A Search Engine Optimizer's New Year's Resolutions
With the ringing in of the New Year, I resolve to become a better search engine optimizer (SEO). Below is a list of resolutions that I have made in order to make my clients' web sites the absolute best on the web.
- I will not use flash as text.
- Even though many search engines can now read some of the text embedded in flash, flash sites do not perform as well in search engine results as non-flash sites. Flash should primarily be used to enhance sites; in the same way one would use pictures to make the site look better.
- I will not use images as text.
- Although I personally believe that text in images will be read by search engines by the end of 2006, we are not there just yet. As it now stands, image text is invisible to search engines and therefore should not be used in that capacity.
- I will use good usability techniques.
- Usability is simple to test. Get three friends to complete a task on your site as you silently watch and take notes (have them talk out loud too). You will be amazed as to what you find. Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox has a good introduction to usability.
- I will not use cloaking.
- Cloaking is frowned upon by search engines. Once they catch you, you will get penalized (or in some instances, banned).
- I will not use frames unless I have a REALLY good reason to.
- Frames complicate things for the search engine. There are very few good reasons to use frames and thus they should be avoided whenever possible.
- I will use a catchy title with the keyphrase in it.
- Marketing is what we are all about. A catchy title will bring in the customers. A title containing the target keyphrase will raise the result in the search engines. Put the two together and you have a professional marketing title that works hard to bring in traffic.
- I will track the return on investment (ROI).
- By tracking the ROI, I will clearly see if the site is making or losing money. To track ROI one needs to co-relate the marketing dollars spent with the revenue earned. This statistic is usually hindered by the site's owner, who cannot (or does not) provide the financial information, nor the conversional statistics I need to track ROI.
- I will write an alt tag that clearly depicts what the image is, for every image.
- This will help people without images on their screen know what the image is about. Using the keyphrase in the alt tag is a bonus because it will help the rankings slightly in the search engine results, but it is most important to describe the image as clearly as possible.
- I will use good informative content.
- Ah yes, "Content is King". All the above resolutions are meaningless if I don't have good content. This is what will bring in the search engines. This is what will bring in the clients. And this is what will bring in the dough.
- I will not stuff the pages with keyphrases.
- Stuffing the page with keyphrases goes against the golden rule of good content. If you stuff the pages with keyphrases, they will no longer read well, and readers won't like to read them. Consequently, people won't enjoy your site, and because the search engines are designed to figure out what people like and then display it to them, the search engines will eventually begin to disregard your site. Therefore, ALWAYS use keyphrases wisely.
- I will not use "spammy" techniques.
- "Spammy" techniques are anything the search engines say not to use. These techniques may do well in the short-term, but in the long run they will get you penalized (or even banned).
- I will use pay-per-click (PPC), even if it is for a very small amount.
- I have found that using even a minuscule PPC campaign will bring in more traffic. It also propagates links to your site throughout the Internet, and thus makes your site more prominent. If you are worried about losing money, then use the free conversion tracking tool available at both Overture and Google AdWords. USE IT. Only then will you know how effective your PPC campaign really is.
- I will track unique hits to the site.
- By keeping track of whether the site's traffic goes up or down, I get a big picture of the health of the web site. If traffic goes up, then the rankings probably went up. If traffic goes down, then rankings probably went down. Of course there are also seasonal variations (and marketing pushes), but you should be familiar enough with the market to know when to expect such cyclical fluctuations.
- I will get a good copywriter to write the content.
- "Content is King", so get a professional to write it. You may think you are good, but are you really? Would you bet your Internet presence on it? Use someone who knows how to write specifically for the Internet. Use someone who knows how to balance writing for people, writing for sales, and writing for search engines.
- I will not send out "spammy" emails asking for reciprocal links.
- Reciprocal links don't bring in clients, and they tend to only slightly boost your PageRank. An SEO's time is better served getting the site listed in directories and on sites where people would be looking for it (such as associations, suppliers, clients, and more…). Personalized emails to these sites requesting a link to yours are fine. Templates or mass emails requesting reciprocal links are definitely not.
- I will work hard getting valuable links to my site.
- "Linking is Queen", thus getting links is essential. Find directories that relate to your market and take your time to submit to them (in the best category). Contact your suppliers and/or resellers and see if they will link to you. Figure out where your potential clients hang out on the Internet, and get those sites to link to you. Do your homework to choose where you want your links to appear, then roll up your sleeves, get out the elbow grease and get those links to show up!
With a little dedication and a lot of work, I will get my clients into the top search engine results. If you want to do well with your web site, stick to these resolutions and before you know it the traffic (and the sales) will roll in smoothly, just like the New Year.