Optimization, Not Keywords:
The real definition of Search Engine Optimization
In the SEO business, we make a lot of fuss about keywords: A typical, well-engineered search engine campaign begins by defining the keywords you feel will most likely generate traffic to your site. Getting the highest possible rank for 10, 20 or 100 keywords you define in advance becomes the primary goal.
This is not the right approach. The top priority of sound search engine optimization practice should be optimization.
Why? Because a successful search engine campaign will bring you useful traffic from keywords you never consider.
A quick example: One of our clients gave us a list of 30 keywords and said ‘we want a top ten listing on Google for all of these keywords’.
The result? Top 10 rankings in only 10 out of the 30 keywords they requested. Sounds like a failure. But their site traffic from major search engines increased by over 150%. That’s triple the desired result, and all from relevant keywords.
Our client’s traffic increased because their site provided easy access for search engine spiders to all of its content. That meant a far richer content pool for the search engines to use when ranking their site, and far broader, stronger coverage for keywords. They got top-ten rankings for thirty-plus keywords they hadn’t even considered, but were highly relevant traffic generators.
Good keyword mining is important, because it finds the keywords that generate traffic, and helps you cull the non-starters. But you never know where your traffic might come from. So make sure that your web site presents the best possible profile to the spiders or ‘bots’ that Google, Alta Vista and other major search engines send to index and rank your site. Optimize, optimize, optimize:
1. Make sure that all HTML on your site complies with relevant standards. Pay careful attention to the W3C accessibility standards – by bringing your site into line with that document, you can optimize your HTML and offer the best possible site for surfers using assistive devices, in one swoop.
2. Watch your site traffic logs at least as much as you watch your search engine rank. If traffic from search engines and relevant keywords is increasing, but you’re not getting top ranking for the specific keywords you selected, don’t worry. Your campaign is working.
3. One caveat: Don’t completely neglect keywords, and don’t totally ignore search engine rank. You may be missing big potential traffic generators. And you might be able to improve your rank by adding new, relevant content to your site.
I’m not saying SEO professionals and their clients should abandon keyword mining and selection. Make sure you’re targeting the right topics. Then turn your efforts to HTML code optimization. You’ll get better results, and save yourself a lot of frustration.
Ian Lurie is an Internet marketer in Seattle, WA. He started his web design and marketing firm, Portent, in 1995. Portent offers complete Internet marketing support, including search engine optimization, email marketing, and web design and development. Recent projects include SEO and production for www.princesslodges.com, SEO, marketing strategy, design and production for www.dessy.com, and, on the more whimsical side, frida.filmateria.com. Ian has a law degree from UCLA and has successfully avoided practicing law for almost ten years.
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