Search Engine Optimization´┐Żlesson

Ok, time for a bit of a history lesson!

When the internet was young and the WWW (World Wide Web) was just getting started there was no way to search for content! For example, you had to know that if you wanted to go to Joe's site, the url was www.joesgreatsite.com. If you didn't know that, you could not find Joe! This would be a lot like trying to get a phone number for Joe without the benefit of a published phone book! You either had to see Joe in person and ask him for his number or call somebody who's phone number you already knew and ask them if they new how to call Joe!

At that time, in the internet world there was a crying need for a "phonebook". So the answer was search engines. Search engines regularly and automically "crawl" the web and assemble databases of searchable keywords that can be accessed and searched via a web browser.

So now we have Google, Yahoo, MSN and a plethora of other more specialized search engines. Problem solved! At least for a while!

The issue now is, if I have a shoe store and there are 10,000 other shoe stores on the net, when someone does a search for "shoe store" what sort of listing do they get? Lists are linear things with a top and bottom, so am I #5 on the generated list or #9,342? If I am way down the list, are my potential customers going to bother paging through reams of shoe store listings to find mine? Probably not!

So how do I move up the list? The answer is SEO (Search Engine Optimization). To put it in simplest terms, SEO is a collection of techniques that endeavor to move you up the list.

What is involved?

The first thing is the all important notion of "keywords". You have to know what your potential customers are typing into the search engines. You don't have to be clairvoyant to find this out! There are tools that will tell you what keywords are being used a lot. Obviously you are looking for keywords relevant to your business. Most of the work on keywords involves having copy on your site which is both readable by humans and optimized for search engines. Your best bet is to choose a niche, don't be too broad, and select a group of keywords that you repeat with some regularity throughout your site. Don't get crazy with this and avoid using techniques that attempt to fool the search engines.

Another important technique is too use cross promotion. For example, if you are running a bed and breakfast, call the local golf course and get them to put a link to your site on their site and you do the same for them. It's free, and it works for both of you. Search engines elevate your site on their search lists if you have other sites that link to your site.

You can also search for business directories on the web that are specific to your business or locale and get yourself listed. There are many of these. Some offer free listings so take advantage of that for sure. Others offer a paid listing, and if the fee is relatively small it may be worth the investment.

You can also you use paid advertising program such as Google adwords. These are usually a pay per click deal and allow ads for your website to appear on other websites that publish ads for a piece of the advertising fee you pay.

The interesting thing about all of this is, it is a bit of a cat and mouse game. How each search engine ranks websites is a closely guarded secret, and worse still they are constantly changing the rules. So take all of this with a grain of salt and beware of those who offer to charge you a lot of cash to make you number one. The techniques listed above are all above board and won't get you into trouble and may just help your business.

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