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Search Engine Visibility

Author: Justin Downey

How Do Search Engines Work?

Search engines are basically giant indexes of data much like the yellow pages. Unlike the yellow pages, however, they actively seek out information and return the most relevant titles, snippets and URLs to our search queries. The way they seek out this information is key to understanding SEO.

Most search engines use 'bots', pieces of software that, essentially, surf the web at lighting speeds. They follow each link to a different page, read the content they find, determine if it's original and relevant, and send the data they find back to the home servers. Those servers then classify the data into a complex and proprietary algorithm so that search queries will be answered with the most relevant, unique information, and quickly.

What Do Search Engines Look For?

Perhaps paramount, search engines look for valuable, unique content. That is, content with specific appeal and unlike any other information on the web. Repurposing other's content is just not going to cut it. You've got to write—a lot.

As thousands of new websites are indexed every day, many are neglected over time. Their content becomes stale and irrelevant. Therefore search engines like to see at least some of the content updated on a regular basis.

The latest thing search engines look for in determining the value of a website in their index is inbound links. As you can imagine, it would be very easy to deceive search engines if all they looked for was lots of outbound links. What's almost impossible to fake is a large number of other websites linking relevant text to your site.

Organic Search Engine Visibility Tips

There's a lot of 'tricks' out there for improving search engine visibility, but all you really need to build successful, long-term SEO value is up-to-date, valuable content and high quality mark-up (or code). Here's a few tips to get you off on the right foot.

Descriptive ALT Tags and Image Names

Search engine bots (AKA spiders) can't read images (yet). They can, however, read the ALT tag image description and the filename of the image. Therefore, don't let your web developer get lazy and name every image on your site something like "ImageSlice133" when you could call it, "Brand-X-logo." Take the following example for syntax:

Anchor Text Links

"Anchor Text Links" is a fancy name for the visible text that's being linked. Knowing that search engines read the words and follow where they lead, you can see the importance of linking keywords to related, valuable content. Here's two examples of what not to do (line 1) and the right way to do it (line 2).

1: To contact Company XYZ, click here.
2: Contact Company XYZ today.

Here's what the code looks like:

1: To contact Company XYZ, click here.
2: Contact Company XYZ today.

In the example, line 1 has the anchor text as "click here." Not a very valuable or descriptive phase. Instead look how the line 2 example has the anchor text as "Contact Company XYZ" and is linking to a page called "Contact." I think you're getting it now.

High Content-to-Markup Ratio

More and more search engines look favorably on a high ratio of text-to-code. Using fewer tables, more INCLUDES and Sprite Maps instead of hundreds of lines of JavaScript rollovers, table markup and in-line style will result in a faster-loading, well-indexed website with all the functionality of before.

This is one of the tips you'll need a professional for. If you're not sure the quality of your site's mark-up, check it with this free validation service: validator.w3.org.

Company Blog/Newsletter

Corporate blogs and newsletters are perfect vehicles for constantly updated, valuable content. There are dozens of open source or free, packaged resources out there that will allow you to build one (or both) on your own.

Once built, these marketing communications must be kept alive. Consider developing an editorial calendar and writing as much of the year's content ahead of the first issue. Also, be sure to integrate sharing and content syndication via social networks, micro-blogs and RSS.

Finally, leave your sales pitches at the door. This is a Suspect-level marketing activity, not a sales meeting.

Unique META & TITLE Tags

Having even a few duplicate TITLE and META description tags will hurt your rank. Think of it this way, if a search engine is unclear which page is more relevant to a search query, they'd rather return neither of yours than the wrong one. All you have to do is write unique TITLE and META descriptions for each of your unique website pages.

Optimized Content

It's one thing to write unique and valuable content. That's the hard part. Thankfully, the easier part is optimizing the content. To optimize the content ask yourself, "What query would I type into a search engine to find this content?" Whatever the 3 or 4 key words you would type into a search engine are, make sure you use those words in your content, ideally fairly often.

