Stacy Pessoney – Search Engine Marketing Tips

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Five Steps to Better Search Rankings

Want advice on how to make a few quick changes to your site that will propel it to top search engine rankings? Join the club! Unfortunately, you will not find any such advice here. Long gone are the days when adding a few key phrases to the code of a site would affect search engine visibility for those phrases. Search engines utilize a complex array of variables to rank web pages, and competition for top placement in their result pages is fierce. What you will find here are five steps which, used in conjunction, secure a strong foundation for search engine success:

1. Determine a focused set of key phrases. Key phrases are the roots of search engine optimization. Not only do you want search engines to crawl and understand the subject of your site, you want them to deliver it to users who are already searching for your offerings. Key phrase selection should occur prior to any other SEO effort. Ideally, each page of your site will be optimized for the single key phrase most relevant to its content.

2. Ensure Site Code is Relevant and Accessible to the Search Engines. Search engines cannot interpret text that is contained within a graphic, nor are they awed by the elaborate Flash animation you have created to captivate visitors. Search engines interpret text, and that includes both the body content visible to site users as well as the unseen text comprising the code of the site. While users’ goals and desires should be considered in site development, search engine friendliness should not be overlooked.

Search engines utilize numerous factors to determine the relevance of a page to a particular search query. Some of these factors are aspects of the site code itself, giving you complete control over their content. Incorporating the most relevant key phrase for each page of your site into the following areas will help signal to the engines what each page is all about, thus improving the chance that your site will be ranked for the desired phrase:

-Title tag: The inclusion of a page and key phrase specific TITLE tag on each page of your site is simple yet extremely important for search engine relevance.

-Section headings: H1 header tags provide additional opportunity to convey the theme or subject of a page, and should not be ignored. The purpose of an H1 tag is to describe the contents of a page or individual sections or subsections of a page. Incorporating the most relevant key phrase for each page into its H1 tag is another simple modification that can contribute to improved relevance to a particular phrase.

-Image ALT attributes. Image ALT text describes the content of an image, and is also used by the engines to ascertain the contents of a page. Utilizing descriptive image ALT attributes can be helpful in conveying the theme of a page. On a page informing users about the efficacy of purple widgets, an image ALT attribute containing the phrase “purple widgets” would convey to the search engines more information than would an image ALT attribute containing the phrase “company logo image.”

3. Regularly publish unique content that is valuable to users. While incorporating major key phrases into the code of a site can increase relevance and lay a foundation for improved rankings, code modifications alone are insufficient to achieve desirable results for targeted key phrases. Search engines utilize a number of variables to determine how to rank web pages, and among them is the presence of unique, valuable content.

Providing unique web content is not only important for search rankings, but the types of content contributing to search engine visibility are also becoming increasingly robust. Content resident to your site may take the form of traditional body text, but may also be in the form of blog entries, videos, images and interactive tools. The incorporation of video and other multimedia content is becoming increasingly beneficial to sites that strive to remain on the cutting edge of web technology. Ideally, your site content will be useful and engaging to your target audience while upholding a quality standard that will attract links from relevant sites.

4. Get the word out. The Web is no longer a means of passively receiving information from the people and companies with sufficient resources to invest in sophisticated websites. Social media has transformed the Web into a two way avenue of communication, empowering individual users to obtain and share information via peer to peer social networks. Social media provides users access to the content deemed to be the most interesting or helpful by their peers, and offers one outlet through which you can get the word out about a particularly interesting piece of content such as a blog article or a video you have published. Social media involvement is essential to success in modern SEO.

Press release distribution represents a traditional means of generating publicity that has adapted easily to the Web. Regular press release distribution combined with involvement in social media can arouse interest and attract beneficial inbound linkage to your site, an important goal of any effective search engine optimization project.

5. Keep it up. As you have figured out by this point, there is nothing quick and easy about an effective search engine optimization strategy. Longevity is essential to improving your site’s positioning within the search engine results.

Competition within the search engines is an important dynamic that cannot be ignored. After all, if your site was the only one targeting the phrase “purple widgets,” it would be comfortably positioned at the top of the search engine result pages raking in profits. Even if you were lucky enough to be in this position, Web savvy entrepreneurs would quickly identify the opportunity and start up their own, bigger and better widget websites.

Targeted key phrase selection is one means of circumventing mass competition for popular key phrases. Consider using the geographic location (“purple widgets Austin”) or be more specific in key phrase selection (“residential purple widgets”). Rather than a means to an end, consider search engine optimization as a race in which you must be consistent to win.

About the Author: Pamela Westbrook is a Project Manager for a premiere search engine optimization firm based in Austin, Texas. Pamela is a graduate of the University of Alabama Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration with a degree in Consumer and Industrial Marketing. For more information about search marketing and PPC management, please visit

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