By Garry Grant
Several months ago, we discussed the basics for developing and maintaining an informative, attractive and functional website for everything from generating leads to e-commerce for the water treatment professional (See Website Manifestation: Seven Steps to a Successful Site, WC&P June 2005). Now that your site is up and running, its time to discuss generating traffic. If you have a website you’ll need traffic. If you want targeted traffic, you need search engine marketing.
Search represents a new and effective method of marketing to your customers. With search, you don’t hunt for customers—they hunt for you. If someone needs water purification services in Los Angeles, they load up Google and type in Water purification in Los Angeles. Instantly, that person will be presented with a list of web sites, all relevant to that person’s original search. The amazing part of this action is that the businesses never actively went out to find the customer, instead the customer found them. Moreover, this customer is no ordinary lead; it’s someone so interested in your product and service that they are going out of their way to reach out to you. Though it may appear as if this fictional LA water dealer did little to solicit this customer online, there is a lot more to this effort than meets the eye.
Search engine marketing is one of the most effective means of attracting interested customers to your product and service. If you have a website and you aren’t actively engaging in search engine marketing, you are neglecting a huge share of online traffic.
Before you embark on a search engine marketing campaign for your website, you’ll need some information about your visitors and your product. Gather as much information and any statistics you can. Are your visitors looking for product A or product B? What terms are they using to visit your site? (Check your referrer logs) What products do you offer? How would you search for your product online? How would your visitors? Are you offering a well-known brand?
Can your web site already be found in the search engines? Load up Google (which is the most-frequented search engine on the web) on your computer and search for your website. What comes up when you search for your company’s name? What comes up when you search for one of your products? One of the biggest problems with search engine marketing is getting your website indexed. A website is considered indexed when its pages can be found by search engines.
All these pieces of information will be useful when you start your search engine marketing campaign.
Plan the campaign
Now you will be determining the plan for your search engine marketing campaign. You’ll need to decide whether your campaign utilizes search engine optimization, pay-per-click marketing or a combination of both. Search engine optimization and search engine marketing is the technology, methodology and science of increasing your website’s visibility in the major search properties using a strategically defined set of keywords and phrases that apply to products or services offered on your site. Pay-per-click marketing refers to a search engine that determines ranking according to the dollar amount you pay for each click from that search engine to your site. An example of a PPC search engine is Overture.com, where the highest ranking goes to the highest bidder.
Define short- and long-term goals for the campaign. Ask yourself what you want out of the campaign. Is the campaign intended to increase brand recognition or increase sales?
You’ll also need to investigate whether or not you should hire an outside search engine marketing firm or do the job in house. Be realistic, if you don’t feel confident in your ability, you should hire an outside company to handle your search engine marketing campaign.
Build a keyword list
After you finish gathering information, it’s time to build a keyword list. Keywords are the words people use to find a website. For example, if you are searching for a website about Dell laptops, you may search for Dell, laptops or Dell laptops. All three of these search terms are keywords related to a website about Dell laptops.
Your goal in this step is to take the information you previously gathered and brainstorm as many keywords as you can that relate to your website. Avoid overly general keywords. If your website deals with water conditioning and you serve the Los Angeles area, a great keyword may be Los Angeles Water Conditioning. A keyword like water is not a good keyword—people searching for water could be looking for a website about bottled water or the chemical composition of water. Targeting a generic keyword may attract many visitors, but most of these visitors will not be searching for your specific product or service. Typically one-word terms are too generic and you would be much better off building a list without them.
During this step you will also want to check Overture’s Keyword Suggestion Tool (http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/) and Wordtracker (www.wordtracker.com). Both these services allow you to search keywords and quickly determine how many websites are using the same or similar keywords that you’re considering for your site. They offer better ideas on which words are too general, or too specific to bring traffic to your site.
Now take your refined keyword list and assign keywords to pages on your website. Insert the keyword into your text body and meta information in the source code. Aim for two to three highly relevant keywords per page. If no page exists, you may want to develop new ones to target these keywords.
Don’t make the mistake of assigning keywords to an irrelevant page. Visitors arriving from a search engine expect to be taken to a page with pertinent information. If the keywords do not relate to your pages, visitors will leave your web-site and never return.
Once you’ve assigned specific keywords to each page, it’s time to optimize your web pages. In this step you will change your web code to make it more friendly and relevant for search engines. Make sure all your code is not broken and is clean. Edit your titles and page content in order to emphasize keywords. Whenever possible, fix your web page navigation to ensure that search engines can easily crawl your entire website.
Organize your content so both humans and search engines can determine what is most important. On first glance, it should be obvious what keywords are most important on the page. For instance, if you are targeting New York Drinking Water, you want to craft your content around these keywords. Your web page body should contain content describing New York drinking water, with a header and title containing keywords.
Emphasizing keywords should look natural and unforced. Remember that ultimately you are selling to humans, not search engines.
When building your web page navigation, aim for descriptive links over generic links. For example, instead of using a link called Resources, use a link called Water Purification Resources. Your goal is to help the search engines determine what your website is about. Add descriptive text whenever possible to encourage search engines to rank your website higher for your topics.
Link building is essential to achieving a high ranking on search engines. The more a website is linked to other websites, the higher the ranking it will receive from a search engine. This is because most search engines recognize links as a way of substantiating the validity of the content on the site (no one would link to a site that is not worth viewing; thus, more links equals more recognition from search engines). In addition to creating unique content, you should also actively seek links from other websites. Unique content will encourage other webmasters to link to your website. But most times, waiting around for free links is not enough. You will need to participate in your own link building campaign.
While building links, try to gain links from websites covering the same topics as your website does. Contact webmasters to see if they would be receptive to trading links (you link their site on your links page, and they do the same for you). Encourage previous clients to link back to your website.
Update your site
Search engines love updated content. So spend the time to update your site regularly. Add some company news or spotlight a new product. An updated website represents an active company to both your customers and search engines.
Search engines are constantly changing their algorithms so you will need to keep up-to-date with these changes as they occur. After an algorithm change, expect to spend time testing and researching the changes. Take the time to fully analyze the update before making any changes to your website.
A successful search engine marketing campaign is hard work. You’ll need to manage many small details from keyword analysis to link building. So whether you decide to manage your campaign yourself or hire a search engine marketing campaign, realize that a search engine marketing campaign will need a great deal of expertise and effort to be successful. Following the tips above will give you a great start towards ranking well in the search engines.
About the author
Garry Grant is the CEO for Search Engine Optimization Inc., a professional search engine optimization firm specializing in achieving high rankings for its clients on the Internet’s major search engines. The company has leveraged seven years of the development of best-of-breed methodologies to place more than 200 websites in top search engine positions. SEO Inc. has offices in Carlsbad and Los Angeles, Calif. For more information, visit http://www.seoinc.com or call (877) 736-0006 or (760) 929-0039.