Dori Kelner, co-owner at Sleight of Hand Studios, a visual communications firm in Fairfax, VA, gave a talk at IABC’s February independents’ lunch. She discussed search engine optimization (SEO) and gave advice on how to make sure your Web site is set up for optimal marketing.
Here’s a summary of her talk with some marketing insight added by Stern Communication, which arranged the talk.
1. Hire a Developer Who Really Knows Online Marketing
Many developers will say they optimize for search engine optimization but they really don't know how to do it. Here are key questions to ask potential web designers before you hire them.
How do you handle on-page optimization versus link building?
Your potential developer should explain that on-page optimization is about providing relevant content (This is text on pages, including headlines and copy, that is sprinkled with key words so it will search higher) and meta data (These are the tags used in the coding of your site that search engines read)to drive people to your site. Link building is about getting other relevant Web sites to link to yours.
***Relevant content is used a lot and it basically means what you think it means, information that matters to your business and your marketing.
A new Web site should follow the basics for on-page optimization and work at organic link building (natural linkages among your site and others related to your business). An established Web site should monitor link progress and further leverage other on-page factors such as headlines.
Who will develop content and what languages do you use to write the Web site code?
Make sure that a writer experienced in SEO is developing the content for you. She should know how to research keywords, populate meta data, and write for people who are interested in your business. After all, you are not selling to the robots(the invisible to us code readers, such as Google) even though they will be reading your code.
The developer should indicate that he uses HTML, with semantic mark-up and CSS. What does this mean? HTML is the language of the Internet, this is what the robots can read. Semantic markup and CSS are the way the code is styled. For example, the code that says that your text is to be displayed with the color red and 12 point Arial font should be in a file separate from your content. It’s not important to the robots and this way they won’t read it.
2. Align Marketing Goals with Design of Your Web Site
Good search engine optimization (SEO), like good Web site development and smart marketing, starts with defining the goals of your Web site.
Some key questions to ask are the same questions you would ask of any marketing vehicle:
• What types of products or services am I selling?
• Who are my key target audiences?
• What am I trying to accomplish - increase traffic, improve brand awareness, improve visibility, sell directly from the site, etc.?
Your goals will help you determine the right content and set key performance indicators (KPI or how we measure success) to monitor your progress.
For example, Sleight-of-Hand Studios is building Web sites that are aligned with the business plan and marketing strategy of their clients, so it is careful to build sites based upon clients’ marketing goals.
3. Design and Measure Key Performance Indicators
KPIs must be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Some examples are we want our site to:
• Rank in the top five results for a specific keyword within 6 months
• Increase traffic 10% by the end of the year
• Get 30 new e-newsletter sign-ups within two months
• Sell 500 high-margin items by September 1st.
Once you set these KPIs, you can monitor your progress and adjust your SEO to achieve them.
4. Maximize Meta Data and Content for Search Engine Optimization
Here are a few hard and fast rules to make sure your site scores high on the search engines for the key words you’ve chosen.
Make sure you use the right search terms. There are many ways to research the terms that you will need to help clients and prospects find your site. A few suggestions: Look at the Web sites of your competitors and the types of words and phrases they are using. Think about the key terms that you use when selling face to face. Ask what are the current buzzwords in my industry?
Create content that is of value to your reader. You need to provide information that is valuable and then place your key words into the text you’ve written. Don’t let search dictate content, let the market dictate it and then optimize for search. Aim for 2-3 relevant keyword phrases per page.
Create valuable linkages to other sites. You want companies that are related to your business to
link to your site. One way to justify why they should is to provide industry information. Put up research papers, link to RSS feeds, or provide a searchable database that will be valuable to others in your industry. The more important industry information used on your site the higher it will score on a link building algorithm.
Be sure that all meta data is filled out in the code of your Web site. This information is included in meta data:
• Page Titles - These are the titles that come up at the top of your browser window. They should be unique on each page and incorporate a relevant keyword term for that page. These are not headlines which are considered content, they are how you tag each page with code.
• Descriptions - These are the text that the browser reads with the search results. It should be unique and a variation on the page title.
• Heading tags - These are the headings in the content that the audience reads. Just making the text bigger does not make it a heading; it must be tagged as such in the code. The headings on a page should incorporate a variation of the keywords you’ve identified.
• Make good use of anchor text. Let's say you have a page that discusses top-of-the-line flashlights. Other pages on your website may make references to these flashlights, and you will want to link those pages to the flashlight page.
You may be tempted to say, "To learn more about our flashlights, click here." The phrase "click here" is anchor text; it is the text that links you to the flashlight page. You want this text to be meaningful and use a keyword phrase. A better way to code this would be, "See our full selection of high-quality flashlights." Now you have created a meaningful linkage on your website.
Dori provided a list of great websites for marketers to learn about SEO. These include:
SEOMOZ.com; SearchEngineLand.com; SEOBook.com
Good tools for keyword discovery include:
Google; Yahoo; Wordtracker; SEO Book; Overture
(Sleight-of-Hand Studios integrates its expertise in business, technology and design to extend brands to all media – web, print, photography, presentation and décor – with the assurance that your image is distinctive, memorable, consistent, and repeatable. SOH translates your vision into strategic design).