Search engine marketing is by far the most efficient and effective way to advertise your business. With over 86% of internet users using Google as their search engine, the need for your business to show on the first page of Google has never been greater.
However, search engine marketing seems to defy to current doom and gloom of the recession. Think about this:
“The average Britain spends 164 minutes online everyday, compared with 148 minutes watching TV”
Over half the world’s population now has access to the web and nearly 90% of them find what they’re looking for using search engines. 36% of people think that the result at the top of the first page is the market leader and 80% of people make their choice from first page listings alone. With over 21 billion web pages wanting a first page position how can you get your website on the first page.
This is called search engine marketing and I have listed a few techniques and tips to get you started with optimising your website to rank well on a search engine. Remember that this is a basic guide to help to you on your way.
First we have to look at how search engines rank a website and decide which order to list them. The simple (very very very simple) version is, Google changed everything the way many search engine rank. The initial creators of Google (Larry Page and Sergey Brin) wanted to create a search engine that could rank a website for quality and list them in order of quality to the user. The way they decided to rank a website was to count how many other websites link to it. If other websites link to it then it must be good. So, essentially links mean votes. Like I said, this is the very simple version and there is so much more to it than this but it is a great place to start as it holds the most importance.
- See who links to you and then see who links to your competitors and try to muscle in on some of their action. Simply go to yahoo.co.uk, then in the search box type “link:yourcompetitor.com”. This will bring up a list of websites linking to your competitors website. Then contact them and ask them to link to you too.
- Don’t be stingy. Make sure you have links going out from your website. Important though that you link to high quality websites, i.e. If your website is a property website, have links to the relevant governing bodies, Wikipedia or the largest property portals. Search engines will see your site as being a good place to get good content.
- Submit your website to online directories. This can be very boring and takes hours. But once you have had your site accepted in to a directory. You’ll have a link back to your website. Remember. The more the better.
- Subscribe to forums in your niche. You can include a link in your signature straight to your website. Remember though. Do not spam on a forum. Forum users will not like it and the moderator will probably kick you off. If you use a forum properly though you will find it quite engaging.
- Read blogs relating to you niche market. This is very educational as well as beneficial for link building. Read the blog then leave a comment about that blog. Don’t forget to include a link to your website though. Just don’t make it too obvious.
Social Media (web2.0)
“Facebook”, “YouTube”, “Flickr”, “Myspace” – These are all social media websites. They provide a means for people from all over the world to join online and share information. The way in which people communicate vary though. “Flickr” allow people to upload photos and share them with other users or even comment on pictures uploaded. “Youtube” allow people to upload videos etc. The number of people visiting these websites to share information is in the millions. So maybe you could use these social communities to spread the word about your website. Social media is a great way to connect with hard to reach people that share the same interests. There are a number of ways to do this.
- Make your content interesting enough for people to want to view it. Then,unlike search engine optimisation, change the content often, This will make people want to keep visiting you.
- Make it easy for people to tag or bookmark your new content. Bookmarking is very fashionable at the moment. The most popular way of doing this is by getting an “addthis” button due to its ease of use, however, there are many buttons available.
- Use more than just text in your site. Create a video and submit it to a video sharing website like “youtube”, Create a PDF version of your content and create an audio version too. Submit it to appropriate websites. Don’t forget the link back to your site.
- Blog.Blog.Blog then blog some more. The simple truth is that the majority of internet users love blogs. So do search engines. Create a blog and use it. A lot. Submit it to sites like “technorati.com”. If it is good enough people will link to you and then share and tell others about your writings.
- Make friends. The social media community, are very social and friendly. They will want to talk to you and ask you questions. Make sure you are polite and take time to answer any messages. Negative feedback spreads faster than positive feedback.
Pay Per Click
This is a method in which you pay to get people to your website. Have you ever done a search on Google and found there are two columns. The Colum on the right is called sponsored links. They are adverts from businesses. They do not pay anything for appearing there but they do pay when you click on the advert (pay per click). This is a very fast way to get people to your website but you do have to pay. I would recommend getting a pay per click company to help here. It will save you a lot of money. However, if you must have ago your self here are some very basic tips.
- Budget. Make sure you create a sensible budget and stick to it. Don’t get in to a bidding war.
- Don’t just rely on pay per click as the be all and end all for your business marketing. PPC is great for promoting specific products and services very quickly but you always have to pay for the result.
- Analyze your cost per click and cost per acquisition closely. Then compare it to your other marketing activities. See which one works best.
- Remember that sites such as Google take into account the quality of your website content being marketed more than how much you are bidding. PPC is my favorite part of search engine marketing due mainly to the sheer speed of return on investment BUT make sure it is done properly other wise it can be devastating.
- Always have two ads running at the same time for each product but with different ad text. Google will use the most successful advert for you and show that advert more often, hel
- and see if it improves. Keep repeating. This will eventually lead to you having the best possible advert showing.
- ping you gain more traffic. Change to poorest performing advertine optimisation
Remember the two columns we just mentioned. Search engine optimization is the are of optimizing your website enough for Google to rank it on the left hand column. This list is ordered on how relevant your website is. And you don’t have to pay for these listings. Ever noticed how all the big companies appear at the top of the first page. Now we should as “which came first – The chicken or the egg?”. Search engine optimisation is generally split into two categories onsite optimisation and off site optimisation. The first, when done property is very important but it will only get you to the starting line. Offsite optimization is the race itself. A good search engine optimisation campaign should include all the search engine marketing techniques mentioned and when you really get into it you can learn the more advanced techniques. Below are a few basics.
- Include your keywords in your domain, title, meta tags. The first thing a search engine spider will read is your domain name. i.e [http://www.yourdomain.com]. This doesn’t mean anything to a search engine so ideally use [http://www.yourdomain.com/your-key-words], or even better [http://www.your-key-words.com] . Then the next part is your title. Don’t just have “home Page” or “Front Page”. I would have “your domain – your key words”. This also matches the domain name. Then repeat the same in your meta data. And sprinkle it throughout your web page. Keep it readable though.
- Make each page different. This helps search engines differentiate them and should lead to them indexing each of your pages separately.
- Get a site map and submit it to major search engines. Don’t pay for this service though. It amazes me that people actually charge for this. Just type into Google “sitemap” and you should be presented with website that will generate you a sitemap for free.
- Keep going. Older sites generally rank better than new sites. It is believed that older websites must be more reliable. As there is nothing we can do about this just focus your time on other offsite optimisation such as link building, social media optimization and if you just can’t wait, Pay per click. Search engine optimisation is a long term solution but boy is it worth waiting for.
- Validate your HTML code. Visit “validator.w3.org/ “.This will ensure that web browsers show your website correctly and helps search engine to index your site. There is no point in optimising your website if it doesn’t work properly.
Other useful tips
- Get Google analytics. It is one thing having a website but you need to know what people are doing when they are on it. Google analytics is very comprehensive and FREE but it does not report in real time. Woopra however does report in real time. The choice is yours. Before doing anything else you should get one of these other wise how will you know your efforts are paying off.
- If you decide to use a company to undertake your search engine marketing campaign (recommended) make sure you choose your search engine marketing company wisely. Don’t just go on recommendation. It is going to be a long working relationship so the important thing is that you get on with them. Do your own research on the industry. Think twice about search engine marketing firms that say they can guarantee a first page listing in a short time, the methods they use WILL end up in your website being banned. BMW found this out the hard way.
Search engine marketing is not an easy option but when done properly will bring untold rewards.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but it will give people new to the concept a few things to get on with and research. Look out for more articles that will start to break the subjects down into more detail.