Thursday, September 29, 2005

Why Search Engine Optimization Matters to Small Business

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a large area that we won’t try to cover all of in this article. SEM is the implementation of a variety of search engine processes and services to help market your business via a search engine. Today, however, we are focusing on Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Optimizing your web site to perform well on search engines can be a critical part of your online success. Search engines play a large role in how people navigate the Internet, so if someone is looking for your services or products online, sooner or later they will use a search engine. Your relevance to these search results can significantly impact the ability of search engines to deliver a user to your site. Studies have shown that those sites that show up on the first page of search results for a keyword receive six times more traffic than they did prior to their appearance.

The first thing I ask a client when we begin discussing SEO is “where does your web site get its traffic?” Most successful small business web sites glean only a small percentage of their overall traffic from search engines, if any at all. They have gotten their traffic from either their current client base or their promotions on their vehicles or other traditional advertising methods. My objective at this point is to see if an SEO plan would be good for them.

The next step is to review actual Internet search usage. The tool we use most frequently for this is the Keyword Selector Tool from Yahoo! Search Marketing. Using this tool, we can look at past activity on the Yahoo search engine. A rule of thumb is that Yahoo represents about 25% of all search engine traffic, so when you see the number of searches associated with a term, multiply by 4 to get a general idea of Internet search demand.

Oftentimes, a keyword is typed in and the telling response of “No suggestions for this keyword” is returned. You would not believe the keywords that some business owners believe are used to find them on the web. This exercise teaches us very quickly how to jump into the seat of the search engine user. Afterwards, we fairly quickly begin to identify keywords that do apply to the business that are also experiencing at least some demand based on the Keyword Selector Tool.

Now we have some direction.

The next step is to take this list of 20 or so keywords and determine with which the best opportunities exist to optimize your site. We do this several ways. One, we simply do a search on those terms and visually see how relevant the results are and what the pay-per-click activity against that keyword is. I typically just use Google and Yahoo for such research. This method is fairly ambiguous and depends a lot on experience.

Secondly, we run what is called a KEI analysis. This fancy acronym stands for a formula that looks at the demand for a particular keyword and then the supply of pages out on the Internet that are relevant to that keyword. In my opinion, opportunity exists for my client with any keyword with a KEI of 10 or higher.

Finally, we evaluate how best to deploy those keywords over your site. Should we optimize just the first page? Or should we look at creating sub-pages as well?

Once we have narrowed the list and decided on which pages to optimize, we go through the process of making your site relevant for the keyword selected. In my company, we use an optimization tool that considers the current search algorithms from Yahoo and Google (as best as they can be determined through observation) and lets us know what changes we need to make to the particular page in order for it to achieve the ideal level of relevance. Once these changes are completed, we then move on to the next page and perform the same operation until your site is relevant to the keyword selections from the previous process.

Optimizing for keyword relevancy, however, is just one battle in the effort of search engine marketing. In my next article, we will take a look at the importance of link popularity and the role it plays in placing your site above the crowd when you are all equally relevant.

Darryl Parker is the founder and President of Internet marketing and Charlotte web site design firm Parker Web Developers. This series on web marketing is intended to present useful tips for business owners and decision makers. The series precedes an upcoming book compiling these topics. Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

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Blogger Search Engine Optimization said...

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12:45 AM  

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