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Search Engine Optimization: An Introduction
By Jennifer Nagy of jlnpr
I attended the SES Conference earlier this month in Toronto and attended a very interesting and informative presentation by Matt Bailey from SiteLogic about search engine optimization (SEO). Since this is a topic that can be quite confusing and overly complicated, I thought that this would be useful info to share. So here goes... Intro to SEO from the experts at SES Toronto.
Q: What is SEO?
A: Search engine optimization is the process of improving the visibility of a website in a search engine's search results. The higher the ranking (the placement on the list of search results), the more traffic a website will get. SEO tactics vary but the most common include keywords, meta tags, page descriptions, page titles and link building.
Q: How can I use SEO to improve my website's traffic?
A: Understanding how/why people search is the first step in increasing your website's traffic. Searchers can be broken up into three categories:
1) Artillery: For an artillery searcher, acquiring information is the most important thing. They are not a concerned with the ranking of the search results because they will often reach each and every page on whatever topic they are researching in order to be fully educated. This type of searcher will often place greater value on discussion forums (vs. informational sites) because they believe that they offer greater credibility. An example of this type of searcher is a person who has just been diagnosed with a medical condition, who is using the internet to research their diagnosis.
2) Shotgun: Shotgun searchers already know what general info they are looking for, but are undecided as to the specifics of the query. This searcher tends to start out with fairly general search terms (i.e. ‘beach vacations') and continues to do more specific searches as they learn more (i.e. ‘Miami Beach vacations', and then ‘Miami Beach hotels'). Like the artillery searcher, the shotgun searcher is still in the research phase so they will often click on related links they find.
3) Sharpshooter: This searcher knows exactly what they are looking for and they will have little patience for any other information. This type of searcher clicks the back button more often then they click a link. When they arrive on a site, they must see the info/images that they are looking for within a very short time frame or they will leave the site.
The next step is to know which keywords searchers are actually using to find your product/service. One common misconception is that you should choose the most general keyword in order for the highest number of people to see your site in their search results. While your site may be included in the results of more searches using general keywords, the sheer volume of results will ensure your site gets buried on later pages of the search results unless you're spending huge amounts of money to be on the first page or two.
As well as being more costly, more general keyword searches are rarely converted into sales. Instead, using long-tail keywords will cost less and will generate more sales conversions. A long-tail keyword is a more specific niche keyword (i.e. ‘best tennis racket' or ‘Wilson tennis racket' vs. ‘tennis racket'). A great tool for marketers is keyworddiscovery.com. With a monthly subscription, marketers can search for a specific term (i.e. ‘tennis racket') to find out all of the keywords that are searched related to that original term and how many people are searching for that term. This makes it easier to determine which keywords should be used for SEO purposes.
When selecting your keywords, grammar is also an important consideration. Searchers that are still in the research phase of the sales cycle tend to use plural keywords (i.e. ‘beach vacations'), while the sharpshooter searcher (who is ready to make a purchase) will use the singular version of the keyword (i.e. ‘beach vacation').
The most important consideration when selecting your keywords is to focus on value, rather than on your site's page rank. Being the first page in search results is good but if you aren't making sales because of it, there is definitely a problem.
The site description is another very important part of a website's search engine optimization. The site description is what shows up in seach engines under the site's page title and what describes the content of the site:
Like the page title, searchers use this description to decide if the page will give them the info that they are looking for. Again, the description should be short (no longer than 155 characters) and should effectively describe your company's products/services.
Page titles are the descriptions in the top header of a website, which are also included in search engine results.
Here is the page title for my website jlnpr:
The page title for my site is also visible in search engine results:
When writing the page title for your website, remember that shorter is always better (as it only allows for 65 characters). There is no specific format that works best but experts do suggest that you include a descriptive sentence and the company name. Here's an example of that format from SiteLogic's site:
Keep in mind that your page title is the first impression that a searcher will see when they are searching for your company so make sure that it's properly communicating your business' key messages.
Meta tags used to be the most important factor in SEO, but today, meta tags are not a ranking factor anymore. Instead, online marketers include keywords throughout the website copy to ensure that search engine algorithms can find and rank the site appropriately for search results.
And of course, definitely still follow me on Twitter @jennlnagy!
About Jennifer Nagy
Jennifer Nagy, President of jlnpr, is a seasoned public relations professional with a passion for the hospitality industry. At jlnpr, she works with companies to increase awareness of their property/product and get their story in front of the audiences that will have a direct impact on their bottom line. jlnpr works with international clients in the travel and tourism, airline, lodging, cruise and meeting/event sectors. For more information on jlnpr, please visit www.jlnpr.com or contact Jennifer at email@example.com.
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