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Search Engine Optimization

What makes a Web site effective?

Like any good marketing there first needs to be an effective presentation of the benefits you can offer your customers and a call to action to get them motivated to buy. But much more importantly your site needs to be Search Engine Optimized to get you found.

You see, most people use a search engine, such as Google, to find things on the Web. Search Engine Optimization is a set of processes that will result in your Web site appearing near the top of these searches.

Many business owners think they need to spend a bundle to get a “cool” looking site in order to sell on the Web. Although that may be appropriate for some organizations, any site will only work if it gets found. A simple optimized site that presents a clear message will always out-perform a cool looking site that is hard to understand and hasn’t been optimized to be found by search engines.

Search Engine Optimization

Most of your new customers will find you by doing a search using one of the popular search engines. Most likely they will use Google. Obviously you want your site to appear high in the results for a search. Few searchers will look beyond the first three pages of search results. If your site doesn't come up near the top of the search results you might as well not have a site.

Google doesn't publish the methods they use to determine who comes up high in a search, and it is clear the methods are constantly changing, however, much has been deduced about how to get a top listing.

The first objective is to make sure your site has the appropriate keyword phrases to match the searches. You don't want keywords that are too specific or too general. You also don't want too many keywords because Google can spot if you are "stuffing" keywords.

Think about what keywords your customer might use to find your business. Menlo Web Design understands how to research and determine the keywords that will be most effective for marketing your business and can help you with this step.

Once you have the correct keywords then two most important factors that will cause your site to appear high in searches are how long your site has been in existence, and how important Google believes your site to be.

Google pushes all web sites to the bottom of the search list until they have been in existence for six months or more to protect searchers from fly-by-night web sites that offer no real value despite having the right keywords. This can't be avoided. If your keywords are popular keywords then you will simply have to wait and use other techniques to connect to potential customers.

Google calculates a ranking for your site based largely on how much relevant text it finds on your site and how many other sites link to your site. Images, Flash and other non-text code is invisible to the Google programs that will rank your site's importance. They are counting the number of words of text, and outgoing links to other sites with relevant material, to determine if your site is an "authority" on your subject.

It is clearly vital to have lots of text explaining your area of expertise and have outgoing links to other sites with more information.

Even more important to Google in determining the worth of your site is how many other related sites have linked to your site. Getting other highly ranked sites to have links to your site is the single most important thing you can do to help push your site to the top of search result listings.

This short overview gives you a taste for what needs to be considered in optimizing your site for search engines but doesn't begin to cover all the aspects that need to be considered to make your site an effective marketing tool. Menlo Web Design can help you navigate all the complications of putting together an effective strategy of optimizing your site for the best search engine results.

What exactly is Search Engine Optimization?

There are several steps to Search Engine Optimization (or SEO as it is often referred to).

The first step is to find the best keywords much like picking the right classifications for a Yellow Pages ad. I use highly specialized software and online services to find which keyword phrases are right for your organization. The best ones aren’t so common that you will be competing against millions of other Web sites, and aren’t so unusual that no one ever searches on them.

Next I modify the text copy on your Web site’s pages to ensure that they have just the right density of your keyword phrases to appeal to the search engines. This process alone will often get a Web site to show up on the first couple of pages of a Google search.

Depending on your needs there are many other SEO steps I will perform to get your site found:

  • Submitting your site to hundreds of related online directories and search engines.
  • Negotiating with hundreds of other Web sites to add a link to your site. These links makes your site seem more important to the search engines.
  • Getting your business listed on popular local review sites, and getting your customer’s positive testimonials added.
  • Setting up Pay-Per-Click advertising to get your site to the top of the search results from day one.
  • Adding your business to social networking sites, such as Facebook, to gain even more friends, reviews and links.

Beyond Google

In the beginning the World Wide Web was envisioned to be isolated, static sites offering information on individual subjects, and providing links to other site with related information. The web was a research tool much like an extended, virtual library. Communication was through e-mail consisting of messages sent from one user to another.

This view of the web has come to be known as "Web 1.0" – the first version of the web. Now a new model for the web has appeared, "Web 2.0", and it is being hailed as the greatest thing since sliced bread and it will effect your Internet marketing strategy.

With Web 2.0 web sites are no longer static pages to be viewed. Web sites are becoming customizable places where you interact and communicate with other viewers.

The Amazon site doesn't just sell you books. It remembers you and your preferences. It offers you products that match your buying patterns. It allows you to sample pages in books and to post reviews of products.

MySpace has become an addictive environment where mostly young people create customized sites and communicate with like-minded individuals and groups. Companies market their products. Blogs (web logs) get published filled with personal commentary on favorite subjects and podcasts offer spoken comments published for all the world to hear.

The Wikipedia is a popular encyclopedia written and edited by anyone with the time and desire (and hopefully knowledge) to contribute.

More and more you will be seeing terms like RSS, Wikis, AJAX, blogs, personalization, streaming media, reviews, web services, folksonomies, tagging, social networking and bookmarking, etc.

It all becomes more and more confusing but don't bury your head in the sand because it will effect your business. Ignore these changes at your own risk. A bad review of your business submitted by an unhappy customer on a local review site could put you out of business.

With the guidance of Menlo Web Design, however, you can exploit these emerging technologies to your advantage. By being in the forefront of what is happening you can powerfully augment your Internet marketing efforts and gain significant advantages over your less in-touch competitors.

Current customers can email me or give me a call at 650 269-5780.

Menlo Web Design (www.menlowebdesign.com) is a Menlo Park company dedicated to helping local small businesses succeed on the Internet.

I am not taking new customers at this time.

Menlo Web Design, Menlo Park, California, (650) 269-5780
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