Simple SEO

SEO stands for "Search Engine Optimization" and the basic idea is to put your web site and its pages just a bit higher up in the results that Internet users get when doing a search on search engines like Google, Yahoo and Ask Jeeves.

Since the advent of the Internet, the way search engines index and rank web sites and pages has changed dramatically, and the technology is constantly evolving. Most search engines employ complex algorhythms to do their work, and these algorhythms are generally guarded and constantly being improved. Hence, it is difficult for individual site owners to know exactly what the search engines are looking for.

There are a few basic principles to understand when you decide its time to employ SEO techniques to "get to the top of Google."

  1. Creating and maintaining high search ranks takes time, effort, patience and maintenance.
  2. Understand that you are optimizing your site for certain search words and phrases.
  3. The content on your web site pages must correspond to the search words and phrases for which you are optimizing your site.

I'll go into more detail now on each of these principles.

Creating and maintaining high search ranks takes time, effort, patience, maintenance (and optionally money)

It is unrealistic to expect to create a web site and then have it show up first on Google within a week when someone searches for "cowboy t-shirts." You have a better chance of attaining high ranking when you are offering services and products that are more specific or niche, for example "batik octopus t-shirt."

Also, getting your web site's placement higher in the search engines is going to take effort on your part, even if you're receiving help from a web developer or SEO specialist. You know your business better than anyone, and that knowledge must be extracted and applied to make your SEO project successful. Site visitation statistics need to be reviewed and analyzed so that the content of the web site's pages can be tweaked for better results. Ad campaigns need to be monitored to make sure the money spent are them are returning some positive results. Web sites are a process, not a product.

When you've done all the initial SEO optimizing tasks and you're sitting back waiting for the unique page visits to roll in, realize that your work has only yet begun. SEO is a game that needs attention, or your hand gets stale. You fall asleep at the table, you lose. Deciding to jump into the game therefore requires a resource commitment that involves time, energy and optionally, money.

When you do a Google search, there are the "regular" search results that populate the middle of the page, but you'll also see results in the right-hand column of the page, and sometimes at the top of the center column results that usually have a non-white background that highlights them. At the time of this writing, Google places the question "Why this ad?" or "Why these ads?" near these advertisements. These ads are "pay-per-click" advertising that site owners employ to draw visitors to their sites and products.

Google is hands down the most popular and powerful search engine and they offer the Internet community a vast array of both free and paid-for services. An essential and free tool that Google offers to web site owners is Google Analytics. Google Analytics helps site owners create a bit of code that is embedded into the source code of your web pages that keeps track of visits to your web site pages. Analyzing the data from your Google Analytics account can provide some very telling information that may help you in your SEO efforts. It is an essential tool to learn and use. Ask your web developer how to access your Google Analytics data for your site; if they can't provide you that access, it could be red flag that the person helping you with your web site isn't using an SEO approach to creating web sites.

Using the Google Analytics data requires a bit of time and energy to explore and understand all that's available. Allot a period of time each week to log in and see what's going on with your site. Check to see if there was a spike in visits to your site after you sent out your email newsletter. See how long each of the visitors from that spike stayed on your site, etc. Google Analytics can also be linked to a Google Adwords account, which is where we get into the optional spending portion of this tutorial.

Google Adwords drives the pay-per-click advertising that makes Google a successful and powerful force in the Internet. With pay-per-click advertising you can choose how much you want to pay for each visitor that clicks on your ad. You can create multiple ads in multiple ad campaigns and show certain ads to specific locations. You can pick the words and phrases that you want to trigger the showing of your ad. The name of the game is to pay for the clicks but really try to attract only visitors that are going to become "conversions," meaning they are going buy your goods or services.

These tools also allow you to see the data that reveals what people are searching for, as far as keywords go. Let's create an example case. We have a web site for an individual who practices a specialized kind of fertility massage in a medium-sized city.

Understand that you are optimizing your site for certain search words and phrases

Web sites aren't just "at the top of Google." They are "at the top of Google for a certain search word or search phrase." So the basic idea behind SEO is to have those search words and phrases that you think people are going to use to find a business like yours in your page. In the old days, search engines indexed certain parts of a web page, like those "meta" tags you hear people talking about. These days, search engines index every word on the page, including the meta tags.

The first step is to come up with a solid list of search words and phrases for which you'd like to optimize. We need to understand that everyone is going to choose a slightly different search phrase or different words to describe the same thing, so its helpful to start polling your friends/family and also people outside your bubble with this question: What would you google if you were looking for a business like mine?

Write down the answers they give. Try to get a broad spectrum of people to do this for you. Notice that some people use plural and some singular, some people may misspell, the word order of phrases will vary. Try to come up with a list of 10-20 search words and phrases to start.

Here are a few for our example:

fertility massage fort collins
mayan fertility fort collins
natural fertility treatments
maya massage fertility
colorado fertility massage

The content on your web site pages must correspond to the search words and phrases for which you are optimizing your site

There are three important places to put your keywords and key phrases.

  1. The page title. By this we mean what shows up in the <title> tag in the page's HTML header.
  2. The page's content. You want to have unique and rich content that doesn't appear to be aiming at SEO. It must be well-written and readable by humans and ideally contain the important search phrases for which you want to optimize. The algorithms that the search engines like Google use are always being changed and I recently read that freshness of content may be a factor, i.e. its good to make changes and updates to your pages.
  3. The "meta" tags, namely meta description and meta keywords also appear only in the source code of the page, in the <head> section, usually close to the <title> tag.

So, if we want to optimize the home page, let's slip the top-shelf search phrase that we decided upon in the Title spot. Let's go with:

Fertility Massage based in Fort Collins, Colorado

The title tag will look like this:

<title>Fertility Massage based in Fort Collins, Colorado</title>

The title tag of your page can be found in the "Source Code, " usually toward the top. Explore around your browser's menu and find something like "View Page Source." You'll then be able to see the html code that generates the layout and content of your web page. Near the <title> tag, you'll be able to find tags that look like this:

<meta name="description" content="One or two keyword rich sentences that describe the content of the web page. Our massage practice offers sessions that focus on increasing fertility naturally." />
<meta name="keywords" content="list, keywords, that, appear, content, mayan, massage, fertility, fort collins" />

Then, our first paragraph may read something like this, in order to weave in those search words and phrases:

Fertile Being Healing Arts is a massage practice based in Fort Collins, Colorado. We specialize in Mayan abdominal massage, which can be used for increasing well-being and supporting natural fertility. And so on...

In that we have: massage, Fort Collins, Colorado, Mayan, natural, fertility, fertile, healing

In summary, the most important things to remember about using SEO to increase the success of your web site are:

  1. Understand that increasing search engine ranking takes time, effort, attention, strategy and patience
  2. Search words and phrases for which to optimize the site must appear in the title tag, the meta tags and the page's content
  3. Strategically employing pay-per-click advertising within your budget (Google Adwords, Facebook Ads) can also drive traffic toward a web site

More Tutorials

Kerry Shamblin Photography