Search Engine Optimization for Everyone

There are many facets to SEO and the search engines continually change their methods of indexing sites to help prevent the same sites from staying up in the ranks all the time.

Here are some strategies we have personally used with our web design firm:

1. Google AdWords. This is an excellent and cost effective method of getting good search results. You set the maximum daily amount you would like to spend on your key words and phrases. Within the first month we were getting more client contacts through using AdWords.

2. Overture Keywords. This is a lot like AdWords, but we found that their system did not really allow you to set a daily limit to how much you wanted to spend and it quickly got out of hand with some of the phrases we had chosen! Still, it was pretty cost effective in the grand scheme of things.

3. Yahoo Regional Directories. Once you are able to get your site indexed by the Yahoo Regional Directories, I think you stay in there for good! We've been in there for years now and continue to get clients who found us through this directory. (And it is free to submit your site.)

4. Keywords / Description / Alt Tags / Title Tags / Page Content. All the big SEO companies rely heavily on these 5 things - all of which are contained in the code of your web pages. However, with a little research, you could do these yourself (or have it done by your web designer). A few great tools to help you with this task are: Overture Keyword Selector Tool (http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/), Google Suggestion Tool (http://www.google.com/webhp?complete=1&hl=en), Meta Tag Analyzer (http://www.iboost.com/tools/meta_tag_analyzer.htm), and Keyword Density Analyzer (http://www.keyworddensity.com/).

The main benefit to hiring a professional SEO company is that they work for you to constantly update your keywords, etc. and submit your URL to search engines. They know exactly how many of each keyword to use, etc. And this is often a service worth paying for if optimization is a real concern in your industry. A good SEO company will also stay up on what the search engines are doing and change their tactics accordingly. They will also never use an "illegal" tactics that could get you banned from the search engine. Be wary of companies that "guarantee top 10 placement". I recommend http://www.submitsolutions.com.

5. Online Directories. Submitting your website URL to free online directories is a great avenue of promotion. One way you can find directories is to use Google or another search engine and type in "(type of your business) online directories". Some that come up may ask for a small amount to list your site. If they do, you should always contact them and ask them for more information such as how many unique visits their directories get per month to see if the price is a good value.

6. Open Directory Project. http://www.dmoz.org The ODP is one of the main sources the the Googlebot uses to find new websites. This is a human-maintained directory - meaning that when you submit your URL, an actual person reviews your submission to decide if the site is appropriate, etc. It may take some time to get your site indexed by the ODP, but once it is, you should not have to keep sending your links.

7. Blog. Having a Blog on your website is a great way to attract visitors to your site with fresh content. And the search engines love content rich blog pages. There are free services out there such as http://www.blogger.com, http://www.blog-city.com, http://www.livejournal.com and many more that allow you to sign up for a free blog. Of course the best way to blog to have the blog "software" actually installed on your site. This is something your web designer/programmer could do for you. I highly recommend sBlog (http://servous.se/) as a free php based Blog script (you will need php and a MySQL database installed with your web hosting service to run this).

8. Submit to Google and Yahoo. These two are the top dogs in the search engine world and both still accept FREE submissions. For Yahoo, you must go through the categories until you find the most appropriate one for your website. For Google, you can go to the following URL to submit your site: http://www.google.com/addurl/?continue=/addurl

9. Print advertising. Many companies forget that print advertising is still a very valid way to get visitors to your website. Although this can get costly, even having your URL printed on your business cards, letterheads and envelopes is considered print advertising.

10. Be the best you can be. It sounds simple, but a lot of people get so wrapped up in SEO that they neglect the quality of their website. Remember that your website reflects your business and should offer a professional, high quality appearance and useful content. No matter what your business is, your visitors will be more inclined to stick around or make a purchase if your site is easy to navigation, has useful information, and looks professional.

I also highly recommend visiting Site Pro News (http://www.sitepronews.com) and signing up for their free newsletter. They have the most up to date info on SEO.

Sherry Holub is the Lead Designer and Manager at Southern California design firm, JV Media Design. http://www.jvmediadesign.com

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