Search Engine Optimization, or SEO as industry professionals say, refers to improving the quantity or quality (or both) of traffic that is directed to a website through search engine results.

SEO is a website marketing strategy that considers the algorithms that search engines use, as well as the phrases that web users incorporate into searches. By tweaking the text of a website’s content, the html content, or the tags associated with the website, Search Engine Optimization utilizes the content of a page to increase the page ranking of a site. By increasing the page ranking, this technique moves a website forward from obscurity to a first page ranking. In other words, SEO can organically move your website up to the first page of your chosen search engine for your key words.

There are two different ways to increase/generate leads; these are organic and Pay Per Click (PPC). Organic SEO is optimizing a website to be search engine friendly, indexed by multiple search engines, and through optimizing html code to be indexed for your targeted keywords. Organic searches are the type of searches that appear based on the keywords that a user types into a search engine and are listed in order of relevance and frequency of search terms. In comparison, paid keyword advertising is the box that appears in a special section of the search engine results that indicates that it is an advertisement. Paid advertisement is also referred to as Pay Per Click (PPC) ads. This is because the company is charged each time their ad is clicked/viewed by a search engine user. PPC ads can be utilized on Google, Yahoo, Bing, or other high-traffic search engines. PPC advertising works by setting a budget for your campaign based on keywords and competition; price varies greatly based on key words, competition, and geo-targeting. After determining keywords and venues, you can set a budget per week or month based on how much you are willing to spend. In addition to PPC ads, there are also other paid advertisements such as banner advertisements, which most web users are familiar with. The newest paid ads are video advertisements, which you are currently seeing on Google, YouTube, Hulu, Blinkx, and other video-based sites (web 3.0).

The first step in Search Engine Optimization is keyword research. For example, you might consider how you would search for your own business on the web if you didn’t know the name of what you wanted. Think about who your target demographic is and what they would search to find you; these are your keywords. Web professionals can help you determine your target keywords. It’s very important that you identify the demographic of the customer you want to reach. If your client base is regional, then you do not want to attract potential leads outside of your jurisdiction. Very different results are returned from the same search engine if you search “Annuities” vs. “Annuities Broker Honolulu”. It is the job of your SEO consultant to help you determine who your market audience is and how they are most likely to find your site.

Once your keywords have been determined, SEO professionals will help move your site up in search engine rankings. You can move from an obscure page 10 ranking (around 100th on a list) to within the top ten sites returned. This is beneficial to your business because web searchers are more likely to look at only the first page of results to find what they are looking for. If users have to click through multiple pages to find your information, they are more likely to give up looking and choose a competitor instead. Oppositely, if you beat out your competitors by ranking higher, they may stop looking for the name they recognize and browse your website or purchase your product instead.

While keywords are very important to get search engines to rank your site within the first few pages, the content of your site is also very important. An algorithm or a search engine may be searching the text of your site in order to give a page ranking, but a potential customer will be reading through the content of your site. Therefore, it is important to balance the text and make sure the content of your site is user-friendly as well as searchable. It is important to keep a consistent ratio of around one keyword per 100 words. Any more than that will be considered by search engines as spam and your site may be banned or penalized.

Selecting the right domain name for your website is also important for the success of your business for a variety of reasons. Not only does the domain name need to logically relate to your business and be fairly easy for people to remember, your choice of domains can have a very real effect on your placement within search engines. The actual domain name of your website may be included as one of the factors considered by the large search engines in determining whether your web site is relevant for a specific keyword. As a result, including the most-searched keyword for your business in the domain name itself can increase the relevance of your site in search engine results pages (SERPs). Search engines use complex algorithms to determine websites’ relevance, so remember that this is just one of many factors.

Web designers and SEO experts have additional techniques to improve the ranking and increase the SEO performance of a website. Some of these techniques include:

Linking within pages of the same website and to other websites. Linking pages within your site and to external websites provides search engines with the richness of data that is incorporated into your site; it establishes that you have information that backs up your claims both internally and externally.
Submitting your site to multiple/specialized directories and search engines in order to increase ranking. Having links to high ranking websites such as government provided directories, Wikipedia, or major news sources will increase your ranking. You will be given priority when being viewed by search engines.

Increasing and prioritizing Meta tags. Meta tags are the first element that a search engine utilizes in order to rank page content organically. Meta tags are words that the webmaster uses to describe the site to search engines; however, most of the time end users do not see these keywords or descriptions. Your SEO consultant can tell you more about Meta tags.

Local SEO is a vital marketing strategy for any business trying to reach a consumer base in a specific area. Local SEO is a must for businesses that sell products or services locally or to a specified geographical area. Consumers are often further along in the buying cycle when they search locally. This locally focused traffic is generally more qualified, and results in higher lead conversions. You also enhance the user’s experience by bringing your prospective customers to highly relevant local content on your site. For example, someone in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is looking for plumbers. Instead of directing them to the main page of your Web site, they’re provided with the page containing your business address, phone number, and other information specific to that location. Land a consumer on relevant local information and your conversion to sale increases while page bounce rate and site abandonment decreases. With more consumers going online to research or purchase products and services, the time has never been better to integrate local SEO. This wave of consumers searching locally will continue growing. The channels consumers are using to search are changing. Is your marketing strategy adapting?

While the majority of this article has discussed ways to build web presence organically, not everyone uses such methods. Within the web community, following the established guidelines (as described above) is termed white hat. However, black hat practices also exist. Black hat practices include spamming the same terms multiple times on sites, redirecting traffic to another site that doesn’t contain your keywords, and receiving links from a mis-advertized source. Using these non-approved techniques can result in a banned IP address or domain. This means that your site will no longer be listed by search engines. Grey hat is another term that includes actions that are neither approved nor banned. This includes buying links to increase your rankings. This is not encouraged by search engines, but there are some individuals who use these techniques.

Along with SEO, site design, generation of leads, and contact tracking are valuable marketing tools to assure that after users get to your site, they will become customers.

First, it is important to have a site that is well-designed and is easy for clients to navigate, as well as having an easy-to-spot link that leads directly to your lead generation page. Your site needs a way to gather information from visitors so that you can contact them in the future to sell your product or remind them of who you are. This form usually asks for contact information (name/ email/ phone number) and a reason for visiting the site, but may be as extensive as an online application. Once the information has been gathered from the lead thought the website; it is important to make contact with the potential client. Your website should be designed to send an automatic response to each lead that provides them with additional information. Simultaneously, you will be provided with the contact information in order to provide a more personalized contact. Additionally, you can use this database of leads to keep potential clients informed about new products, specials, or items of interest through email marketing and campaigns.

Once you have a database of potential clients that have visited your site and learned about your product, it is important to track which potential clients actually become clients. Tracking your conversion rate, top keywords, number of page clicks, visits per month, and reoccurring visitors are important to targeting future clients and improving your sales techniques in the future.

Training and hiring your own workforce that specializes in Search Engine Optimization and Marketing is a vast and expensive in house investment. The technology changes often and you need people working for you that have the necessary experience and expertise. The technology is here and the slower you are to act, the further behind you get from your competition.

Search Engine Optimization and Marketing is a long term investment in your business. By using approved organic Search Engine Optimization, your site will continue to grow credibility and ranking with the search engines, even when the algorithms change and new engines are created. Think about where you are currently spending your marketing dollars. Consumer habits have moved toward the internet and web solutions; your campaign should be poised to take full advantage of this new consumer climate.

As you can see, there are many techniques you can use to improve your web presence. While some techniques can be done independently, it is highly recommended to find a professional that has mastered search engine optimization and e-marketing that understands your business needs.