You'll hear SEO experts talk about "Keyword Density" when it comes to optimizing content. Don't get too hung up on this. The idea of keyword density is to pack as many key words into the content as possible without being seen as doing just that by search engines. Here's all you have to do: scan the content closely and see if you're referring to the same thing using more than a couple proper nouns. If so, just refer to the same noun using the same word. That's a bit of a mouthful. Here's an example.

Pre-Optimized

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms have taken off in recent years, but what's its current state and what barriers to adoption still exist? According to Silverpop, Salesforce.com is the most popular automation solution by a landslide, accounting for almost 40% adoption by the several hundred surveyed.

Optimized for Keywords (SFA, CRM)

Sales Force Automation (SFA) and its big brother Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms have taken off in recent years, but what is the current state of the CRM market and what barriers to adoption still exist? According to Silverpop (an engagement marketing solution which blends CRM, SFA and marketing automation together), Salesforce.com is the most popular solution by a landslide, accounting for almost 40% adoption by the several hundred surveyed.

Look closely and you'll see that the content doesn't read like we're plugging CRM and SFA into every other word. Also, the optimized paragraph includes relevant links and explains the abbreviated key words.

Online Press Releases

Aside from possible media exposure, online press releases are an extraordinarily easy way to increase your website's reach and rank within search engines.

The reach of your website is dramatically increased as your promotional press release makes its way all over the web through news distribution sites. This larger reach opens up numerous channels for traffic to get to your site.

Online press releases also increase your site's page rank. As mentioned before, Search Engines look at the number of sites linking to your site. The thinking is that the more sites that link to yours, the more likely your site stands as credible and expert.

Submit your online press release with links to your site and within minutes the release could be featured all over the web from news-related sites to industry blogs. Overnight, your site will be seen by search engines as being linked to by not one or two sites, but hundreds. This increase in the number of sites linking to your own will both increase the number of channels for traffic to make it to your site, but also increase your site's rank, achieving a higher position in related search engine queries.

SEO Lies and Misconceptions

There's a lot of junk SEO tips out there. These gamers' SEO worst-practices are liable to get your site blacklisted or at best, waste a ton of your money.

Misconception: "Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Guarantees Permanent Top Placement"

Well, this is partly true. Search Engine Advertising, such as Pay-Per-Click (PPC), guarantees top placement of relevant ads, but not permanently and certainly not for free.

Fact is, no one can guarantee permanent, top placement. Placement is the sole domain of search engines and their success is based on displaying only the most relevant results (be them ads or organic results). What's more, search engines don't want the same listings to show up over and over again. To that end, they constantly modify their super-secret search algorithms (sometimes daily).

A search engine professional's job is to stay up-to-date on these changes, but "guaranteed, long-term placement" is a big red flag and a common misconception.

Myth: "Search Engine Optimization's Goal is Top Placement"

This myth is as wide-spread as it is inaccurate. Search Engine Optimization's goal is to make a site more "findable." At JDM, we call it "Search Engine Visibility". On average, website's only receive 6% to 7% of their traffic from commercial search engines. A site that has undergone Search Engine Optimization should shoot for that number to increase to 10% to 30%--at best. It's important to note that SEO is based on visibility and relevancy. That is, how well a search engine spider can read the site and index it as well as targeting search queries (keywords) that are of maximum relevancy to the site. In other words, if the site doesn't receive the top placement you want, don't just blame SEO—blame the content.

Lie: "META Tags are the 'Secret Sauce' of SEO"

This is our favorite SEO myth. META tags are used by search engine in their results, but their weight on the rank of the site is beyond minimal. Here's a rule of thumb: if your SEO team thinks their META tags can force search engine spiders to return to your website within a specified period of time, at best, they have no idea what they're doing.

Conclusion - Oh My!

Look, don't get overwhelmed. Just know that all you have to do is develop content for your website that is relevant, timely and informative to your target audience.

Trying to out-smart search engines is like trying to out-smart the IRS. It just won't end well.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/online-promotion-articles/
search-engine-visibility-2312812.html

About the Author

JDM is a Dallas-based, full-service marketing firm providing B2B clients evolved marketing services.

Get the latest marketing news from their "Shameless News" media center and stay tuned to their "Bathroom Reading" articles for more marketing, advertising, SEO and PR best practices.

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