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 for search engines?
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.