|SEO on a shoe string|
|SEO pitfalls and what not to do|
|Budget-conscious SEO campaign in 8 steps|
|Note from the Ottawa editor|
If you are wondering if you could conduct a successful SEO project on a very tight, the answer to this is 'Yes, absolutely'. Don't be a victim of the mainstream mentality that believes the 'you-get-what-you-pay-for' mantra. If you are part of the corporate world, you know that this is simply not true (i.e. we are paying for our suppliers' marketing expenditures).
In short, all you need to know are these three things:
- What's involved in a SEO process
- How to build links, and
- How to create high-quality SEO copy (text, content)
Let me go over each item. You will quickly see that a high quality optimization project should not necessarily eat up all your marketing cash, provided you are prepared to do the leg work yourself.
Note that I have included links to help you get results quickly and efficiently - without spending a penny. These free links will allow you to plan, manage, and measure all important aspects of your campaign, i.e. check your current ranking on major search engines; check who links to you; check your own internal and outgoing links, check to see how you compare with your competitors, and other relevant parameters.
With all that said, let's get down to business.
- Knowing what is involved in an SEO project
Assuming that you have correctly determined your most important "keywords" (i.e. key phrases, because you need to use 2 or 3 words combined, not individual single words), let's talk about what else you should do.
At a high level, organic search engine optimization (SEO) is primarily comprised of content creation (website copy and downloadable documents)and link building. There are some web design and coding principles that need to be observed to have high a SEO rank, but they are not as important. The two most important things are your copy writing and your links.
In addition, you should purchase keyword ads on Google and Yahoo. You can limit yourself to a couple of your most important keywords. In fact, I recommend that you start your SEO project with purchasing a couple of keywords first and then proceed with the SEO optimization of your website. The process of deciding which specific keywords to pay for will show you what your most important keywords really are. It should then make it easier for you to create highly targeted and focused web copy.
- How to build links quickly and cost-effectively
When it comes to links, keep in mind that for search engines (robots) a link is a link, it has an anchor (a) tag:
<a href="/SiteMap_SEO.htm">Site Map</a>
Naturally, links that point to you from other websites (incoming links) have a much higher value (they get more points) than outgoing or internal links, but you can still boost your SEO ranking by building a lot of outgoing and internal links, as long as all your links are HIGHLY relevant to your area of expertise and your main keywords. Unrelated links (and content) dilute your theme and may result in a lowered ranking.
You have full control over internal and outgoing links. You have less control over incoming links, but there is still a lot you can do on even a small budget.
- To build internal links, create a Site Map (like the one I have here: Site Map) and place the site map link on every page. If your website is under 50 pages, do not use 'include' files, but manually hard-code the site map link on every page. In addition, create a side bar on each page and provide 5-7 links to other pages on your website (example of side bars).
- To build outgoing links, provide some kind of 'resources' related to your field, i.e. list educational or professional associations, governing bodies, educational websites, anything that can be of value to a reader within your profession or business.
- To build incoming links, you should list your company in as many relevant directories as possible (local, international, professional, etc). Some of these listings would be free, some would need to be purchased. Aim at having at least 100 links pointing toward you.
Below is a basic set of free resources to help you manage your link building efforts:
How to create high-quality SEO copy at little or no cost
When it comes to writing, things are more difficult, but here is a tip. In order to get professional SEO results, you need a designated person to do the writing:
A person from your Marketing department who knows how to write well and enjoys writing;
If you are the only person in Marketing and simply don't have any time on your hands, hire a Master's student in Linguistics or Journalism, even if you are a technology company.
Linguistics is a field where jobs are scarce and students work for low wages and often even volunteer their time to get some real-life experience and references.
Why Linguistics? Because Linguistics is the field devoted to the study of human ability to communicate using Language. This is the field where you would find writers who took the time to study and learn the English language at a professional level. Graduate students of Linguistics often proceed by becoming lawyers. In fact, a Master's degree in Linguistics is one of the most popular "transit ways" to Law school.
But what about my highly complicated technological subject matter (you may ask)? A non-technical person will not be able to understand it. If you believe this, you will never find a good SEO writer. Engineers are notoriously bad writers; besides, they are too expensive. But most important, your website copy should never resemble a design specifications document or any technical document for that matter. It may, and will, contain product descriptions and certain technical information in appropriate sections (which your student can obtain from your Engineering department), but it should not be written as a legal or technical document.
If your budget is tight, but you want high-quality results, hire a graduate student of Linguistics to do SEO copywriting for you.
Make sure that this designated person learns basic SEO copywriting principles. For a graduate student of Linguistics or Journalism, it would only take a few hours.
Here is a good SEO copywriting manual (but your students of Linguistics would only need to quickly look through it, because they already know most of what is provided in this guide).
One of the major pitfalls of an organic SEO project is that it may take a long time, especially if your site is new.
