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March 10, 2009

SEO Blueprint To Start a Successful Online Business

A better title for this article might be: How to build your site from the ground up using content as your foundation. There is so much hype surrounding starting an online business. If you are in the loop you’re probably getting daily emails on the latest tools, videos and ‘how to’s.’ After some time, it’s hard to decide what works and what doesn’t so you invest in what sounds the best, spend some time, and usually get no real results.

This article is for those who are getting ready to start a site; if you already have a website then this information is still useful, but it might be a little frustrating because you will soon realize there’s a need for many changes.

To start, I will create a plan or blueprint of what you need to have ready before you start building or re-building your site. It’s always better to have a plan before you build so your designer doesn’t waste hours making changes while you decide what you want.

Plan Ahead So Your Designer Doesn’t Lose His

Plan out your home page, otherwise known as the index page. This is the first page your readers will see and you have about 5 seconds to get them interested or they will click away. You need to decide what information to provide here and what you choose will determine the design and the WOW factor of your site.
Things to consider:

  • Placement of your Logo
  • A catchy slogan
  • The placement of your phone number
  • Will you have a sign up feature?
  • 3 key aspects of your business that need to stand out
  • Make sure to offer great customer service
  • How to write powerful and compelling leads and  content
  • Will you offer a newsletter or quote form?

Although there are many things to consider  it is important to decide first if you want people to interact via the web only or if you want them to call you on the phone. Either way you choose these options they need to stand out on your home page in the top header area along with your logo and a great slogan capturing your business ideology in just 5 to 7 words.

If you are going to offer newsletters or get people to fill out forms for quotes or have them contact you directly, then place those in the left or right sidebar of your home page. This will let people know you are ready to work with them and are serious.

Create an area on your site that has at least 3 key components of your services or products. The idea is easy as 1, 2, 3. You want to let your viewers know you are making it simple to sign up or purchase from your site.

Spend the time writing or hiring a ghost writer to come up with about 200 – 300 words of compelling content that will inspire a sense of confidence in your services.

Putting all this together will allow for a great design. Here’s a great example:

Now that your home page is planned, all the other pages of your site will be easier to create.

Validate Your Sites Coding For Better Indexing

The idea of validation for your site started with the W3C Markup Validation tool. This is owned by Google, but it serves as a great resource. Make sure your web developer knows that your site must validate. If a site does not validate, it might still do well in the search engines, but it sure helps to have passed that validation test. You can even put a link in the footer letting everyone know your site validates.

SEO Your Sites Navigation

If you are like me, then you want your site to have unique buttons that stand out. In order to do this, you usually need to create graphic buttons with graphic text. However, this can hurt you with the search engines. So, as a backup make sure to include a footer highlighting your main pages. If you have sub pages, you can create a sitemap link outlining every page of your site.

This is crucial so the search engines are able to index all your pages. If there are pages you would not like to have indexed , then you can always include a meta tag code that tells them “no index” that would look like this:

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex , nofollow” />


<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, follow” />

Use either of these depending on whether you prefer the search engines to follow or not. This is something your web developer should be able to handle for you, but make sure they know how to do this.

If your developer is very familiar with css coding, they will know how to create your graphic buttons but layer them with text links so that the search engines can find them but not the viewers. If they are not familiar with this process, you should persuade them to learn.

Meta Tag Your Site

There is a big debate on meta tags and their importance. To simplify this point, look at the results for a Google search. What did you find?

  • Title
  • Description

I’m sure you did, as every result will have both a title and a description. If you don’t have meta title and description, the search engines must get this information another way. If you do enough Google searching, you’ll understand this point as many results show the navigation or the welcome message from the site.

I suggest you stick to at least:

  • Title
  • Description
  • Keywords

I also suggest you have a unique title and description for each page. Do some research and find the best keywords and make sure your description is professionally written for each page to include at least 2 of these keywords. There’s no need to go keyword crazy, use just enough to show consistency between your sites content and the keywords so it all relates properly. Again, here you may need the help of a Ghost Writer.

