Search Engine Optimization

It is the holiday season once again, and with it comes the usual inquiries from clients and colleagues about increasing traffic to their web sites. While plenty of advertising, pay-per-click, and link exchange programs are out there, these inquiries are invariably wanting to improve search engine listings and increase the traffic that search engines provide. This is the game of search engine optimization or SEO for short.

As I sit here in Omaha, I’ve read no less than 4 news articles in local and regional newspapers and have been interviewed twice on the subject in the last month. I also heard two radio spots just this morning on my way in to the office.

Search engine optimization is simply the process of improving where a particular site ranks within a search engine for specific key words. For example, an e-commerce site built around selling tires would certainly want to be listed in the first few result if someone were to type in “buying tires online.” SEO is a cottage industry within web marketing and promotion, and is often used in conjunction with search engine marketing (SEM). Optimization specifically is referring to the techniques and processes of improving both the content and structure of a site with the end goal of improving search engine rankings. It is not submitting a site to 5,000 search engines for the low price of $79.95.

Are the efforts and costs associated with search engine optimization worth it? The answer is always yes and no. SEO is an ongoing process that often times doesn’t see immediate results. That, of course, changes from time to time with improvements to the technology that drives search engines but is the exception rather then the rule. Proper optimization techniques will often see a two or three month lag period before noticeable results appear…which means the process should have started at least two months ago to see a results in December.

Often times, if you have the ability to manage the content on your site, you have the ability to start optimizing right away. The reason is that search engines (Google, MSN, AltaVista et. al.) love content, and content that specifically stays on topic. If you site doesn’t contain much text, or doesn’t describe what you do, you know where to start. Make a list of 10 or so words or phrases that describe your business or web site. Rewrite your copy from there.

There are plenty of resources on the web dedicated to providing information on optimization; if you have the time to do so. But the value of a professional search engine optimizer comes not from having them defining your business, but from expanding and integrating your keywords and phrases. Being able to jump right into the process without investing time in a learning curve, then explaining or developing a solution to improve how those keywords are used in the site.

In the next installment, Pay-Per-Click, Directory Inclusion and Algorithms.