Who was it that said “if you build it they will come” because it’s definitely not true online. How many websites have failed because the person assumed that visitors would just magically appear. I recently met with a business person who had spent many thousands of dollars on an ecommerce website that had, over the course of many months, sold nothing at all. Building a website without search engine optimization is like putting a retail store at the end of a dark alley and then wondering where all the customers are. If you put that same store in a major shopping mall, thousands of people would begin coming through that store every day simple because of its location. Search engines are that shopping mall and search engine optimization is the way to get your business located there. The problem is that the search engines are extremely secretive about how they work and SEO firms are equally secretive about what they do. In order for a business person to make an informed decision about buying SEO services they need to learn a few of these search engine optimization secrets.
While there are many business offering search engine optimization, you need to be careful because some are offering substandard service, either they don’t really know what they’re doing and taking peoples money, or they are engaged in “black hat” methods, that is those techniques that are considered unethical and could result in a site being banned by search engines.
So what goes into effective “white hat” search engine optimization? It used to be about meta keywords years ago, hidden tags in the header section of a page’s HTML that told a search engine what that page was about. Thanks to people abusing keywords, they are not used by most search engines today. The big 3 (Google, Yahoo and Bing) will not use meta keywords to determine your rank.
The most important thing you can do to improve your search engine rank today is to develop inbound links. An inbound link is a link to your website from another site not in your domain. The number of links to your site tell search engines how relevant your website is, the higher the PageRank of the site linking to you, the more that link counts for.
How do you go about getting inbound links? There are lots of places online where you can buy links but this is against Google’s rules so you should avoid buying links to stay on Google’s good side. There are also opportunities for reciprocal links (you link to me and I’ll link to you), but some search engines can recognize reciprocal links and give them less weight when determining a website’s relevance. Another way of getting links is to comment on relevant blogs or message boards, be careful that you are not just spamming these websites, but actually leaving good, relevant comments. The best way to develop lots of good inbound links is still the old fashioned way, develop great content on your website that will make people want to visit your site and link to it.
There are a lot of other things that will improve your site’s standing in the search engines like using carefully researched keywords and the use of those keywords in the headings, subheadings, title and body of your page.
At this point it should be obvious that there is quite a bit of time and/or money involved in getting a website search engine optimized, researching keywords, building those keywords into the content, developing inbound links, not to mention making sure the code is clean and properly formatted so the search engines will not have any trouble reading it. So, what can you expect to see for all this? Let me illustrate, let’s say you have a website that sells potato peelers and has a conversion rate of 4%, (A conversion rate is the ratio of the number of visitors who take a desired action (fill out a form, make a purchase, etc.) to the number of visitors who view the page). So you get an average of 4 new customers for every 100 visitors to your website. The keyword “potato peeler” gets an average of 18,000 searches per month according to Google. If your SEO efforts put you in the top ten results for that term and capture even a tenth of those searchers you would have 1,800 visitors a month which would result in 72 new sales per month. Obviously the cost of search engine optimization is minimal compared to its potential to make money.
With these kinds of returns you can see why SEO is something that should not be an afterthought for a website but something that is built in right from the start. With these search engine optimization secrets you should be able to get started optimizing yoir site whether you are doing it yourself or hiring someone to do it.