If you are not sure where to start looking for keywords go here: This is a free keyword search tool.

Inner Pages Must Be Optimized for SEO

At this point you should have an SEO friendly and super cool design. Now you need to fill in the blanks. Creating content for your inner pages should not be neglected; it is a very important part of your SEI setup.
I will break this down into 2 different site groups:

  • Product Based Site
  • Service Based Site

Product Based and Service Based Sites

If you are going to sell products make sure you follow the above guidelines. Many people just use a shopping cart on their main site and then product pages. It is better to have standard html pages and then have these link into your shopping cart. As for which shopping cart to go with, there are many choices so I won’t go into that, but I stress that you should make sure your cart is SEO friendly with capabilities that allow for html pages, meta tag control and some kind of editor to allow html in your descriptions.

Now, make sure that each category and product have detailed descriptions. Beyond your cart pages, make sure to create plenty of information pages such as: About Us, FAQS, Disclaimers, Shipping Details, Privacy Policy, etc.

For the most part these pages are usually simple to create, but you need to go beyond the norm if you want a greater impact. Even a Privacy Policy page needs to   outline your site and the type of products you are selling. It also uses keywords to describe these things. For the FAQ page, make a page with Questions where you need to click to find the answers. This will create additional pages on your site.

For service based websites, I suggest you create a service page that outlines the different types of services. These should link to their own independent pages. Again, this creates additional pages and fills up your site with content.

The goal is 200 – 300 words per page. Each page you create should have a link back to another page of information and if your site is built correctly, you will have no problems getting calls, emails or orders.

Next is the hardest part of the whole process, and that’s giving away useful information.  This means you can’t sell something without providing details. This doesn’t mean that you give away secrets or products, but that you make your site appealing enough that potential clients will feel you are offering a great service.

On Site Articles and Article Distribution

This is where you get attention from the search engines.  Article marketing can make or break your keyword rankings. You want any article written on any subject related to your site to place on your site. My suggestion here is to create a section titled ‘articles.’

Once you have a page assigned, you should set it up similar to the FAQ or services pages where you put the titles all on one page and then the full articles on another.

After these are all in place you can start submitting your articles to article directories. I suggest beyond this you also find blog sites that write similar content and try to contribute your articles to these sites as long as they allow you to link back.

Make sure to also create an author bio describing your site with links to it and keyword links as well.

Blog Setup and Postings

The final step is adding a blog. When they get to this point, most people usually think of their free blog account on blogspot or wordpress, but I suggest a blog installed in a sub folder.  You need to download the latest version of wordpress and install it on your own server and then have your developer modify the default theme to match your main site’s design. Here is an example:

Branding your blog on your own site has a huge impact on your traffic. With an optimized site and a design that makes it clear what you are offering, you’ll have a successful online business.

Here are some plugins that will come in handy to add to your blog:

I also suggest creating a feedburner account and adding the subscription feature. This will start generating an audience.

Add at least 3 blogs that are around 100 – 200 + words and throw on a few graphics. Link any references you make and also link your keywords to related pages on your site. You have an opportunity to educate potential clients about why your products or services are important and practical ways they can put them to use. As well, you have a platform to explain why your specific industry is needed or helpful. You should have at least three 3 blogs weekly. Keep your content fresh and the search engines will keep coming back.

Conclusion, But Not The End.

Now that everything is in place and you’ve added some blogs and articles and all your site’s content is in place, you should already see traffic results. Maintain a healthy set of articles and blogs monthly and you will be amazed at the traffic you receive.

We didn’t cover all the details for SEO here, but enough were touched on so you can get started in the right direction with the best setup. There are some people who can do these tasks on their own, but many prefer to get the help of a professional SEO company, ghost writer and a web development firm. Don’t be afraid to get help and set a budget to start your site the right way. Now that you understand what you need, you can set the pace for any company you hire.

Darren Dunner – Editor for SiteProNews, the leading webmaster news resource online. Follow us on twitter and our twitter clone. If you have any questions or are in need of services to have a site or blog setup properly feel free to contact me