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What is SEO?

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the science and art of manipulating onsite and offsite factors that help increase rankings for a specific set of search keywords. In a way, through the manipulation of different site variables, you can use search engine ranking algorithms to gain an advantage over your competition—an advantage that the competition is either spending tens of thousands of dollars for or is simply being left in the dust.

Why do I need to implement SEO?

The basic premise of any website is to be found and known by people. Whether it is a site selling products or services, or simply an information site such as a .org, .edu, or a medical information site, you still wish to have traffic looking at your website. So how do you go about this? The easiest way to be found is through a search. Until about 6 years ago, all search was free and all you needed to really do was write the best site content you possibly can, submit it to a search engine and wait.

That all changed with the Pay-Per Click model introduced by Go.com and later perfected by Google’s AdWords system. However, you don’t want to pay each time someone goes to your site—you want free listings! You want your site coming up on the first page of a search on Google, Yahoo, or any other search engine. So you can either design your site and hope that someone links to it and you get some traffic or you can take a proactive approach and have a site designed from scratch that is search engine friendly and is designed to show up as a high result in a competitive keyword segment.

Why must I learn about SEO to be able to implement it?

Would you trust someone who doesn’t know you to write a book about your life? I wouldn’t either. And no one knows your site, mission, purpose, goals, and values better than you. So there is no one better to spearhead an SEO campaign than the site owner and/or the webmaster.

Yes, you can hire an experienced SEO consultant to implement SEO onto your site, but that may involve dramatic changes which can drastically impact your site—sometimes negatively. So it is vital that you oversee all of the steps taken during any SEO campaign. Strictly leaving it up to a consultant makes the job difficult for everyone involved. Not only is the consultant limited by what he can and cannot do on your site, the end results will not nearly be as good as if there was a dedicated copywriter and/or webmaster coding in certain SEO friendly strategies into the site.

Also, having direct impact on your site by writing relevant content that only someone in your industry knows about, determining new keywords, writing keyword-rich descriptions, determining who your key competitors are, any type of code-level medication and much more will give you direct control over your SEO, instead of in the hands of a consultant who is probably new to the industry and new to your site and its mission.

Why can’t I just build my site and worry about SEO later?

In order to save a lot of time and money, it is crucial to build the website with an eye on SEO at all times. Keeping pages focused on a few main keywords, while writing focused and related content and highly optimized meta tags is important to achieve high keyword density.

It is the relation of your content, tags, and link text that denotes what your page is about to the search engines. And it is the optimization of those factors which results in the ranking of your page higher than your competitors. If you chose to worry about this later, you will be forced to rewrite and recode all of your pages.

Many times, meta tags will need to be adjusted, alt text added, content rewritten for higher density and relevancy and more pages created to better establish a few keywords on each page rather than all of your keywords on just a couple of pages. It is a lot faster and cheaper to spend a little extra time early on than a whole lot more time and money when you finally decide to look into SEO later.

How does SEO work and what are the basic premises?

SEO works by optimizing your onsite factors such as your code, content, meta tags, keywords, sitemaps, articles, alt text, and internal links as well as offsite factors such as link popularity, link pagerank, anchor text, and directory submissions.

By performing keyword research and determining which keywords you want searchers to enter to find each particular page, you can focus your copywriting and page content for those keywords. Having 3-4 main keywords achieve a 5-7% word density on each page that you are optimizing will improve results for those keywords in searches. Search engines can only read and index HTML code and its variations. Javascript, ASP, Perl, PHP and the others are not indexed. Images are also not seen by search engine spiders and do not help in rankings as they are.

In addition, keywords in the URL itself get weighed very heavily. Having search engine friendly URL’s with actual keywords as the extension is much more favorable than random alphanumeric and character extensions. Furthermore, image alt text should be optimized by writing a related sentence using the keywords determined for that page describing that image. Another aspect to keep in mind is code to keyword density.

I want to build a good looking and interactive site, but being SEO friendly makes this difficult. What should I do?

Good search engine optimization is a delicate balance between spider friendly coding verses a good user experience. Sites with highly interactive elements such as flash and large graphic images will not only load slowly, but they will limit the amount of HTML content and spider friendly text you can add to the site while maintaining a theme. It is possible to use HTML features such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to help improve the site and make it more visually pleasing while maintaining the use of HTML.

What are some key strategies of on-site SEO?

The first step is to determine what your keywords are. It is simply unreasonable to pick a very competitive keyword such as “new cars” and hope to achieve high ranking for it. It is a good idea to look at more specific keywords that encompass a locale, a more specific definition of the word or a combination of these keyword such as “new cars in New York,” “new Honda Accord EX,” and “new Honda Accord for sale.”

Select a URL that is related to your keywords as much as possible. The use of hyphens will not hurt the rankings. A good URL for a site selling cars is www.new-cars-new-york.com. Also, use the keywords in the file extensions of the URL. For example: www.new-cars-new-york.com/imports/honda/sedan.html, www.new-cars-new-york.com/newcar/financing.html

Before any code is written, determine what each page will be about. Select 3-4 related keywords and decide to use them on the page while also using 5-10 long tail keywords as well. Write Title, Description, and Keyword tags that focus on these keywords while keeping the tags as relevant to the page possible.

With each page that you design, log the URL used and design a sitemap page that can be accessed through the homepage that links to each of the pages that you make. Use link text on the sitemaps page that is similar to that used in the Title tags. Anytime after your site is released that you add more content or pages, add that URL to your sitemaps file and submit it to Google Sitemaps and RORWeb sitemaps.

Be sure that every main page is accessible from the homepage and every other page is accessible from the sitemap page. Use related anchor text whenever linking from one page to another. When writing content, be sure to try and achieve a high keyword density. Something in the range of 5-7% is ideal for better rankings while maintaining a natural look and feel. Write, natural, optimized, and focus content.

Various forms of content may include site guidance and directions, descriptions, reviews, new products or services, informative advice, articles, press releases and ‘about us’ information. Updating your site with new information every couple of weeks will keep the spiders returning to your site more often and indexing your site faster when new information is available.

How soon after starting SEO work will I see results?

Search Engine Optimization is a delicate process of writing, coding, linking, designing and tuning. With that said, SEO is work intensive and requires much tuning and adjustment to achieved desirable results. Hence, a standard SEO campaign for a set of keywords requires a minimum of 6 month engagement.

It is widely believed that MSN tends index and rank sites within 1 month after its spider’s fist find the site or any major changes are made. Yahoo works between 1 and 3 months. If you have an established site, Google results may start to improve within 3 months. However, if you have a brand new site, it may be subject to what is called the Google sandbox—essentially a site verification ‘penalty box’ that prevents your site from ranking at all for competitive keywords.

During this period of time that can last between 3 months and 1 year, Google attempts to ensure that your have a legitimate site with a real purpose. This is the unfortunate side of SEO but is more reason to start SEO early on to get passed the sandbox, get good links and get indexed for quality content even before your site is actually released.

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