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The Basics of Search Engine Optimization

According to TopRank Online Marketing, optimizing your website to appear higher on the search engines is the most effective online marketing tactic for generating leads and expanding the reach of your website. But, getting a good ranking can be tricky if you've never done it before. Today, we're going to explore the three main factors for good search engine optimization as well as some practical advice on how to address these points on your existing website.

Core SEO Factor #1: Research and Use the Right Keywords

Keywords and key phrases are the staple of search engine optimization. They help search engines to understand what your website pages are about. For example, if your content contains the phrase "pizza in Los Angeles", Google will pick up on the fact that you are most likely talking about something along the lines of buying, eating, making, or recommending restaurants who sell pizza in Los Angeles. When that phrase is used to search, your website has a chance at showing up in the search engine listings.

The more your page is related to that phrase, the more the search engines count it towards your ranking. So, a website that is ABOUT pizza in Los Angeles will have a better ranking than a blog post that only casually mentioned eating pizza in Los Angeles. The effectiveness of using the right keywords and key phrases is tightly coupled with creating content that is highly relevant to them.

Make sure to choose keywords and key phrases that your audience will be using instead of ones that you might want to be found under. Being found under the name of your organization isn't that impressive. But, being found under a phrase that describes your main product or service offering will bring you business and increase revenue. For example, if you were a restaurant that sells pizza by the slice in Los Angeles, you would want to be found under search phrases like "pizza in Los Angeles", "pizza by the slice Los Angeles", and "Los Angeles pizza parlors". If you are a Baptist church in Atlanta, you will want to be found under "churches in Atlanta", "great churches in Georgia", and "Baptist church Atlanta".

Core SEO Factor #2: Make Your Site Search Engine Friendly

Making it easy for search engines to crawl your website goes a long way in getting you the ranking you need. To accomplish that, make sure that you link your homepage and main menus to all of the important pages of your website. Use text links whenever possible, followed by graphical links. But, stay away from complicated AJAX, Javascript, or Flash menus that are essentially invisible to the search engines.

For text links, be sure to use descriptive phrases instead of the generic "click here". This tells the search engines what the page you are linking to is about and increases that page's internal link score. Creating such descriptive links to pages within your website and out to other websites makes your website a resource for the search engine as it helps it to prioritize and index content correctly.

For graphical links, be sure to use ALT attributes, also referred to as alternate text. Because a search engine cannot read the text on a picture or graphic, ALT attributes allow you to tell the search engines what information is represented by the graphic, allowing them to treat the information like text. Although they are not weighed as heavily as text links, they are a powerful tool in your arsenal. Also, be sure to use the NOSCRIPT tag for page objects such as Flash and video to tell the search engines what the object is about.

Core SEO Factor #3: Build Internal, External, and Inbound Links

Once you have your website organized into a deliciously crawl-able website, it's time to start building internal, external, and inbound links. First, make sure that all information on your website is linked together using text links whenever possible. Linking to pages within your website helps to reinforce the subject matter of your pages in the eyes of the search engines. Always use descriptive text and ALT attributes to explain what and why you are linking to the information.

Next, identify highly traffic websites you can link to from your pages. For example, linking to Wikipedia articles or recent articles in major publications can be an effective way to build your reference score and boost your website's credibility. Our Los Angeles pizza restaurant can link to recopies or local reviews. Churches can link to their denomination's website, local businesses and charities, or even websites owned by congregants.

Finally, implementing a strategy for getting other websites to link to you will help to increase your inbound links, an important factor in website's credibility score. You can create online profiles, social media pages, blog posts, article submissions, job listings, association listings, and guest blog posts that all link to your website. Be sure to provide a consistent URL and make your links relevant to your content. If you wrote an article about surfing, link it to your bio page, where you talk about your surging experience. Create links that make sense and build the quantity and quality of those links over time.

Measure Regularly and Tighten the Screws

Now that you have an effective core search engine optimization strategy, you must measure your progress regularly. We provide tools for traffic statistics that give you the most accurate web statistics possible. You can also use Google Analytics to tie your AdWords campaigns together. Measure the number of visitors, what pages they visit, what search engines they come from, and what keywords and links they use to find you. Regularly monitor your search engine ranking for your top keywords and key phrases. Run reports on the volume of e-mail newsletter subscribers you have acquired.

After you collect all that information, make smart choices about what you want to improve and work diligently to change one thing at a time, conscious not to change the things that are working for you. Even a simple change of a page's title can destroy your search engine rankings. But, the right change can send you straight to the number one position.

Now, don't be scared! Jump in there and start optimizing. For most of the websites we see, any level of optimization will result in better positioning. Once you obtain great positioning, work hard to improve and maintain that positioning. It sounds like a lot of work, but in the end it will save you thousands of dollars in online advertising and result in a healthy flow of leads to help you grow your organization to the next level.

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