Giving Web sites a much-needed boost

A good strategy is crucial to help increase visibility of a site.

A good strategy is crucial to help increase visibility of a site.

As more consumers turn to the Web for information, it's vital that companies implement a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy to ensure that their Web site is prominently featured in a free, organic search. That high ranking is dependent upon engine-friendly content and a PR effort for "link placement."

According to Chris Copeland, senior partner and MD at SEO firm Outrider, 60% to 70% of all clicks that take place on a search engine are organic.

"The Internet is shaping perceptions of companies," he says. "To not have a presence where you can at least provide insights into your companies' point of view and offerings is significantly detrimental to any type of long-term success in connection with your consumers."

Copeland says Web sites should be created with not only the consumer in mind, but also search engines. For example, a site should be text-heavy and include appropriate content that allows the user to think about tips and trends.

He notes that the engines to focus on, covering 98% of the industry, include Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, and Ask.com, but companies should rely on Google's guidelines and standards.

"The interesting thing we've started to see is the creation of dual press releases. There's the on-site release [version] that may be more search-friendly in terms of its copy. You're allowing these ventures to find it for the purpose of indexing," Copeland says. "Also, when thinking about your marketing, build out sections for post-news coverage. You want stories and links from coverage of your press to point back to your Web site."

Kevin Ryan, VP of global content at Search Engine Strategies, notes that search behavior can be likened to a barometer of human behavior. "The biggest mistake companies make is they use their own language as opposed to users' language," he adds.

For a pro bono, singer/songwriter client, Ryan says optimizing the Web site involved making some structural changes. The site had been built with audio files in an encrypted format and images on the page dominated text, which was already hard to read. For some of the pages, the content management system she was using restricted people from coming into the site.

"All of this happens so often," he notes. "Some pages weren't even being indexed." Ryan says that within weeks of improving the format to follow engine guidelines and optimize the use of text, traffic had quadrupled.

Greg Jarboe, president of SEO-PR, says companies must optimize key elements of each page. "That can include things like the title tag, headlines visible to page visitors, and the lead paragraph on each page," he says. "It's useful to [do] keyword research ahead of time to see what people are actually typing in when they go to a search box."

Once optimized to be engine-friendly, it's necessary to promote the site link in a social, interactive PR effort, to employ what SEO firms call "effective backlink count strategy" and produce a high, organic ranking.

To improve the search result for The Wharton School of Business' Executive Education program Web site, within an "executive education" search, SEO-PR worked on building links to the page. The result was an increased ranking from 101 (11th page) to top two.

"[A] key part of the Google algorithm, now also part of the Yahoo algorithm, is not only what you say about yourself on the page, but what people say about you when they link to your page," Jarboe explains. "The Google algorithm reads that text in the link and factors that as part of the ranking algorithm."

WebWire principal Michael Schwartz advocates company participation at a social level. "Be communicative contributors with the information that's now possible [via] the Internet," he says. "Place your link in aligned blogs and other social media efforts, and create your own outbound social media vehicle."

SEO pros say that engines are starting to take into account news feeds, images, and videos, but that doesn't alter the impact relationships have in garnering a high ranking.

"As in PR, you don't pay for media placement," says Jarboe. "You [still need] a good story and [you have to] pitch it and lobby and hopefully you get coverage."

Technique Tips

Do

Consider dual press releases

Use Webmaster tools (https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/siteoverview)

Seed your link in the social media space

Don't

Use too much imagery

Attempt to add terms by using the white text/white background trick

Index duplicate content or URLs

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