As a rule, it takes about 6-8 months for a new site to get indexed by search engines, and it may take a year or even two to get listed in the ODP directory (if you qualify to get listed in the first place). Note that this directory is used by Google as its database resource.
For older sites, the situation is better (by "older" I mean sites that are at least two years old), but boosting their SEO ranking for specific keywords still takes time.
On the plus site, once you have achieved your desired ranking on Google and other search engines, it takes relatively little effort to maintain it. You always need to keep an eye on competition and make sure to add newoptimized content to your site on a regular basis (issue a newsletter, press releases, etc).
Note that the basics of search engine optimization are pretty straightforward and very easy to learn. There are, however, a few things that that you must never do. Every one by now has heard of 'doorway pages', 'mirror sites', 'spamdexing', 'spamming', 'spoofing', 'siphoning','cloaking', and similar terms.
If these terms sound unfamiliar to you, you MUST review their definitions, or else you are risking penalties imposed by search engines without even knowing it (some penalties can even result in de-listing, and it may take months to get back into index).
There are rumors in the SEO circles that overly optimized pages get penalized by a lowered rank. While there is no way to confirm this for sure, it does sound plausible (because it makes sense). Do not overdo your keywords (see 'keyword stuffing'). Do not repeat them more than 5-6 times per page, and do not use identical keywords in the same paragraph (use synonyms and grammatical variations).
However, if you are too lazy to read (<smile>), your main guideline here should be total honesty. If you thought of some new and "creative" technique that you think could quickly boost your ranking, make sure that it passes your own honesty test. If it does not, it is almost sure not to be "liked" by search engines.
If you would like to read one thing and one thing only, then it should be these SEO guidelines for webmasters by Google.
A company of 40-50 people can conduct a very successful optimization project with a budget of roughly 2-5K, provided they have at least one designated staff member to do the leg work. Ideally, this person should know how to use web publishing software, such as DreamWeaver or FrontPage (at a basic level). The time line will depend on the number of selected keywords for optimization purposes and the market value of these keywords, i.e. how competitive they are (check to see how many results get returned by a search engine in response to each keyword phrase).
As a rough estimate, plan to spend 1 to 2 weeks for each keyword for content optimization (when no website re-design is involved).
Here is an 8-step process of what you need to do to get great SEO results on a shoe string.
- never provide 100% duplicate content in various formats, as this is considered spam). If possible, disperse your most important key phrases throughout these documents. Add pages to your site regularly and post white papers, manuals, help, and other references on your website (on-page and for downloads, but
- Repeat your specific keywords EXACTLY (in the same order) 4-5 times on each page (plus use 4-5 synonyms) and place them within H1 and H2 tags, as well as under bullets and especially embedded within hypertext links, even if leading to your own pages. Do not overdo repetition of keywords, ask your writer to be sensitive.
- Optimize your Title tag on every page very carefully, i.e. each page should have a title tag that would be like a summary of the page content, i.e. each page would have a slightly different title tag. The title tag should be 60 characters including spaces, ideally, but if it is longer than that, don't worry, as long as it contains your most desired keywords preferably twice.
Examples of the Titles tags on my site:
<title>SEO in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Attract Customers through Web Marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)</title>
<title>SEO in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Services: Get Customers through Web Marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)</title>
- Interlink your pages as much as you can without making it look weird. One easy way is to use side bars (example of side bars). But don't forget to create a Site Map.
- Place listings in RELEVANT directories so that to create inbound or back links. However, the most important directory is this one: www.dmoz.org. Google uses this directory as its database resource. Make sure you select the most appropriate category for your business (try a few different paths and check available listings to see whether you are on the right track; check to see where your competitors are listed as well).
- Another important thing is NOT to dilute your content and links, i.e. only use highly relevant text, white papers, pdfs, etc. and only relevant links. Search engines may lower your rank, if you have a lot of unrelated information associated with your website one way or another.
- Enroll in Google AdWords and try a few different keywords (you can place a cap on how much you want to spend daily, weekly and monthly, so your spending is highly controlled and you can adjust at anytime; Google provides excellent reporting and management features free of charge).
- Make sure to find out what NOT to do to artificially boost your SEO rating. Here is a couple of good links for this:
- To learn the basics of SEO in just a few days, use Jill Whalen's short and informative articles (Jill is an SEO veteran who provides excellent free information on her website).
For information on how and where to find professional-quality yet very inexpensive graphics components as well as graphics designers, where to find free survey software and other enhancing components for your website, use the resources page on my site. All links have been carefully collected by me over the years of personal use.
And finally, monitor your site's performance:
- 27 SEO tools every marketing person should use
Those are really good useful tools. All free. In addition, these tools are very useful as well:
If there are specific Web Marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) topics that you would like me to discuss in this newsletter, please do not hesitate to drop me a line.
For related Web Marketing and SEO information, browse through the Resources section on this site.