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August 13, 2008

The Optimization Process

SEO is a combination of distinct processes designed to improve search engine placement for your website, but what does that really mean when you break it down to performance and performance benchmarks?

Do higher rankings always translate to higher sales conversion? The answer depends on how thorough your research was in determining the appropriate keywords and search behaviors of the target demographic best suited for your offering.

Developing your brand amidst the constant noise in the marketplace is a key factor for standing out from the crowd to distinguish your website. One common method for accomplishing this feat is to dominate a series of semantic phrases all derivatives of action words, keywords or modifiers, also known as qualifiers that a prospect might use to find your site in a search engine.

When you consider the impact of how much traffic a lucrative keyword can yield, the only real factors for consideration are (1) relevance (2) the competition for the keyword and (3) the time it takes to acquire it.

Assuming that you have performed due diligence and investigated 3-5 of the top ranking websites to create a base for your assumptions, if the keywords they use that comprise a large percentage of their traffic, then under the same premise, those same keywords can work for you and deliver relevant traffic to your pages.

Search engines have been around long enough to determine what quality is, short-cuts that may have worked in the past are now falling short of producing viable results.

This is primarily due to engineers making refinements and adjustments to search relevance and relevance score in the search algorithm (the systemic programs that monitors quality and assigns relevance to each query).

What this means is, optimization, in order to be effective, involves a grasp of multiple variables that must coincide with the conversion objective. In addition, such variables should mutually appease the search engine spiders and humans (who actually pay the bills) to elevate your online brand.

Based on that objective, you must measure the impact it has after implementation (do you receive more calls, leads from your contact forms, a higher RSS subscription rate for your RSS feed, etc.).

When considering organic optimization, it really boils down to targeting as much low hanging fruit as you can (less competitive keywords with traffic), so you can chip away systemically at the root phrases (one and two word keyword combinations) that typically yield higher search volume.

Once your site gets in the index (in the top 10 results) for one keyword or key phrase, then it becomes easier to move other related keywords into the picture to drive traffic to your website.

The typical process of optimization may resemble some of these facets:

1) Perform a sweep of the site to determine prominent ranking factors such as;

a) Does the website have sufficient content on the subject?

b) Is the content crawl-able and accessible from each page in the site through proper navigation?

c) Are the keywords present in the title tags and meta data or tags for a CMS system?

d) Are the internal links optimized or just saying “click here” if they are even using links at all?

e) How old is the site? Fresh out of the box? A few years old? Online for 5 years or more?

Depending on the answer, different methods to maximize the optimization effect applies, based on the age of the domain.

f) Are the pages bleeding page rank within the site from having no default set for accessing a page using different url structures? Index.html default.html index.htm http:// www. or both, etc. This is known as canonicalization and is easily correctable with a few lines of code.

g) Does the website employ a flat site architecture (everything in one folder all mixed up) or are their clear guidelines for logical information architecture in place that allow spiders and humans to navigate the site (with information logically layered?).

h) How many inbound links does the domain have, how many do each of the main pages have?

i) What is the quality of the links? Are they relevant or low rent links that take more value from your sites profile that the credibility they offer? Low grade directories and sites with history of abuse are not likely links you want, quality is paramount and one link from the right place, with the right anchor text is all it takes.

j) Have you performed a SWOT analysis of the site in comparison to the top 3 ranking sites in the niche through using competitive analysis? Things to consider are, their monthly traffic, their links (for link building opportunities), observation of site structure, how long they have been around, the number of pages they have in the site, the number of pages per topic, how well their internal links are optimized?

The list can go on and on, so we had better stop somewhere, but these some of the basic things an optimization specialist would glean in the first few minutes digging in to a website.

The reason being, is it better to start fresh with a new design, new site architecture and use a 301 redirect on a new domain name with more appropriate keywords in the domain?

Perhaps, or if the site or pages have amassed some authority, then you might consider tweaking the platform to optimize the existing site for the best performance and add an optimized content management system to regulate new content. This is a method we often use to supplement older sites where the owner are either attached to the previous design and want to preserve some elements of the antiquated pages.

Through deep linking and fresh content in addition to providing additional information on the topic (20-30 new pages geared toward the keywords) in tandem with an inbound link building campaign for those pages (and keywords) can take a site on the verge of extinction and breathe new life into the pages.

Each tactic obviously varies to accommodate each unique situation, but at least you have the guidelines that most would consider when thinking about optimizing a website from the ground up.

Jeffrey Smith is an active internet marketing optimization strategist, consultant and the founder of Seo Design Solutions Seo Company He has actively been involved in internet marketing since 1995 and brings a wealth of collective experiences and fresh marketing strategies to individuals involved in online business.