Wednesday, May 23, 2007

SEO: Some more basics

Lately, I've been getting a lot of questions about SEO - what it is, how to do it, do I do it, can I help them? To be honest, I don’t do what some people call SEO – I don’t submit sites to search engines, or buy adwords, or any of those other things that people who publicize their SEO services. But what I do - well, do - is build well-put-together websites that Google seems to like very much (for example, my website is currently #4 for Somerville MA Graphic Designer) using clean code and web standards with appropriate keywords, descriptions and indexing calls so that search engines can find it. I also consult on content to make sure that the appropriate keywords are actually in the body of the website – this convinces search engines that you legitimately fit with that keyword. Just to give you an idea, I’ve seen sites where “photographer Boston MA” is a keyword, for example, but nowhere on the site did it actually say that he was in Boston MA. Result? No Google.

That said, SEO is an ongoing process – you can buy adwords to get to the top of Google, for example, but if you want to get there for free, there’s a lot of sweat equity that goes into it – most of that is getting your URL in as many other websites as possible. Blogs and forums actually make that pretty easy, but it does require reading blogs/forums that are relevant to what you do or what your audience needs and leaving insightful comments on the posts. The software gives you a free, easy and completely legit way to insert a link to your website, and you’d be surprised how much traffic I get from that method. Also, getting in as many appropriate (and legit!) directories as possible is always a good thing. I’m listed on quite a few directories, and gotten work from all of them.

Some things that I’ve learned along the way in terms of SEO:

  • Search engines like well-built sites, especially sites that are built using standards. Since standards naturally separate content from presentation, it’s easier for them to figure out what a page is. This means higher rankings.

  • They also love pages that are updated frequently (note, this DOESN’T mean dynamic. Search engines often actually have problems with dynamically-driven pages). This is one of the reasons that blogs are so popular – they’re always well-built, have tons of content to search through, and they’re updated frequently.

  • Search engines HATE FLASH. They can’t read it, they can’t use it to figure out what the page is or what’s on the page, and unless your average user is a teenager with way too much time on their hands who wants to sit there playing web games, users don’t really like it either. The average user wants to get in, find the information they’re looking for, and find out how to get in touch with you. This is one of the problems I tend to have with a lot of designer websites – it’s all Flash with no substance.

The best way to draw people to your website, ultimately, is by advertising it everywhere – in your e-mail signature, in your signature on posts in blogs and forums, and on all your marketing materials. E-mail newsletters are also good ways to keep your site top-of-mind. The biggest myth people seem to buy into regarding their website is that a) people are just going to “find it” once it’s built and you don’t have to put any effort into promoting it, b) metatags and keywords are all you really need to promote your site, and c) once they find it, they’ll stay on it and pore over every page. They just aren’t. You need to make the content interesting, and you need to spend the time promoting the site through giving people the URL and talking about the site.

No comments: