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Placing Search Engines at the Heart of Web Development and Strategy

Dec 15, 2007
Search engine optimisation has traditionally been the practice of increasing the ranking of an existing website by altering the content and promoting inbound referral links from other highly ranked pages. The first part (altering the content) can be a bit like trying to panel beat a rusty VW Beetle into a Ferrari. Often to be effective, the entire structure and content of a website needs renewing, including with the coding (especially websites built in tables or Flash), making it a very costly exercise.

A New Beginning

In truth, the best way forward is to completely rebuild the site with fresh search engine optimized text, structure, coding and often design. This way a company can also take advantage of new advances such as content management systems for greater control of content; database driven content to automate the process; RSS news feeds to keep the site current; and standards compliant coding for greater accessibility and usability.

A website may also need to adopt a more sales-driven approach that converts into greater online sales or stimulates a greater response, thus building your customer database for future opt-in mailings. Or it may need to be more interactive and useful to people to encourage return visits and recommendations.

Referral Link Generation Starts at Home

While the new site is being developed, the task of promoting referral links must start in earnest. This is an ongoing process that takes time, effort and imagination. Begin with any websites already under your control. Make sure you are making the most of links from highly ranking pages from websites you own, if it's appropriate to have links. Then approach suppliers and affiliates. Make sure any existing links from their pages to yours contain core search term keywords and not 'click here' or 'visit the website'. Then try the free listing business directories. Assess the quality of paid for listings, and if your competitors are there, it makes sense for you to be there too.

Online PR is in Your Hands

Many links can be generated through a variety of promotional techniques. Submit your website for review; invite journalists to review your products or services; write your own articles and submit them to publishing websites; create blogs to air your opinions on your trade and use social networks such as Linkedin. As long as it's ethical and honest, it's a valid way of generating links to your pages. Dirty tricks such as blog spam can back fire and destroy your reputation.

When the site is complete, continue this process by generating links to specific landing pages to increase their ranking too (remember, your homepage is important, but it can't do everything in terms of SEO so spread the load).

The SEO Blueprint for New Websites

All new websites should put targeting, content and SEO at the very heart of the process.

These issues must be addressed at the outset:

1) Who is your audience and who is most valuable to you?
2) How will you reach them?
3) What will encourage them to use and return to the website?
4) What will stimulate them to buy or respond?
5) How will you use the customer data to build relationships?

With these findings you can formulate:
1) Core search term keywords and phrases
2) Site structure with key landing pages
3) SEO text, ensuring good keyword densities within URLs, page titles, meta tags, H tags, body text and alt tags
4) Other useful content and media

Then begin the process of identifying and creating referral link opportunities:

1) Within your existing website network
2) On your supplier and affiliates web pages
3) On free business listings
4) On paid for business listings
5) By generating PR
6) Through self published articles
7) Through company blogs
8) Through appropriate social networks

Always remember that Google ranks web pages according to relevance (the content of the page) and importance (the number of links to it from other important websites). By doing so your website need never languish at the bottom of the heap. And what's more, when your audience increasingly finds your website, they will be inspired by its up-to-date, fresh, relevant and engaging content, and won't fail to respond in the way you want them to.
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