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Search Engine Optimization

One of the problems new web sites face is search engine placement. If the public cannot find the site in a search engine, all your hard word to put the site up is to no avail. The marketing of a web site should be one of the central considerations in the decision to create the site. What do you want the site to do for you, and how do you achieve that result?

Brochure sites are the simplest. The site is a chance to include detailed and categorized information about your business that would usually be too cumbersome to include in a printed marketing handout, supporting your existing marketing efforts. All you need to do is include the web address (URL) on business cards, correspondence, your existing and future advertising, and, if you advertise the business on your vehicles, add the web site when you have the vehicles painted. When you are talking to a potential customer, tell them to "Check out my web site if you need more information, and email or phone with any questions". A local contractor is seldom interested in dealing with someone on another continent. The exception to this is if you provide local services or act as an agent for others who might not be based within your area.

If you intend to reach a wider audience, then search engine placement becomes important. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not a one-time thing. It is an on-going endeavor to improve your visibility. Initially a few rules apply:

  1. Content
    You must have significant content to offer to the user. The content must be pertinent to your subject, and should be spread over several pages, each with between 100 and 1000 words. The pages should be categorized and the words you use to describe your business should include the desired search terms, preferably early in the page.
  2. Links
    Each link to your site from another site is a vote for you. Search engines count these links and determine your sites internet popularity based on them. If you are a member of an association, try to get links back from everyone else in the association to your site, and give reciprocal links from your site to theirs. Get your site listed in the major directories, and any niche directories you can. Beware of 'paid link' scams. A number of these directories will ask you to pay for the listing, and search engines like Google actually will penalize your pages for appearin in paid directories.
  3. Search Engine Submission
    The search engines cannot find what they do not know about. Make sure tha you submit your site to the major search engines, and to any new ones you learn about. This submission should happen once the site content has been established. you do not want the search engines to relegate your site to the bottomless pit because they found nothing when they visited.
  4. Sitemap
    A number of search engines respond to XML sitemaps. The sitemap is a list of all the pages in your site you want indexed. Submitting a sitemap is as simple as registering with the search engine, and telling them where to find to sitemap file.
  5. Activity
    An active site is indexed more frequently. A static site is eventually archived. Frequent updates and new content will keep the search engines coming back to see what has changed. Provide an RSS feed to syndicate your content, and give other sites permission to use your content provided they maintain a link back to your site and attribute you as author.
  6. Monitoring
    Set up a log analysis tool on your site. Keep an eye on your site activity, and pay attention to the search terms people use to find your site. Understand the subjects and pages they are interested in, and expand your content in their areas of interest.

As your site grows and your user base axpands, SEO will become more important. Good SEO is based in understanding where a site is weak, and in finding ways to improve.

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