Top 5 Legitimate SEO Techniques That Will Help Your Business Get Found

by Mike Volpe

Published on August 19, 2008

People have not stopped buying things, so how are they researching and purchasing products since they have made themselves immune to old marketing techniques like banner ads and direct mail?

The answer is with search engines and Google. According to comScore, Americans conducted 11.5 billion searches in June 2008, and Google was used for 61.5% of those searches.

This means it is essential that you make it easy for customers to find you, and one of the most effective ways to do so is search engine optimization (SEO), which focuses on getting your Web site listed in the unpaid, organic search engine results.

Organic listings generate visitors to your site. Moreover, with SEO, you don't pay a per-click "tax" to the search engines, so it usually has a higher ROI than paid-search listings. Finally, if you do SEO right, it can be a competitive advantage, unlike paid search, because anyone can increase their keyword bid to beat you out.

How do you actually get your Web site ranked high in search engines? The answer is quite simple, but getting there can be a bit more difficult.

Search engines use two broad categories of factors to decide which site shows up first in search results:

  1. On-page SEO factors are all the things that happen on your Web page. The good part is that you have complete control over these things. The bad part is they are only about 25% of the reason you will rank for a search term.
  2. Off-page SEO factors are things that happen outside your direct control but are roughly 75% of the reason you rank for a given search. The most important off-Page SEO factor is the number and quality of links into your Web site. Search engines use links as a measure of how interesting your content is, since more interesting content tends to get more links. Search engines also regard links from more-established Web sites as more important than links from less-trustworthy Web sites.

With those basics in mind, here are five useful tips to help guide you through your SEO strategy.

1. Pick good page titles

The page title of each Web page is the most important on-page SEO factor. The page title is the text that appears in the top bar of your browser window and is the first thing a search engine looks at to determine what the page is about.

For instance, the page title of the MarketingProfs home page is "MarketingProfs - Marketing Resources for Marketing Professionals." It does a good job telling search engines about that page, using keywords relevant to the target audience.

The other smart thing Marketing Profs does is that the page title is different on each page of the Web site. Just as in the case of a lottery, you don't bet the same number over and over for the same drawing; you want to use each page of your Web site as a different entry into the SEO lottery, and a unique page title is how to do that.

2. Be smart about URLs

Your URL is how search engines track and manage your company's reputation online. Using a free URL that actually belongs to another company is a bad idea in the world of SEO because you can never change or forward that URL. Using URLs like yourcompany.blogspot.com make it possible for you to build SEO power for blogspot.com, but if you ever want to move or rename your Web site, you have to leave all that power back at the old Web site.

If you have your own domain, like yourcompany.com, then you can always move to a new address and forward all the SEO power you have built up.

3. Start a blog

Blogging does two great things that are a huge help with SEO.

First, if you run a blog correctly, you are updating content on a frequent basis. Search engines love fresh content on Web sites. Web pages or articles that have been published recently on an established Web site get an extra boost in the rankings. The second benefit of blogging is that blogs are a magnet for links. The people who do the most linking online are bloggers and writers. They are much more likely to link to an interesting blog article with a unique perspective on an issue than a typical corporate Web site.

If you start a blog and regularly post content that is appealing to your market, you will help your SEO efforts a lot.

4. Leverage your PR program

If you have a public relations program at your company, there are two things you need to do for SEO. First, you should optimize all of your press releases. This basically means adding links into your press releases that lead back to your Web site. Second, as you get coverage of your company in online publications, make sure that there is link within the article back to your company. You would be surprised how many journalists do not automatically link to companies they write about.

For bonus points, for your links in press releases and media coverage, use hyperlinked text with keywords relevant to your business as the link, not just the URL. The search engines key off of these keywords for added clues about the topic of your Web site. For example: you want a link like marketing resources, not http://www.marketingprofs.com.

5. Use social media to build links

Many marketers are scared of social media. The trick is to think of it just as an online version of all the business cocktail parties you have attended over the years. And just like at a cocktail party, with social media you should never enter the conversation with a sales pitch. But social media is an excellent way to promote your interesting blog articles or other content, because other bloggers and writers might write about your company and link back to your content. Find online communities, groups, blogs, and networks where your audience hangs out, and start listening and asking questions.



The Latest SEO Trends and Metrics: What's Hot, What's Not

by Stephan Spencer

Published on August 19, 2008

If you're not "living and breathing" search engine optimization, it can be easy to latch onto old SEO trends and metrics and focus obsessively on them, especially those few hot-button issues that get the most attention from the press or from your CEO.

