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."