Today’s consumers no longer look to billboards and aisle scanning for inspiration on what product to purchase. Thanks to the internet, almost all business these days is conducted online. And while prospects search the internet for the the exact item they are looking for, thousands and maybe millions of businesses are vying for a top spot on the search results page. Evidence has shown that only 62% of search engine users click beyond the first page of results, so how does a company obtain a one of those coveted rankings? The answer is SEO.

Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) is a strategy used to optimize a website so that search engines will value the site’s content and rank that website higher.  Engines have “spiders” that crawl your URL on a regular basis to maintain relevant and updated information about your pages as well as evaluate your content. Here are some of the items these spiders are looking for:

  • Link Juice – Links are a very powerful component of SEO for several reasons. External links that direct readers to helpful articles or relevant sites prove to search engines that the content is providing valuable information to visitors. At the same time, other websites that link to your page establish your expertise. Links are kind of like referrals. Every person or site that points to you is demonstrating your legitimacy and telling search engines that you are both respected and helpful.
  • Keywords – The next important item on the SEO checklist is keywords. One crucial fact to consider is that spiders only index content and are not able to ‘read’ images or flash. Therefore, it’s up to your content to tell the story. Keywords provide a site map to search engines and guide them through the who, what, when, where and why of your company. The words that best describe your company and are most likely to be searched by prospects should be carefully selected and planted in the areas most visible to spiders. Headings, page titles, directories and indexes are all important areas for keyword utilization. Keywords should also be accented to draw maximum attention and demonstrate their importance. While bolding or italicizing might garner moderate attention, linking these words and phrases to  valued content will really distinguish them from the rest of the page.
  • HTML – HTML is the backbone for your website and houses meta data, which is composed of titles, descriptions and keywords. While most SEO experts believe that meta data does not hold much power in the Google algorithm anymore, it still plays a role in Yahoo’s formula and the meta description is often the description used in the results page.

Links, keywords and HTML are just a few building blocks in the overall foundation of SEO practices. When planning your strategy, remember that search engines are extremely smart. Trying to trick them will get your site black listed and keep you on the back burner for years. The very best way to get ahead is to provide rich, well thought out content that is both relevant and helpful. Trying to cram a bunch of keywords into a page that doesn’t say very much will be very obvious to spiders. Like everything else in life, no tricks or shortcuts will ever be as fruitful as hard work and persistence.

That’s it for today! Come back next week for more SEO tutorials and deeper exploration of techniques and principles for Search Engine Optimization.