|| 9 SEO and 4 SEM Critical Success Factors
By Andrew Wetzler
Many people today speak of “Web 2.0”. The term means different things to different people. In some circles, it refers to the emergence of social networking and personalization as the new frontier of the internet. MYSPACE, YouTube and the rest were not on the radar screen a few years ago.
When I think in terms of Web 2.0, I look to the evolution of both the quality and intuitiveness of websites, as well as the tools / channels that are now available to efficiently market those sites. The focus for this article will be the opportunities to increase the flow of qualified visitors to a website.
There is nothing easy about internet marketing today. That window of opportunity closed several years ago. To be truly successful, in addition to having a very good site, a company needs to effectively employ both Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Below are several Web 2.0 recommendations for SEO & SEM.
Although there are a number of distinctions between SEO and SEM, the most notable being that with SEO the traffic is free and with SEM it’s paid, there is one essential similarity. Both efforts are driven by keywords, and the better the list, the more favorable the end result will be. While there are a number of tools that firms such as ours use to guide the keyword selection process, it’s also vital for the client to spend quality time speaking to colleagues and clients and studying competitors’ sites, in order to arrive at the most appropriate keyword menu to pursue. While there may be some subtle differences between the keyword list for SEO and SEM, the majority of keywords will be the same.
9 SEO Tactics
A lot is made about the algorithms of the major engines and how even minor changes can alter your rankings. While it is true that the algorithms are a moving target which no one can fully explain, the factors that lead a website to perform well in the natural results are fairly consistent.
1. Content Matters A Lot
The first issue is the degree to which a site contains robust content that correlates closely to the keywords that are most important to the site. If the keywords in the meta tags, etc. are related to sailing and the content speaks to motor boating, then there is a problem. That sounds like an obvious situation, but you would be surprised how often companies change product lines or focus, and don’t fully incorporate the new direction into both the front and back ends of their website.
2. 2 – 3 Keywords / Phrases per page
In terms of the number of keywords / phrases to target per page, 2-3 is the range. Trying to jam content about more than 2-3 onto any web page will dilute your efforts and won’t be viewed favorably by the search engines.
3. Code to Content Ratio
Also keep in mind the code to content ratio (the amount of index-able content on a page compared to the code needed to display the content on the page). The content should make up at least 30% of the page’s backend code
4. Watch Out for Duplicate Content
Be careful regarding duplicate content. Pages displaying the same or nearly the same content can invoke the dreaded duplicate content filter. One of the group of pages identified as duplicate will be shown in the primary index while the remaining pages are sent into the supplemental index and will not be shown in search results.
The Title Tag as well as the Description and Keyword Meta tags should be unique within a site and be very relevant to the specific content of the page.
6. Dynamic URLs
Dynamic urls which have more than 2-3 parameters are hard for search engine spiders to navigate. Make sure relevant keywords are used in the URL and that you are using dashes
“–” and not underscores“_” when separating words. As a rule, you should be able to get a general idea of what a page is about by looking at the URL.
7. Less Flash is Better
Ensure that the architecture doesn’t present any obvious impediments. Flash is probably the best example of a technology that is much more aligned for the end user than for the search engine spidering process. It’s okay to have some flash on the site, but it’s not a good idea (from a search engine ranking perspective) to have a home page that is all flash. In general, the less the better.
8. Template Driven Sites Can Pose a Problem
Template driven websites can also be problematic for SEO. This typically becomes a concern in industries like real estate and law, and there are others. The problem with many of these frameworks is that the site owner has very little ability to make modifications to the coding of the site and the majority of templates are not SEO friendly to begin with. Before purchasing a new website that is template driven, be sure to investigate the degree to which it has been designed with SEO requirements in mind.
9. Links Are Critical
Lastly, approach link building in a methodical manner. Link Popularity is a component of the ranking criteria for the major engines, especially Google. The more quality inbound links you have to your site, the better. That being said, link building is often abused, which can cause more harm than good. Incrementally adding highly relevant links to your site is the best approach.
4 SEM Tips
Just like any other component of direct marketing, it’s vital to measure campaign performance; then continue to test and refine.
1. Analytics Tools Are Powerful and Inexpensive
There’s been a dramatic improvement in the tools one can use to figure out what’s working and what isn’t. Variables include engine selection (Google vs. Yahoo, etc.), keywords (broad vs. narrow), geography, as well as factors like which pages of your site are moving a prospect toward your objective in contrast to others that may be hindering success.
It used to be that the cost associated with analytics programs was substantial, therefore only the largest online players could justify the expense. With free and low cost programs like Google Analytics, the expense is now only in the time required to set the tools up properly (including coding the site) and the post click analysis of the data. Interestingly, I have heard numerous stories of larger companies abandoning their high end solutions for this new wave of technology, as it’s much easier to both deploy and analyze important data in a timely manner.
The percentage of companies who have a tight grasp of the activity on their site and more specifically the SEM related action is surprisingly small. The opportunity to gain a competitive edge remains.
2. Smarter PPC Rankings
Each of the engines have developed a type of quality score which has changed the ground rules. Factoring in ad content and landing page quality has shifted the online advertising marketplace to be more appealing for sophisticated marketers. The days of the lunatic advertiser, who doesn’t calculate ROI and aggressively drives up keyword costs are waning.
Of particular note is Google’s new Landing Page Quality Score…this is a great opportunity for advertisers to boost positioning, while maintaining the lowest possible cpc pricing. The tighter the relationship between the keyword and the landing page, the better the positioning will be.
3. Improved Click Fraud Measures
The major engines have made significant strides to boost their detection tactics to identify click fraud and prevent advertisers from being charged for irrelevant traffic. In addition, advanced analytics programs make it much easier for the advertiser to audit their own traffic and spot abnormalities. Therefore, when presented with supporting documentation, the engines tend to move quickly to investigate (and resolve) advertiser complaints.
4. Look Beyond the Big Three
While the majority of traffic is being driven through Google, Yahoo & MSN, it is possible to have an effective ROI through other channels as well. Engines like Ask, SuperPages, Miva, etc. plus contextual ad networks such as Quigo can also deliver quality clicks; many times at a lower cpc. As with any engine, utilizing analytics is critical to determining their usefulness. And as with any direct marketing initiative, test with a small budget and expand as appropriate.
Web Marketing 2.0 is not as much about any particular technology or channel as it is about summoning a renewed commitment to identify and execute a workable strategy. For some organizations this is practiced every day. For others, this is a perfect time to get serious once again.
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