In this issue I continue last
month's discussion of kickstarting lazy websites
by introducing the concept of search
engine optimization (SEO). I guess it should
really be called website optimization,
because it's the website that's being optimized,
not the search engine. But SEO is the standard
term in the industry, so that's what I'm calling
Dumb, and Happy Websites
You Can Build It, but They May Not Come - An Introduction
Is your website attractive to search engines? If it
is, it will show up in the first two or three pages
of a search for phrases that pertain to your business.
That means that people will find your site quickly,
before they find your competition.
If it isn’t, you need to take action. Whether
you’re an entrepreneur or have a well-established
firm, making your website attractive to search engines
will lure the kind of people that turn into customers,
and improve the return on investment of your marketing
Why Attracting Search Engine Traffic is Important
Some companies never expect to get new business directly
from their websites. Perhaps most of their business
comes from referrals. Their sites exist solely to solidify
relationships with current customers and to impress
potential customers. They may showcase their services,
provide testimonials, and describe the management team’s
But new business is not the only benefit of attracting
Web visitors. There are plenty of other reasons why
someone might search for you. For instance, the founder
of a startup consulting firm was contacted by a CFO
magazine writer who had done a Google search looking
for someone to interview for a story. Even if this startup
never gets a customer directly from its website, what
it got was priceless publicity, when its founder was
quoted in a national publication.
You can never predict what sort of visitors you might
get, but you certainly can encourage all kinds of traffic
by taking the right steps with your website.
Attracting Good Traffic – and Lots of It
To attract the right kind of traffic from search engines,
your website needs to be “optimized.” Search
engine optimization (SEO) is now recognized as a key
component of a successful website, even though it’s
not something that the average website visitor ever
notices. Companies that understand the value of a hard-working
website are hiring SEO professionals to help them create
optimized sites, or to rework existing sites to make
them appear higher up in searches.
Getting more of the right kind of visitors to your
website via search engines requires a several-pronged
- Researching exactly what words or phrases people
are most apt to type into search engines when searching
for the kinds of products and services you offer.
- Examining how much competition there is for those
phrases, and how much of a chance you have in getting
good results for particular phrases.
- Writing your website copy to use those key phrases
in the right places, and the right number of times.
(This is called SEO
- Using the key phrases selectively within your website’s
code, where they may not show up to human eyes, but
may be noticed by the search engines.
- Getting related websites to link to your site,
because in-bound links from similar pages are a signal
to the search engines that your site has high-quality
- Submitting your website to directories, such as
DMOZ, Yahoo, and industry-specific directories. (But
not obscure, junky directories!)
It can take several months before you see results,
and you may need to check periodically and tweak your
pages to improve results. Your SEO professional can
help you understand how long it will take with the various
search engines, and whether you need to submit your
site. Google is the most popular search engine, and
the best way to get into its database is for other well-established
websites to link to your site. Google’s “spiders”
follow the links to find your site.
A Word of Warning
Search engine optimization is part art, part science,
and there aren’t any guarantees. Beware of a search
engine optimizer who guarantees you top placement. He
might optimize your site for key phrases that no one
else is searching for, which isn’t hard to do
but doesn’t help you attract business.
Some providers use unethical practices to increase
your site’s ranking. These practices can include
using invisible text or creating multiple links to your
site from “directory” sites that they create.
Their behind-the-scenes tricks fool search engines for
a while, but eventually sites get caught and then they
are removed from the search engines’ databases
Claims to submit your site to thousands of search engines
are also common. Don’t waste your money. There
are no more than ten search engines that are commonly
used. Who uses the other 9,990? Not you or anyone you
Basically, if a website satisfies a human visitor’s
need for relevant, well-written content, it’s
going to rank well with search engines. Tactics that
are invisible to humans yet fool the search engines
often end up backfiring.
Finding SEO Help
If your company’s website is a critical selling
channel, you’ll want to optimize it for all your
products. If you want good results, but your business
doesn’t depend on the Web, you can take a lower-budget
approach and optimize fewer pages of your site. Either
way, invest in someone who understands search engine
optimization and has proven experience with similar
kinds of websites. Be sure to ask to see results from
their other customers, and make sure they use experienced
copywriters (often called “SEO
An investment in a well-optimized website will pay
off in increased traffic from people who are looking
for the products and services you offer. Now that’s
a good use of your marketing dollars!