Management Perspectives: Search-engine Optimization
Dec 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Don Kreski
The most important step in web development that AV companies never take.
You have a great website. It looks good. It works well, but it doesn't seem to attract new business. When you type the products or services you offer into Google or Yahoo, your site is not listed in the search results. What went wrong?
“Nothing,” says Tim Grant, owner and president of lunavista communications in Chicago. You just need to take one more step: You need to market your website to the search engines.
“Some people look at a website as a business card or a brochure. It's something they can show potential customers to build credibility, and it can be very valuable as such,” Grant says. “Other people need their website to generate leads and make sales. And they're going to go the extra nine yards to make it do that.”
If you choose to travel that distance, you'll need to make an additional investment to put the search engines to work for you.
THE OPTIMIZATION PROCESS
According to Grant, whose company specializes in the marketing of websites to search engines, the first thing you need to realize is that the majority of sites are not optimized. If you optimize yours for the “organic search” or free sections of Google, Yahoo, and MSN, you're likely to gain a significant advantage over your competitors.
It's also important to understand that there are very few tricks to the optimization trade. “The search engines are always trying to give the best, most relevant results for any query,” Grant says. “To do so, they are looking for elements that are part of any good design and are readily available to end users.”
For that reason, search engine spiders — robot programs that crawl through the Internet indexing websites — look primarily at content, and they try to rank sites higher that present relevant content in an honest and straightforward manner.
“You have to realize, however, that the spiders don't actually understand your copy or see the pictures or animations you may include,” Grant says. “They are simply running through code, copying strings of characters, and dropping them into a database.”
Since the search engines only capture text information, the first step in optimization is to develop a list of 10 to 35 keywords and phrases that you're going to target. These are the terms that you believe potential clients will use when they are searching for someone like you.
There are several online tools that can help, including Google's online Keyword Tool. You simply type in the word or phrase you're considering, and it tells you how many Google searches have been completed the previous month using that term. It also lists alternative terms and the number of searches done with each of them. Once you have a list of reasonable terms, then you need to look at the pages on your site and how they support them.
“You can't expect to support more than two, possibly three closely related terms on an individual page,” Grant says. If your site offers no support for some important terms, you will probably need to add pages. “The more pages we have to work with, the more key phrases we can target.”
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