Saturday, April 4, 2009

How to plan a powerful Search Engine Optimization exercise?

This post is not to get into the tricks of featuring in the top searches. Most people know them. The same hammered again and again with few changes here and there.
Rather, these are hammered so loudly, that the main purpose of a website’s existence is almost forgotten leave alone what the visitor wants from that website.

While the tricks of trade still apply, it is very important not to lose focus of the visitor’s point of view when chasing the search engine’s.

  • So, the first step is to know WHY THE WEBSITE EXISTS IN THE FIRST PLACE.
    Know the purpose of the website very well

    This could involve meeting different divisions of a company to understand their requirement from the website. Unfortunately in most cases, the website is completely handled by the IT division with little or no idea as to how the website is supposed to benefit the company.

    While it was fine till sometime back, things are changing fast with increasing internet penetration in India. Company website is slowly becoming the face of the company for most people.

    An understanding of the purpose would help in higher visitor satisfaction along with meaningful SEO.

    e.g. It could be an e-commerce website that primarily exists to make a sale which could translate into very easy navigation, extensive product information (a big reason why Amazon is such a big hit while others are not), ease of payment, security etc etc.

    Or an online payment website for some telecom company which would mean the visitor would want to make a fast payment and not get involved in a lot of literature about the company. Hence it has to be extremely easy navigation for him and to- the- point, clear 3 step payment process.

    Creating a verbose website just because search engines love information, is not going to help. Meeting visitor expectation is important.

    Right set of words placed right within right intervals would be far more helpful than a lot of non required data.

  • Next step is to form a laundary list of keywords
    First Cut of Keywords:

    An understanding of the website would help to select the most powerful keywords and content.

    Make a list of all the possible searches there can be for that website.

    Brainstorm with colleagues, the marketing team and all other possible sources.
    Try not to miss out on any possible keywords.

  • A Relook at the keywords:

    Using some freely available or paid keyword suggestion tools would provide the similar keywords searched and the number of times searched. This would help in selection of keywords more relevant to the website and with comparatively less competition (higher chances of featuring in the top few searches).

    e.g. if a boot company selects its keyword as shoe, just because most people use this word to search, there would be two problems to it. First, it would not rank them well as the competition would be high and secondly, even if it does give them some traffic, it would not convert into sales as the visitor was looking for shoes and not boots!!

    So, selecting a meaningless keyword would give you meaningless traffic.

    Repeated iterations would provide a set of very powerful keywords.

  • Content formation:

    Once the keywords have been finalized, the content needs to be formed or relooked at.

    A relook at the filename, directory structure, keyword placement in tags, filenames, linkages, keyword density, tags like title and description tags etc would help.
    Search Engines uses latent semantic indexing (LSI) to analyze relationships between a set of documents and the terms they contain. Hence, if keywords are used at the relevant places within the right context, it helps.

    Usage of synonyms helps to refrain from clogging the website with keywords and also provides a relevant context for LSI.

    Make navigation very easy within the website – it helps the search engines to find the required data easily and index it.
    Links can be used within the website for ease.

  • Formatting:

    Layout: Avoid “flashy” stuff, frames, multimedia and graphics as the search engines do not read them.

    These 5 steps were pertaining to the website. Hence, once the purpose of website existence is known, ensure that all the above like keyword selection, content formation, formatting etc should be in line with that. This is important for long term gain.

    Finally there is a need for some external push as well.

  • PR and other activities

    Finally once your website is ready and is search engine as well as visitor friendly, you need to do some PR like link building, blogs, forums, discussion groups, newsletters etc.

    Link building has a direct effect on the page rank. Getting good websites to recommend you would again be a factor of both persuasion and visitor satisfaction. Contact websites with high page ranks and request them to have a link pointing to your website. If all the above has been followed properly, chances are that the website would recommend you.
    The more your visitors are satisfied with your website, the more they would visit it again and again. And hence, it would be a natural way to get the other websites to point to you.

    Apart from all this, blogs, presence on discussion forums or social networking sites like twitter definitely gives a lot of recognition.

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