A Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Survival Guide for Marketing Managers (part 2) – Unabridged

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note: this is part 2 of 2 in a series of articles on the subject of SEO and marketing, originally published at Bnet.co.uk. This piece is the unabridged version of the article.

10 steps for improving your SEO dramatically and simply

including a slideshare pictorial guide for SEO marketers (see bottom of article)

Important notice: it is reminded that this is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to SEO. All steps have been voluntarily simplified in order to help marketing managers, not to turn them into bespectacled anoraks. My method described here is simple, it is certainly not scientific, it is bound to make any SEO guru scream in dismay I’m sure, but I’ve tried it and it worked time and time again, so I believe there must be something good in it.

Step 1: define your SEO niche

Trying to be all things to all people is a bad thing in Marketing in general, but in web page optimisation it is a lethal mistake. First and foremost, one has to target a so-called SEO niche in order to be well positioned in search engines. Reaching number one rank is a nice to have but can rarely be achieved from day one. On the contrary, it is easier and more effective to aim at niches, one at a time for each page you want to index, and eventually, your ranking will improve.

1.       Target 3 keywords (or combination of). I don’t mean that one cannot index a page for more than 3 keywords, I have seen counterexamples. What I mean is

a.       It’s difficult to target more than 3 keywords from a resource viewpoint,

b.      If you want to be consistent, these keywords will have to be repeated all over your text, so imagine if you have 10 of them!

c.       Your website has probably more than one page so do use other pages to target other keywords, based on relevance (the more the keywords are repeated in the page the more relevant because it means that this page really is about that),

d.      Don’t try and spam search engines, their designers are really shrewd, so spamming a page with repeated keywords may sound very clever but I assure you it’s not plus your readers might not appreciate your style.

2.       Analyse popularity AND competition and focus on that KEI

a.       keyword popularity will tell you how much a keyword combination is sought after,

b.      competition will tell you how often your competitors have tried to use this combination of keywords for their own SEO,

c.       the right combination between a & b is called the Key Efficiency Indicator index (aka KEI), a very effective way of balancing the two factors,

d.      bringing realism using personal judgement is also advised. Some of the numbers given by some keyword generation tools (see last section about useful tools) will not make much sense unless you interpret them properly and eliminate irrelevant keywords. For instance, networks appears as if it were a relevant keyword for telcos but in fact it’s not because it’s too vague as it mostly refers to social networks. A simple search engine query will prove the point very quickly and therefore, the ambiguity can be removed by qualifying the keyword better (network security is more relevant for instance, etc.)

e.      each page can/must be indexed with a different strategy in mind. This is how you can ensure that different targets are reached from the same website.

note: “The Keyword Effectiveness Index (KEI) was developed by search engine guru Sumantra Roy. it compares the daily searches with the number of competing Web pages to pinpoint exactly which keywords are good enough so you can use them while optimizing your site.” (source: sitepoint)

Step 2: fine tune your page title

As said in our previous post about Internet content, good content shows in the title. Good SEO too, and this is rather obvious so I won’t expatiate.

Step 3: implement keywords in the URL

Adding your keywords to your URL is also very effective as it will improve the search engine friendliness of your website. It also means generic keywords. Business people are always obsessed with their brand – and this is natural to an extent – but Internet visitors aren’t forcibly. What you have to do is get them to associate your brand with the good content that you are providing. It’s just the same objective but it works the other way round.

Step 4: it may not be useful, but it can’t hurt if you update those hidden meta tags (keywords, descriptions)

Web pundits may declare meta tags dead and buried, the fact is my SEO tool disagrees plus I believe it doesn’t really hurt if you update meta keywords and description and even the highly transparent author tag for some obvious reasons: a) Google declared them dead but who can tell they’re right, since their algorithm is kept secret? b) can you guarantee they won’t change their mind and when? c) it’s a matter of discipline I believe, because if you spend time doing this right, it probably means that you have given a thought to your keywords, and that in itself is good because very few people do d) it will keep your SEO tool quiet when you verify your pages

I do not recommend you oversee this step, it only takes a few seconds and I believe, if nothing else, it serves the purpose of tidying up the page, a little as if you were cleaning the table before lunch, it’s always nicer and healthier.

Step 5: get page copy to reflect your choice of keywords

Page copy, i.e. the length of the text to be found in your pages is the crux of the problem. I have seen websites – God knows I have – which looked like screen versions of paper brochures with nice pictures on them, the odd flash animation and very little text underneath. Usually, Marketing managers are put off by text. It “doesn’t look nice”; the “page is cluttered”, it’s “messy and it’s hard to find what you want” … are a few examples of commonplace feedback one gets from Joe Bloggs who thinks he can design a website just because he browsed one a few minutes before. Yet, the significance of page copy is paramount. The number of times that your keyword is repeated in your page is of extreme importance, and not just because search engines like the idea. The reason why search engines behave that way is that their programmers have – rightfully – decided that if your page were about football, you shouldn’t try and lure people into believing it’s about hockey or rugby. One way of making sure that a page really is about its main subject is by measuring the number of occurrences of your targeted keywords. As a result, each of your 3 keyword combinations should be repeated on average 5-10 times on a page. And if this page is just a cut and paste from one of your sales brochures, forget about it.

