Internet search engines exist to organize the seemingly immeasurable amount of information available on the web. They direct people to pages that are relevant to their searches, pages that discuss the exact keywords they are looking for. For a business that receives the majority of its clientele from search engines, search engine rankings can make or break an e-commerce company.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the marketing technique of enhancing a website and its content in order to increase the chances of achieving a high rank on search engine result pages (SERP) under relevant keyword searches.
Search engines are very secretive about their criteria and ranking systems, they continuously update and revise their algorithms (a mathematical formula used to determine which web pages are displayed in search results), and therefore, there is less likelihood of webmasters and search engine optimizers being able to achieve higher rankings by manipulation and spamming.
Each search engine has its own formula and criteria for indexing and ranking pages. One can analyze SERPs and backward links (all the links pointing at a particular web page) and attempt to determine a search engine’s indexing criteria, however, there is a lot of risk involved in relying on a limited number of optimization techniques.
Because of the unpredictable nature of search engines, a website can easily move from a top ranking position on a SERP down to the third or fourth SERP or even banned from the search engine altogether.
To Trust or Not to Trust
There are so many unethical SEO companies that claim to be able to achieve your website #1 rankings, they use overwhelmingly aggressive marketing techniques, and attempt to manipulate search engine results, that they give the industry a bad name.
The main problem with SEO companies is that they base their methods and techniques on research, trial and error, and speculation. As a result of the secretive indexing criteria of search engines, webmasters and SEO companies can only make an educated guess about the ranking systems and possible algorithm revisions.
SEO companies may be able to achieve high rankings in search engines for your website, they are good at what they do, however it is the way they do it that is precarious and dangerous.
Some SEO companies may use ‘black hat’, techniques to manipulate search engine results to their advantage. These techniques are high risk or illegal and can get a site banned from search engines. Black hat techniques can cuase seevere damage to the business of an e-commerce company.
A few examples of ‘black hat’ techniques:
• Hidden text/hidden links: stuffing your pages with keywords or links too small to read or the same color as the background, so viewers are unable to see any difference in the aesthetics of the page.
• Cloaking: using browser/bot sniffers to serve the search engine spiders a different page than the page visitors see. It is used to show an optimized page to the search engines and a different page to viewers.
• Mutiple submissions: submitting your domain and pages to search engines, for example submitting http://www.logobee.com and http://www.logobee.com/samples as two seperate urls.
• Link farms: sites created soley for the purpose of search engine ranking. These sites are nothing more than random links which have no relevance to one another.
• Selling PR: sites that sell their high PR links for a fee through direct advertisement and for the sole purpose of increasing link popularity.
• Doorways: having one page stuffed with keywords that re-direct to another more user friendly page.
• Meta tag abuse: having too many keywords in the meta tag description, title and keywords.
I am not implying that all SEO companies use ‘black hat’ techniques, there are some that use safe techniques, however I am only pointing out that relying on an SEO company to achieve top rankings for your website is a gamble.
As Easy As ABC
You don't have to be a computer genius to achieve higher search engine rankings for your website. Effective search engine optimization can be done by anyone who has the time and determination. There exists hordes of information, suggestions, ideas, methods and tehnicques about successfully optimizing your website for search engines. SEO companies do not use any ‘special’ tactics that we don’t already know or that we can’t easily research on the internet.
Safe SEO techniques:
• Content: Add valuable and relevant content to your site. The more content the better. Keep your paragraphs brief and to the point.
• Continuously update your website: Add new information and new pages to your site. Create a section on your home page containing up-to-date news items relevent to your business.
• Link popularity: Participate in link exchanges that are relevant to your business or that compliment your business. The more inbound links, the more important your website is perceived to be by the search engine spiders. Progressively build your links. Do not add 500 links to your site at one time.
• Site maps: Include a site map on your site. Site maps can help your visitors easily surf your site.
• Meta tags and Alt tags: Meta tags contain information about the website, placed in the HTML header of a web page, that is not visible to browsers. The most common meta tags relevant to search engines are title, keyword and description tags. Title tags are the most important tags because they contain the information that a viewer sees concerning your website on a search engine results page. Choose a title that clearly represents your business. Make sure that your all your tags contain relevant keywords. Alt tags describe the graphical elements in a web page.
• Header tags: Header tags (H1, H2, H3….) are tags used to represent headers and important titles. Use H1 tags for the most important headers, H2 for the next, etc…As well, use bold, italics, underlines, and different font sizes. Spiders and bots give high value to sites that contain a variety of text and font sizes.
• Keep it simple: Make your site simple and viewer friendly. Make you site easy to surf, eye-catching, informative and interesting. Keep in mind that surfers have a short attention span.
• Stay away from large images and Flash images. Spiders have a preference for html text sites.
• Keyword density: Keywords should exist in your title tag, headline tag, description tag and throughout the content of your home page as well as other internal pages. Be careful not to over do it though.
• Informative and authoritative: Include authorative articles pertaining to the topic of your business, FAQ, tips, how-to’s, etc..
• Participate in SEO and webmaster forums to keep up to date on SEO techniques and search engine criteria revisions. Read websites and articles on various SEO suggestions.
• For other safe optimization techniques see Google’s guidelines for webmasters (http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html).
SEO companies are by the dozen, attempting to lure you in, convincing you to believe that they, and they alone, can help you attain top position results on search engines. While you consider whether to go with an SEO company or not, you may want to do some research on the SEO industry. You can find some helpful information at http://www.google.com/webmasters/seo.html.
Instead of spending big bucks on achieving big results, take initiative, do it yourself. Don’t spend endless hours worrying about search engine results and crawling spiders. While keeping in mind basic SEO techniques, customize your web site for your human users and not for spiders and bots.
About the Author: Colleen Ryan is the Art Director of Logobee Inc., a logo design firm that designs high quality logos and corporate identity design for businesses worldwide. Logobee Inc. was founded in 2000 and since then the company has grown at an exponential rate.