Search Engine Optimization “Unplugged”

When I was at BlueLine, I posted a blog that tried to dispel the mystery of organic search engine optimization (SEO). After several discussions I had today, I realized that it is still a very misunderstood topic. I wanted to reprise that post with a few key updates.

Many think search engine optimization is akin to voodoo. The reality is the formula never changes, but it is how you implement it that separates page 1 companies from page 1000 companies.

Simply put, search incorporates 3 things:

  1. META Tags
  2. Content
  3. Links Back to Your Site

That’s it. So why do some companies end up front and center while others are relegated to obscurity? It takes a little deeper investigation into how the formula works.

META tags, for you technophobes, are simply the keywords, titles, and descriptions that are embedded into each of your web pages. These are what search engines look for when “crawling” your site. Too many companies err on the side of a) putting every word in the English dictionary in this space in hopes that one hits or b) putting words in these fields that nobody in their right mind would ever type into a search box when trying to find your company. Most often, these are words that are used internally and are not common terms that the market would understand. Just as in offline marketing, focus is critical. You can’t mean everything to everyone, so a keyword strategy is the first step. It affects not only your META tags, but how you build the site layout, navigation, and links. Each search engine has its own preferred formula. Rule of thumb is to build your site for Google and the rest will fall in in line.

The second component is content. When your content (meaning text) on your site ties into your META tags and matches what someone types into a search box, you pop up higher on the list. The more content on your site that references the key word or phrase, the higher up you go. That is why blogs are so critical and why search engines love blogs. They produce so much content that often references your key words. Want to bump up in the search engines: start a blog and talk about your key topics. Also, forget about building Flash-based websites because they lack any content that is readable by a search engine. A Flash piece on your website is great for WOW factor, but the rest should be text based so it can be read and cataloged by a search engine.

The third component is links back to your site. Now I know what you are thinking; we are not talking about those corny link sharing sites that contact you and offer to do a link swap. What we are talking about is getting links back to your site on oft visited and popular sites on the web. This means everything from getting coverage on media sites to participating in other communities (i.e. commenting on blog and message boards) to sending out press releases on the business wire that link back to your site which then are picked up by news “bots” on Google and Yahoo. The key is getting links on relevant and popular websites.

So there you have it: search marketing simplified. Now, as a strategy guy, the first thing I will tell you is that you shouldn’t try this unless you have done your homework on the target market and what they will search for. Once you find that out, you build your search strategy around that.

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