|Is SEO everything that it claims to be?
Mike Druttman, Web Site Copywriter
You’ve built the site. Now it has to work for you on the Web. How should you approach these Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques that are offered as the solution? What should you bear in mind?
I’ll start with a personal admission. I get involved with some parts of SEO and I work with SEO specialists. But as a web site copywriter I’m not an SEO expert. Perhaps that’s OK because I don’t have an axe to grind. I try to view things from the client’s perspective and also from what makes sense to me.
Setting the base line
The purpose of Search Engine Optimization (or web marketing) is to have the web site rank highly in search engines for the most popular search terms that people use. This depends on the site being highly relevant. So if the search term is ‘French restaurant in Chicago’ and your restaurant specializes in French cuisine there, you’d want it to be one of the first ones listed.
Some people say, rightly I think, that a large measure of SEO is simply applying Search Engine ‘best practices’. In other words, do what SEs recommend in their guidelines. If you combine this with other best practices, in web site design, content and usability, you should be in a winning position. The trouble is that it’s hard to be an expert in all these fields and run your own business too. So you turn to the specialists.
Crap versus content
You have to be very careful who you choose to help you with SEO. Many ‘experts’ are so fixated with the technicalities that they’ll turn your site into something that maybe satisfies search engine robots, but not humans. Arranging links to your site from places that have little relevance to your business, or writing 100-word articles in your name that are stuffed with keywords are good examples of the wrong approach. A site firstly has to have strong interest for the people reading it. Places that point to your site also have to have quality content.
SEO comes in two parts
The first part is ‘internal’, dealing with how the site is built prior to being launched. This includes caring about the page titles, writing good content, and optimizing everything for the main keywords (which also need to be researched). This is something that site owners can do themselves or request from their creative team (copywriter, web site designer, webmaster). The second part is ‘external’ – how the site is promoted on the Web after launch. Web site promotion is usually the realm of web site advertising experts, including SEOs. Part of this job will be to register your site in directories like DMOZ and Yahoo, post information on blogs, do social media linking and writing/posting your articles.
Taking the initiative is key
People who spend a lot of effort in building a web site often lose their energy afterwards and fail to understand the need to keep it updated and interesting. Taking the initiative in SEO/ Web Marketing activities is part of that effort. Content needs to be changed, articles written and new links sought out. A responsible SEO person will care about all that. However the web site owner must also assume responsibility and not just switch to ‘autopilot’.
Checklist of what’s needed
- Use high quality content and never duplicate any texts from anyone else.
- Do through keyword research to find the search terms that your customers use.
- Have enough body content so that your keywords can be applied – don’t make your pages all images or all Flash.
- Seek out good links from quality web sites with high relevance to your business.
- Writing page titles that satisfy search engines and are interesting enough to click on.
- Check that all parts of your site are indexed and have no broken links.
- Offer unique information that shows you to be an authority in your field.
- Engage site visitors with interactive elements on your site and ask for their feedback. Monitor this feedback and use the best parts to improve your site.
- If you’re buying Internet advertising (like Adwords), look for rapid ROI and be ready to keep adapting your approach until you find it.
In the right hands, SEO is a highly effective way to attract high quality leads. In the wrong hands, it pollutes the Internet and damages your reputation.
About the author
Mike Druttman is a senior copywriter with great experience in writing content for web sites. He also undertakes web site optimization and linking, often in partnership with SEO experts. He is based in Israel. His website is www.futureweb.ws