March 11th, 2010
Much of the focus of articles about Search Engine Optimization deal with what the designer/developer needs to do and tends to overlook the other half of the battle – how to continually produce optimized content after the initial design. Maintaining, updating, and promoting the site is crucial for the long-term success in search engine rankings. Thankfully producing quality content through your CMS/Blog Platform is easy to do and yields enormous benefits!
Small, meaningful, and frequent updates are loved by both your users and search engines. A search engine, just like someone browsing the web, will begin to think that a site which has not been updated in years is no longer relevant. Therefore, the longer your site sits with old content on it, the further back in search engine rankings you will find yourself. Keep content fresh by announcing news and updates, posting to a blog, and changing general information pages as your business grows.
Headings and Titles
Page titles and headings on the page are the quickest way for a search engine to determine a page’s content. Try to sneak keywords into page titles and headings as much as you can rather than making them generic. For example, try using “Gardening and Landscaping Services” instead of “Our Services” or “Mowing and Clipping Rates” instead of “Prices.” Also make sure to use the heading tags to style page headings rather than just formatting text to be large and bold. Heading tags will create the same look and feel and also provide the benefit of indicating to a search engine that this is important information.
Search engines, like your readers (assuming they’re English readers), read a page from the top down and always consider information near the top more important than info towards the bottom. Therefore, keep your most important, keyword laden, frequently updated paragraph towards the top of your page and move images and static text below this.
In addition to using heading tags for major headings on the page, bold and italic formatting can be used on key words to attract the search engine’s attention. Try “We are proud to be Milwaukee’s #1 Landscaping Company” rather than “Milwaukee’s #1 Landscaping Company”. Do not overuse bold and italic text and it’s both unappealing to readers and can actually reduce your search engine rank.
Use a Variety of Keywords
Remember that not everybody is going to use the same search keywords to try to find the same site. Some may type “landscaping,” others “yard services”, while others may search for something specific like “hedge trimming.” Talk to family, friends, and coworkers about words they would use to search for your business and do your best to use them all across your site. This ensures that someone will find you even if they are searching with a keyword you personally might not have associated with your site.
Don’t Repeat Yourself
Repeating the same keyword or phrase over and over raises big red flags to search engines. Search engines are smart enough to know that repeating one phrase in large, bold letters over and over is not a natural presentation and will assume that the site is a spam site attempting to attract attention. As a general rule, try to use a keyword or phrase no more than 3 times per page.
Images are worth 1000 words to readers, but they’re only worth a few words to search engines. Try not to rely on images too much and when you do use images, make sure to use the title attribute. Give each image a meaningful title that both reflects what is depicted in the image and involves a keyword or two. If you upload an image of your latest landscaping project to your homepage try to give it a title like “Landscaping Project – Decorative Fence and Flowers by Your Company Name.”
Links on Your Pages
Search engines use links on your website as a major clue to the site’s purpose. Try to use keywords in links when linking to both outside sites and other pages on your site. For example, instead of “To find out more about our services, click here” write “More landscaping and gardening services.”
Links to Your Pages
Incoming links are incredibly valuable to your site’s search engine rankings. In fact, they are nearly as important as everything else in this article combined. Try to get links to your site from any other sites you might maintain, from friend’s or family’s sites, from other companies you do business with, and more. Try to find a directory that lists similar businesses such as http://www.thecityofmilwaukee.com/landscaping/index.html. One of the best ways to place some links back to your site is to read forums, online news stories, and other online articles and leave a comment that links back to your site. Do your best to get your site listed on as many other websites as possible!
On great way to get external links to your site is to submit content to other sites. Try writing an article for eHow, eZine, TellMeHowTo, Digg, Reddit, or any similar site. Make sure to create an author page with a link back to your site and potentially attract hundreds of new customers each time you publish an article.
That’s All, Folks!
Actually, that’s not all, but it’s a great start. Search Engine Optimization is an infinitely nuanced art that requires constant study and practice, but if you follow the steps outlined in this article, you should enjoy positive results with minimum effort.