It takes time and experience to stay on the cutting edge of SEO, and more than likely you don't have that kind of time, considering your other marketing efforts. So here's a quick update on what's hot and what's not in the world of search engine optimization.

What's hot:

  • Becoming a trusted contributor on social news/content sites like Digg, Propeller, Reddit, Mixx, StumbleUpon, Wikipedia, and Knol
  • Building your personal and professional network in online communities like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, Bebo, MyBlogRoll, and the blogosphere in general, and then taking advantage of the residual network effect
  • Link baiting—posting humorous/fascinating/contentious/controversial content that is a magnet for links
  • Truly understanding and leveraging the power of "Long Tail" dynamics

What's not:

  • Obsessively watching search engine indexation numbers and rankings on trophy keywords (like the one you know the CEO always checks first thing in the morning)
  • Worrying yourself sick over duplicate-content penalties
  • Relying on XML sitemaps to fix your indexation problems
  • The old-fashioned link exchange

Speaking of what's hot, a new generation of SEO metrics exists so you can keep track of your progress once you've abandoned the old thinking and adopted more modern strategies. Gauging your success solely on your positions in the search engine results is old hat.

New SEO paradigms, such as the "Long Tail," universal search, and personalized search, call for new key performance indicators (KPIs).

In addressing "Long Tail SEO," consider the following KPIs:

Brand-to-Nonbrand Ratio

This is the percentage of your natural search traffic that comes from brand keywords versus nonbrand keywords. If the ratio is high and most of your traffic is coming from searches for your brand name, this means that your SEO efforts are fundamentally broken. The lower the ratio, the more of the long tail of natural search you are likely capturing. This metric is an excellent gauge of the success of your optimization initiatives.

Unique Pages

This is the number of unique (non-duplicate) Web pages crawled by search engine spiders such as Googlebot. Your Web site is your virtual sales force, bringing in prospects from search engines, and each unique page is one of your virtual salespeople. The more unique pages you have, the more virtual salespeople you have out there in the engines selling on your behalf.

Page Yield

This is the percentage of unique pages that yield search-delivered traffic in a given month. This ratio essentially is a key driver of the length of your Long Tail of natural search. The more pages that yield traffic from search engines, the healthier your SEO program. If you have only a small portion of your Web site delivering searchers to your door, then most of your pages—your virtual salespeople—are standing around the water cooler instead of working hard for you.

Keyword Yield

This is the average number of keywords each page (minus the ones that don't get you any traffic) yields in a given month. Put another way, it's the ratio of keywords to pages yielding search traffic. The higher your keyword yield, the greater the part of the Long Tail of natural search your site will capture.

In other words, the more keywords each yielding page attracts or targets, the longer your tail. So an average of eight search terms per page indicates pages with much broader appeal to the engines than, say, three search terms per page.

In a research study done by my company (Netconcepts) called Chasing the Long Tail of Natural Search, the average merchant had a keyword yield of 2.4 keywords per page.

Visitors per Keyword

This is the ratio of search engine-delivered visitors to search terms. This metric indicates how much traffic each keyword drives and is a function of your rankings in the search engine result pages. Put another way, this metric determines the height or thickness of your Long Tail. The average merchant in the aforementioned study obtained 1.9 visitors per keyword.

Index-to-Crawl Ratio

This is the ratio of pages indexed to unique crawled pages. If a page gets crawled by Googlebot, that doesn't guarantee it will show up in Google's index. A low ratio can mean your site doesn't carry much weight in Google's eyes.

Engine Yield

Calculated for each search engine separately, this is how much traffic the engine delivers for every page it crawls. Each search engine has a different audience size. This metric helps you fairly compare the referral traffic you get from each engine. The Netconcepts study found that Live Search and Yahoo tended to crawl significantly more pages, but the yield per crawled page from Google was typically higher by a significant margin.


Hopefully you're now more up-to-date on your SEO tactics, but keep in mind that any of these trends can change at the drop of a hat. Search engine optimization is a process, not a project, so as you optimize your site through multiple iterations, watch the above-mentioned KPIs to ensure you're heading in the right direction. Marketers who are not privy to these metrics will have a much harder time reaching qualified prospects.

If you'd like to hear more about these search trends and metrics, attend the Marketing Profs Digital Mixer, a multi-channel online marketing conference coming up in October. Stephan is program chair for the search marketing track. Check out the full program.