When you want Internet users to find your business online, the key phrase is Search Engine Optimization. Most anyone with an online presence has probably received an offer from a professional SEO service offering to bump up your page rankings for a fee. For the do-it-yourselfers, however, there are a number of tools, some free and others for a nominal fee, available to optimize your search-engine rankings.
While the term Search Engine Optimization has been around for more than a decade, the sheer volume of websites and the economic need to drive traffic to them has created an entire SEO culture of strategies and expertise. Broadly categorized as “Black Hat SEO,” “White Hat SEO,” or the newly coined “Gray Hat SEO” designation, these methodologies can produce highly desirable ranking results. Misuse, on the other hand, can get your site barred by search engines.
If your sole desire is to run a tremendous amount of traffic through your site for a limited amount of time, Black Hat SEO tactics of article spinning, keyword stuffing, or link farms usually work. Often referred to as “spamdexing,” these practices drive huge quantities of traffic, without regard to quality. They also diminish the quality of the search engine, which is why major search engines will temporarily, or even permanently, ban offending websites.
Black Hat SEO strategies are primarily White Hat SEO practices abused. If your goal is long-term, quality traffic, keywords are still, well, key. It’s how you use them that determines your results.
Keyword density refers to the frequency a keyword or phrase is used in comparison to the total number of words on the Web page.
So, how do you determine what keywords to use? Google’s Keyword Tool is a free option for those in need of keyword ideas. Type in any word or phrase that describes your business or website, and Google will produce a table displaying related keywords, in addition to information on advertiser competition and monthly local and global search volume for those keywords.
One way to determine how effective your keywords are is to use a rank checker; various versions are available online for free or minimal cost. These services provide reports citing where a website ranks on various search engines based on keyword(s). SEObook Rank Checker allows you to check your rankings in seconds. Just enter your website URL, the keywords, and find out your positions for Google, Yahoo! and MSN. Mike’s Marketing Tools offers a free service that covers seven search engines. The report shows specific ranking if the site is in the top 100 sites for a particular engine. A link is also produced to the search engine, so you can see exactly what websites are ranking higher for the same keywords. If your site is not in the top 100 search results, a simple ‘no’ appears.
SEO for Firefox provides relevant data about the best-ranked websites for a given keyword. Once you understand why others are ranking so well, you can copy their strategy. Keyword Difficulty Tool determines how difficult it will be to rank for a certain keyword, which can be great for deciding on domain names, page headings and more. Visual PageRank Tool shows the page rank of all the pages on your website.
Once you’ve settled on your relevant keywords, make sure they are used appropriately to avoid “keyword stuffing.” Early on, webmasters learned to rely on keyword density to push a website higher up on a search results page. As a result, search engine rankings were being manipulated with keyword stuffing—the practice of loading keywords into a webpage design solely for the purpose of increasing search ranking. This practice led to the development of multifaceted algorithms that relied on numerous factors to produce ranking results. While understanding and using keywords is still an integral part of optimizing your search rankings, do not rely solely on repetitious words or phrases.
To optimize beneficial utilization, keywords should appear in titles, menus, and, most importantly, in your domain name.
NameBoy suggests available domains based on a desired keyword or words. The site also offers an appraisal tool. For a donation, you can receive an evaluation of your domain name, including its dollar value, along with explanations of the specific criteria used to determine the appraisal. The results are emailed in a matter of minutes.
In addition to employing strategic keyword practices, appropriate links and back links are an important element in successful SEO management.
The Black Hat SEO tactic of link farms congregates a group of websites that all hyperlink to each other, regardless of relevancy. While successful in the early years of SEO development, today’s more sophisticated search engines consider relevancy of links over sheer number.
Finding quality sites willing to reciprocate links can be a time-consuming task. Sites such as Link Market and GotLinks.com provide access to thousands of other websites looking for links. Free basic services are available, in addition to paid upgrades.
An essential component of successful linking is ensuring that your links work. Few things frustrate users more than dead-end links.
Xenu’s Link Sleuth is a free tool that will analyze all the links on your site.
Another great free tool for analyzing website efficiency is Web Page Analyzer. Submit a web address and receive an online report indicating download times for the various images and pages on your site. The most beneficial feature of the report is its “Analysis and Recommendations” at the end of the page. Addressing several components, including images, objects, size, and script, the conclusion ranks these characteristics with a green Congratulations, a yellow Caution, or a red Warning! icon. Recommendations for improving performance on the yellow or red issues are also provided.
Search Engine Optimization has become a necessary component of any online presence. As with any marketing strategy, it often takes time and some fine-tuning.
With just a few simple strategies, supported by the wealth of online tools available, you can see your search-engine rankings improve and your traffic increase.