Search engine optimization

Search engine secrets aren’t that “secret”

One of the most-requested services I’m asked about, besides web design, is “how to get my site to #1 in Google.” I’m faced with so many web site owners who were told by their developers that they were indeed submitted, or even optimized… but they get no leads off of their sites.

Kind of an odd situation, no? Well, sadly, it’s not that odd. It’s fairly pervasive. Someone built your site… said it was optimized… and you waited for the leads to pour in. In reality, sometimes nothing—or very little—is done.

How can you tell if your site has been optimized?

There are a few ways:

Are you using frames? If so, not only will the majority of search engines ignore you, but it’s doubtful your web developer realized that frames are a no-no in web design. Even back in 1996, when I began designing web sites, frames were never a good option.

In your web browser, go to “View” and then “View source.” Near the top of this code should be “meta tags,” that might look like this:

<meta name=”description” content=”Custom web design – custom print design – custom email marketing – bulk email marketing – Gizmo Design is a Chicago print, web and email design firm that creates intuitive, successful designs that increase sales.”>
<meta name=”keywords” content=”Custom web design, custom print design, custom email marketing, bulk email marketing, corporate brochure design”>

If no meta tags exist, chances are the site, on the whole, is not optimized for any search engines. Though not as fantasically important as they used to be, meta tags are still a useful part of optimization and should not be overlooked.

If these elements don’t exist, it’s time to talk to your web developer, or to find a new one if this is what they promised.

Niche your content

If you don’t even have a web site, or are interested in overhauling your current site, keep in mind that content is king. There are a few specific rules to this that I share with my SEO consulting customers, but it’s a good idea to start with a list of keyword phrases—a few words customers may search for when looking for your type of services or products.

Of course, are they really searching for these particular phrases? That’s where the handy Keyword Suggestion Tool comes into play. Though it only finds phrases searched for on Overture [now owned by Yahoo!] and Wordtracker, this is still a very useful tool. Let’s say you’re a Chicago real estate agent. Look up “Chicago real estate” and you’ll find that it was searched for over 400 times a day. Great! But, that means you’re competing with over 35 million other web sites!

This is an area that’s very difficult to compete in unless you’re putting a lot of money into SEO. But if you niche to one of your key areas, “Chicago bungalows,” since you tend to sell more of those, you’ll find that only 22 people are searching for this per day. Many fewer, yes, but you’re also competing with only about 700,000 other sites. And from here, it’s far easier to find the customers you are looking for – who are looking for your particular “Chicago bungalow” expertise.


And as I’ve said in past issues, blogs are another great way to push content out to potential web viewers. Fresh content is preferred by search engines, and certainly worth continual updating.

Trickery doesn’t work 

This isn’t the end of the road by any means—you do need to make search engines see you as purveyors of information, not loading your pages with invisible keyword spam to “trick” them into seeing you. This is a smart strategy, as real people will eventually see your site, and you need to speak to them in an understandable and engaging way.


Search engines are far smarter than that today, and they continue to spot the hoaxes. Utilizing “natural” SEO like this is not only more cost-effective, but makes sense in the long term. Continue this conversation with a trusted web developer, and you will reap the benefits.

Lisa GhisolfSearch engine secrets aren’t that “secret”

Search engine antics

Type “search engine optimization” into Google and you’ll find millions of people willing to show you the “best” way to increase traffic to your site, usually with a free teaser up front and little else to follow. I’ll eliminate the work of sorting through these empty proposals: Most of them talk about meta-tags, keywords, algorithms and “the secret” for getting into Google.

What I’m going to talk to you about is how to best use SEO to your benefit, what to think about if you do use SEO, and other methods that may benefit you more.

SEO is a great tool for online merchants or those with a public or specialized consumer base. [i.e., restaurants, real estate agents, manufacturers of widgets. Since so many internet users look to the net for product information and buying, it’s a natural progression to use SEO to draw them to your site. A few months back I heard a marketer say search engine optimization is “easy” to a crowd of entrepreneurs. Anyone who knows the ins and outs of search engine optimization, or SEO, knows this is a complete joke—and I’ll tell you why.

There’s an urge to jump on the bandwagon because everyone is singing SEO’s praises.The truth is, you should—but the level to which you do is proportionate to the other integrated marketing efforts you take. Knowing what you’re trying to do is most important. Every site should, to some extent, be cross-linked with your partners and relevant directory web sites, use relevant copy in your pages as well as meta tags, and submit to the right search engines on a regular basis. If this sounds daunting or your web designer didn’t do this, give me a call!

However, these techniques aren’t the end of the road for SEO—perhaps it was in 1997, but times have changed and so has the technology. Current SEO firms that play the algorithm game [the best way to get your site ranking high—for a while] are on a constant hamster wheel, keeping up with the changes Google and others make to their systems. On the positive side, search engines do this so the same people don’t end up on top constantly, but it also pads their latest ventures. Some companies use pay-per-click and other methods, and in the end it can be an expensive proposition. However, it can also be a lucrative one, if done correctly, and only if it fits your goals.


Consider this situation: You have a law practice and are relaunching its redesigned web site. Updating your stationery and focusing on targeted direct mail and email marketing are a great way to get your new URL out there and encourage buy-in to your site and your business. Combine this with some rudimentary meta tag work, a good web site analyzing tool, networking with your target audience, and you have the basis of a marketing program that doesn’t play the pay-per-click game… unless you want it to. Gizmo can assemble a package that works for your business, on your budget, without the worry.


I’ve given you some basic ideas. It’s obvious SEO is not a simple proposition, but it can get easier once you know what you want—and stay away from anyone who says it’s “easy.”

Lisa GhisolfSearch engine antics