Six things you must know about search engine optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) has become an essential element of any B2B inbound marketing effort. SEO expert Axandra recently published a list of six essential facts marketers must know about optimizing their Web sites for search. Consider this a good refresher course. (Our comments are in italics.)

  1. SEO takes time.You cannot optimize your Web site today and expect results tomorrow or next week. Search engines have to find your newly optimized pages, they have to find the new links to your Web site, they have to update the index, etc.For an existing site, our experience demonstrates it takes about 90 to 120 days to see significant rankings improvement. For a new domain, it can take up to 1 year.
  2. You must insert keywords properly in your Web pages.In general, the keywords for which you want to be found must appear on your Web pages and they must appear in the right elements on your Web pages. You may have to change the HTML code to make it as easy for search engine spiders to parse your site.Keywords must be included in the page title tag, meta content, headers, body text, and image alt tags of the page. And you should only try to optimize a page for one or two keyword phrases.
  3. You need links and they must be the right links.Good backlinks are the key to high rankings on Google. As a general rule, the easier it is to get a link, the less is its influence on the position of your Web site on Google. The links to your site should be from related Web sites and they should contain your keywords in the link text. Your Web site should offer linkworthy content that other sites find useful.Backlinks (links from third-party sites to your site) are essential to achieving high rankings. You will not crack the top ten listings for a keyword phrase without many of them. Strategies to get backlinks include submitting your site to Web site directories and publishers with related content and conducting a search-optimized news release program.
  4. Choose the right keywords.If you optimize the Web site of a rock band, you might think it would make sense if their site was found for the keyword “mp3.” But people searching for “mp3” can be interested in anything: mp3 players, mp3 decoders, the latest Justin Bieber song, general information about the file format, etc. Make sure you optimize your site for keywords that attract the right kind of people — for example, “unsigned rock band” or “rock band London.”This issue might seem like a no-brainer, but many sites we encounter are optimized for either internally focused keywords or product brand names. Take the customer’s point of view and optimize for words an outsider might use to search for your types of products and services.
  5. Be realistic.Getting on the first result page for a highly competitive keyword such as “mp3” is possible, but your competitors probably will be established Web sites with lots of backlinks. It is very difficult to outrank these pages. If you have a site with just a few pages and your competitors have large Web sites with forums, communities, blogs, etc. then you must improve your content if you want to compete. Search engines must trust your site before they give you high rankings for very competitive keywords.Set the appropriate expectations for what you can achieve. Try optimizing for less competitive or long-tail keywords. Sites with new domain names may require a year to become competitive with established sites of large competitors.
  6. Set the right goals.Search engine optimization is not about getting a high Google Page Rank (the green bar in Google’s toolbar). It is about getting high listings for the right keywords so that the right people will come to your Web site. The goal of search engine optimization is to increase your sales. You have to be listed for keywords that will bring buyers to your site.Search engine optimization is the most efficient way to bring traffic to your Web site. But it is only a first step. You must convert this traffic into revenue using a content marketing strategy. Make sure you establish goals and metrics that not only measure inbound traffic from search, but also conversion rates into leads and sales.
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