Saturday, April 05, 2008

Search Engine Optimization - A Step by Step Guide for Beginners

Search Engine Optimization, as the name suggests, is the act of changing or altering websites so that they can rank well in the organic, crawler-based Search Engine listings or Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). The main aim is to get top rankings on the first page of Search Engine listings. The process of Search Engine Optimization includes - choosing targeted or theme oriented keywords or key phrases that are related to the website, and ensuring that the site shows on the top listings of SERPs when those keywords and phrases are searched. The process includes optimizing a site according to the criteria of Search Engines and increasing the number of visitors also called traffic to a Website. Normally, Internet uers do not click through pages and pages of SERPs, so the position where a Website ranks in SERPs is very important for generating more traffic for the site because, the higher a Website ranks, the greater is the chance of getting visitors.

SEO Ranking Factors:
  • Planning and Strategy
  • Search Engine Submissions, Index inclusion and Coverage
  • On Page Optimization
  • Link Popularity Building and Off Page Optimization
  • SEM Process
  • Conversion Efficiency

A. Planning and Strategy:

Planning is the first step to SEO. Never launch any strategy without proper planning. In this section, I will discuss the following steps:
  1. Goal Setting
  2. Keyphrase Research, Analysis and Selection
  3. Competitors’ Analysis
  4. Market Analysis
1. Goal Setting: Before starting SEO process, it is very essential that you set some realistic goals for the campaign. Common types of high-level goals used for Search Engine Marketing:
  • Position Based Goals and Targets: It is important for position based goals that these targets generate high volume, high intent keywords and key phrases in the major search engines.

  • Visitor Volume Based Goals and Targets: This includes getting a particular number of clicks from unique and returning visitors. For example to achieve 5,000 clicks from the targeted phrases per day, week or month.

  • Outcome Based Goals and Targets: This includes setting conversion based goals. For example to generate 10,000 leads or sales from SEO per day, week or month.

  • Market Share Based Goals and Targets: There are various tools such as the Google Traffic Estimator or Hitwise, which make it possible to calculate a ‘share of search’ within a product category with detailed keyphrase analysis. However, care must be taken while setting this type of goal with these tools because they may not be 100% correct being mislead by automatically submitted searches from rank-checking, link-building or click fraud software tools. For example to achieve 25% share of the searches within a year for a particular key phrase.
2. Keyphrase Research, Analysis and Selection: Keyword or key phrase analysis and selection are the core to success in Search Engine Marketing. Identifying the most relevant key phrases for a Website is the most important and crucial starting point as it forms the base of your SEO campaign. Since this is very important aspect of SEO, I shall discuss it in detail in a separate section.

3. Competitors’ Analysis: Comparing search performance of competitors against that of yours is a big part of analysis and improvement for SEO. The first step is to identify your online competitor types for search traffic. It is not always necessary that the competitors for particular keyphrases are your traditional competitors. For example, for a mobile phone retailer, when someone searches for a product, you will be competing for search visibility with these types of websites:
  • Mobile phone retailers
  • Network providers
  • Handset manufacturers
  • Affiliates and partner sites
  • Gazettes and news sites
  • Review sites
  • Blogs and personal sites about mobile phone technology
  • Mobile phone related articles
This makes it very important to identify your actual competitors and their SEO strategy to compete with them and beat them.

4. Market Analysis: Market analysis is very essential to get more visitors to a website and convert those visitors into long term customers.



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