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Small businesses use search engine optimization tools to increase visitors

20 November 2009 No Comment


By Helen Kaiao Chang

See original story on SDNN

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Once upon a time, there were three little pigs.

Each built a house — one of straw, another of wood and a third of brick.

When the big bad wolf came along, he huffed and puffed and blew their houses down. All except the one made of brick.

So it is with Web sites. Depending on how they are built, they may not withstand the search engine wolves of Google, Yahoo and MSN, said Cindy Turrietta, owner of Affordable Search Engine Ranking.

“Web sites are all built differently,” she said. “Not all Web sites (stand) up to the wolf.”

Turrietta was leading a workshop organized by Score San Diego, as part of a series on Internet marketing for small businesses. The event, which took place Monday in Mission Valley, focused on search engine optimization, or SEO.

SEO enables search engines to index a Web site effectively, so its pages achieve high ranking on searches and gains maximum visibility with Internet visitors. The more traffic a site can generate, the more potential sales a business can garner.

More competition

Changing technology and more online competition means that businesses need to be more savvy about creating effective Web sites, said Turrietta. Google – the big bad wolf of search engines — has more than 200 algorithms it uses to rank a page, but the formula is constantly changing.

One trend is the personalization of searches. Engines are now able to remember what individuals look for and thus bring up different pages, based on the person’s search history. So a Web site might rank differently, depending on a consumer’s preferences.

“As the Internet grows and becomes more competitive, the search engines shift their algorithms as well,” said Turrietta. She recommended reading Google, Yahoo and MSN’s ranking guidelines at least once a year.

Where to start

To begin, businesses should establish a benchmark, said Turrietta. This is done by typing your domain name into each of the search engines and looking at the results. Sites such as Marketleap.com and Webposition.com also show page rankings.

Web analytics also provide information including:
• how many visitors view the site
• where they come from
• how long they stay
• what pages they come in from
• what pages they leave from
By tracking these numbers over time, businesses can set goals and measure the success of their marketing campaigns.

Businesses also need to check their competition – online. A business may have different competitors online than offline, said Turrietta. By looking at their pages and HTML codes, businesses can figure out how competitors are attracting visitors.

Keyword strategies

Turrietta explained many techniques and tools that businesses can use to increase SEO, including: keyword strategies, page elements, links, and content.

Keywords and keyword phrases are the specific words, terms or phrases that visitor type into search engine query boxes to find Websites containing information they seek.

Businesses need to know what phrases visitors are searching for – as opposed to what businesses want people to search.

For example, one of Turrietta’s clients was selling a trademarked product called “Kitchen Caddy.” All his Web site content was written around this term. But after doing keyword research, they found that people were actually searching for “kitchen gadgets” and “kitchen organizers.” The owner revised the site to capture these visitors.

“What problem does your product solve?” asked Turrietta. “They might be searching by their problem.”

Keyword search sites suggested include:
• Goggle adwords keyword tool
• Wordtracker.com
• Keywordiscovery.com
• Spyfu.com

Keyword Placement

Keywords need to be placed throughout the site, said Turrietta. Places include:
• Domain name
• Page names
• File names
• Image names
• Content
• Link text
• H tags
• Title tags

Links

Web links also help optimize a site, said Turrietta. Search engines consider links an indicator of how relevant a site is regarding a particular topic. More relevant links mean higher page rankings.

Three types of links are:
• Links coming in from other Web sites
• Links going out to other Web sites
• Internal links

Links to and from authoritative sites – for example, news sites, institutions and organizations – raise a site’s credibility. They show that the site offers valuable content that other want to link to.

Breadcrumbs – which show the trail of a visitor on a site – help create internal links within a site. Internal links drive traffic within a site, so visitors stay longer.

When creating links, Turrietta suggested linking to keywords and strong content. For example, “Click here” is not as rich a keyword link as “San Diego museum guide.”

Increase links

Specific ways to increase links include:
• Be a resource for information
• Publish articles with embedded inks
• Provide testimonials with links
• Create awards
• Host contests
• Publish RSS feeds
• Provide reviews, comparisons
• Publish optimized press releases
• Sponsor online newsletters
• Comment on blogs
• Utilize social media
• Write ebooks
• Sponsor an event

“Anything you do, ask yourself ‘Can I get a link back, or get content from this activity?” said Turrietta. “Repurpose your advertising efforts and make it work for your Web site as well.”

Other tools

Other optimization tools include a lot of technical, back-end systems, said Turrietta. These include: cascading style sheets, XML site maps, robots, domain registration and so on.

But the most important tool of all is content. When a Web site contains valuable content that people want, it will naturally attract good links, visitors and search engines, she said.

Test and analyze

In using any of the tools, Turrietta said to keep testing and analyzing results. With changing technology, tools and consumer habits, what works today may not work tomorrow said Turrietta.

Businesses need to invest the time and energy to find what works to attract the customers they want. “Test, test, test,” she said.

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenChang.

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