spot. Hmmm. But wait! Under ‘Seattle Search Engine Optimization’
there are only 19,000. So, I targeted that key phrase, instead.
And guess what? We got a #3 ranking.
Don’t forget about relevance, either. If you want a high ranking
under ‘tires’, you’re going to have your work
cut out for you. And in the end you’ll likely end up getting
found for ‘bicycle tires’, ‘automobile tires’,
‘spare tires’ and who knows what else. Is it worth it?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But you have to do your homework to
Data Mining and Keywords
If you’re doing a campaign
for a large site, you may end up testing and comparing
thousands of keywords and phrases. Having a good data-mining
tool (even Excel will do) on hand is important when
you’re doing keyword analysis. We use S-Plus,
by Insightful Software. It’s saved our lives,
and clicker fingers, several times.
There are several tools that help you research the
number of searches and competitors for keywords. Wordtracker (http://www.wordtracker.com)
is a good one — don’t depend on their results from
Overture, though, unless you’re specifically preparing an
Overture campaign. Metacrawler’s MetaSpy tool is worth a
look, too. Ideally, look at results from a few different sources.
Keyword analysis is the hardest part of a campaign, in number-crunching
terms. It requires a lot of work and may not tell you what you
want to hear. But in my experience it’s critical to a successful
Step 2: Search Engine Readiness.
Almost every web site we review has one or more problems that
will prevent search engine bots from properly reading all content.
Typical showstoppers include:
- An all-Flash or all-images home page
- A home page that automatically redirects to
- Pop-up ads (does anyone really read these things?)
- A site full of pages with fewer than 400 words
on a page
- Broken links
- No TITLE or DESCRIPTION tags
A major step in any SEO campaign is making sure that the site will
present the friendliest profile to search engines. Happily, the
investment in optimizing will also pay off in a faster, more universally
Step 3. Content and Site Preparation. You’ve done
your research: You know which keywords match your message, and your
site’s HTML code is one big search engine welcome mat. Now
it’s time to make sure that your site contains those keywords.
This is where I most often see folks get confused — should
you rewrite your web content to emphasize keywords? Yes, but with
extreme caution. Should you make small, appropriate changes? Yes.
Here are my guidelines for content preparation.
- Don’t write for keywords (much). This almost always leads
to stilted, hard-to-read prose. Writing keyword-rich content that
really works for users is an art form. Be careful.
- Do a little careful editing. If you use the word ‘car’
but ‘auto’ is the keyword you need, chances are you
can do a few replacements without marring your carefully crafted
- Spend time on the titles and description tags. Make sure every
page in your site has a unique, relevant TITLE and DESCRIPTION
- Never use an automatic page generator. Tools like WebPosition
Gold offer to generate optimized pages for you. Don’t. They
tend to hurt your ranking as much as help, and they generate ugly,
- Write more stuff. More content is almost always better. If your
site is just missing a specific keyword or phrase, but you think
it’s important, then your potential customers probably do
too. By adding a few more pages, or a white paper, or some other
content focusing on those absent keywords, you’ll likely
help visitors and improve your keyword ranking at the same time.
And, the more text-rich your site is, the better the odds that
you’ll catch longer, stranger but really important key phrases
that you can’t anticipate.
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