Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a website from search engines via "natural" or "organic" search results for targeted keywords.
Content is King
Search engines are not as dependent upon META tags as much as they once were. These tags are hidden in the header of your web pages and contain keywords and page descriptions, but abuse of these tools eventually forced search engines to discount them in order to provide accurate search results. Many search engines therefore place little weight on the information contained in the META tags and instead put greater emphasis on the content that’s actually on the page.
Modern Retail believes one of the best ways to improve search engine rankings is by providing more quality content in your web site. The more extensive the content you place online, the more likely it will be relevant and raise your site higher in search results.
Pages hoping to do better with Google and other search engines should have a minimum of 300 words per page
The second important influential factor is getting websites to link to yours. When this happens, Google assumes that you are providing relevant and useful information and increases your rankings.
So how do you get people to link you? If you sell products from various vendors and designers, call and ask them to link to your website. What link to give them is important, so listen closely. Hopefully, you have a page in your website where consumers can shop for a specific brand. This is the website address you want to give your vendor. This allows shoppers to go directly to the vendor’s specific page in your site from your vendor’s site. Google will pick up on this and reward you for it. You can also fancy up these pages by including the logo and a short description of the brand right there on the shopping page. Vendors usually appreciate this little extra touch and this information is quite helpful for SEO. You need to repeat this process for every brand on your website and then really press your vendors to link to you.
To rank higher with the search engines you must: (1) add good, relevant content to your web site and (2) get your vendors, supplies, etc. to link to you.
The Popularity Contest
As Google, the lauded search engine, prepares for its public offering, Modern Retail takes a look at how search engines help – and potentially hurt – your business.
"At the core of Google’s technology is a voting system,” writes James Surowiecki in the May, 2004 issue of The New Yorker.
"Fundamentally, the Web pages that Google says are best are the pages that the Web as a whole thinks are best.”
Google is, at heart, a popularity contest. And people who use the Web are the judges. Search engines are relevant to your business because the more people find you, the higher in the ranking your site will appear, and therefore the easier it will be for more people to find you. As you climb higher in search results, your site begins to gain that reputation of being ”better.” All this means more traffic – more shoppers – and increased chances for purchases.
Search Engine Optimization is the catch-all phrase referring to process of aligning the content on your website to maximize your presence on search engines. It’s the business of creating popularity. While it’s true that good SEO and search engine text ads can help craft a site to convey highly relevant information to your target audience, the larger question is, once all those people come, will you live up to the buzz?
In the frantic rush to get people to your site, what’s rarely considered is just what to do with them when they come. For all the good search marketing does for your traffic, if you can’t handle the influx, your customers’ experience can be negative, and they won’t return to your site. In other words, the downside of being popular is that falling out of favor is just as easy as gaining it.
The key to leveraging the power of the search engine is to have a well-defined plan for servicing people when they come and maintaining the relationship after they’ve left. A nimble customer service plan and customer-oriented store policies help retain the extra traffic you bring in.
Search engines like Google are a cost-effective way to make you popular by increasing your online exposure. The much harder part is retaining those customers through meeting demand and providing superior customer service. Getting to the top of the heap is easy; it’s staying there that’s the real challenge.
Manipulation of the Engines
Unfortunately, search results are being manipulated to a greater degree than ever and getting ranked higher in the results has become increasingly difficult. Websites are using new tactics, and putting new spins on old tricks, to affect search results. Most of these techniques are legitimate; others are deceptive and unethical. One search engine practice that’s become controversial in recent years is called paid inclusion. Some search engines – such as Yahoo and Ask Jeeves – allow website owners to pay a small fee to guarantee that their site will be included in the search engine’s index. These inclusions are incorporated directly into the search results. Many times people are unaware which entries are paid for and which ones are pure results. Both Yahoo and Ask Jeeves link to a disclaimer stating that some of the results have paid to be included, however, several other engines that use Yahoo’s search results – such as Dogpile, Excite and MSN, do not display such a disclaimer.
Google, the number one search engine, has its own problems, many caused by a cottage industry of so-called optimization firms that promise to boost rankings of customers’ websites. In our opinion, many of these companies are using unethical and deceptive practices, and their efforts are reducing the quality of Google’s search results. Two such practices are cloaking and dummy domains.
- Cloaking occurs when a page appears one way to a search engine’s indexing technology, but looks quite different to people who click on the link to it.
- Dummy domains take advantage of the link relevancy built into Google’s search technology. By setting up several dummy domains, a site can improve their Google rankings by increasing their link relevancy. There are however legitimate optimization companies, two of them being Marketleap and Position Technologies. These companies help site owners analyze content and better describe products so search engines can more effectively identify and rank relevant content.
In the end, when it comes to SEO, there are a lot of great ways to legitimately increase your organic search engine rankings. First and foremost is to include quality content on every page of your site. The better content you have, the more likely your site will be linked to - thereby increasing your search rankings. And don't forget to create a well-defined plan for servicing the increased traffic and retaining those your new customers.