Step 6: keywords behind images (‘alternate tags’)

Alternate tags are these little pop-ups which show text when hovering over an image with your mouse. Your SEO will improve greatly if you make sure that these pictures have tags on them. Saving the pictures with meaningful keywords in their file name can also help greatly. Image file names also are URL’s (images are resources, i.e. the R in URL, unique resource location) and are therefore indexed by search engine too.

Step 7: turn your keywords into hotlinks

This step is often overlooked and yet this is one of the most powerful accelerators for SEO. Search engines like keywords in links so please avoid naming your links “click here” or “read more” etc. All your links should be meaningful and contain keywords in plain English: “download the file” should be replaced by “download the report on IT security market trends in America” for instance.

Step 8: submit your site to search engines

When I work on SEO with Marketing managers I realise that they are paying a lot of attention up to step #8 and then they’re done. Or so they think rather. For in fact it’s only just started. Don’t just stop there and wait. SEO requires that your site be submitted to the search engines which will send their bots to visit and index your links and pages. Yet, Google is not good enough. For a start, Google’s market share in the US doesn’t go beyond 65% whereas in the UK and France it reaches 85-90% (source: Orange Business websites). Besides, submitting your site to more than one search engine will help build links around your site and that too can’t hurt.

Step 9: use web 2.0 to boost your positioning

Website optimisation really is longwinded as it takes sometimes up to several months to get a website well indexed by search engines, but it bears some results in the very long run. On the opposite, Blogs and social media links are more dynamic, can sometimes be indexed in a day or even several times a day. Social media brings speed and reactivity in your SEO but things change fast in this world and blog SEO is less long term than site SEO. Hence, having a good mix of the two is a good idea, and I don’t mean here creating fake blogs in order to boost SEO productivity, as fake blogs are completely out of the question.

Step 10: Just keep trying

SEO work shouldn’t stop with step 9. For one, results don’t show immediately, priming the pump a few times is required before something actually happens. Secondly, results aren’t forever because they also depend on your competitors. It’s almost a full-time job in so far as one has to follow up on one’s position on search engines on a regular basis. Rankings evolve all the time, one has to be very careful not to let sleeping dogs lie for too long.

However, the beauty of working in a large enterprise is that one can teach Marketing managers to follow up on their products regularly and this is a lot better and more satisfactory than just having one central marketing person doing all the job over thousands and thousands of pages.

As a conclusion

Marketing managers shouldn’t be over-obsessed with SEO, and mind their own (Marketing) business and shouldn’t forget that things change fast on the web (it’s a continuous task).

There are definitely too many marketing managers getting obsessed with SEO. SEO is a serious discipline, as is Web management or Social media, and is best left to experts who can tell a good keyword from a bad one. As well as I encourage our marketing managers to get involved with SEO when they design their product descriptions, I believe that the eventual expertise will always remain with the professionals of that domain who eat and drink the stuff everyday in the field. At the end of the day, what matters is not what you read but what you achieve, and the results you get on search engines themselves. Besides, don’t expect miracles – Meta tags aren’t a magic solution for instance – and the number one rank in search engines is often a pie in the sky unless you have defined your target niches properly (see above). Besides, no one can guarantee number one position, let alone in the long run, so don’t focus on this, it’s irrelevant and it changes on a daily basis if not more.

All you have to do is your job, work on your products, step in the shoes of your clients and your ecosystem and work patiently, over and over again … and try again when you’ve failed. Your SEO will be the result of this. And your Internet strategist will be more than happy to oblige … once your part of the job is done. Our 10 step survival kit will in that case come handy so as not to miss a crucial milestone in the process.

A few simple tools I recommend:

1) Google Trends and Google Insights show how popular keyword searches are on the Net

2) Google (Adwords) Keyword Tools will check keyword popularity in detail and let you fine tune your SEO niche

3) WebCEO, a fully fledged SEO tool, used by many a big business name

4) Page ranking tool to check your ranking online and then post on your website

A slideshare representation of our 10 tips for simple SEO

note: a picture is worth a thousand words (literally). Feel free to use this slide and pin it on your wall while you try and improve your SEO and want to spread the word around amongst your marketing teams

Original Post: http://visionarymarketing.wordpress.com/2009/07/20/a-search-engine-optimisation-seo-survival-guide-for-marketing-managers-part-2-unabridged