A lot has changed in the way sites are optimized for search engines since last year. For one thing, Google is not the only search engine worth looking into anymore; Yahoo has definitely managed to take away some of Google's oomph over the past twelve months. Another important change is that the intelligence of the search engine spiders and algorithms has increased dramatically. So without further ado, I will present you with a standard search engine optimizing process.
Nothing can be done until you know what your target phrases are. Keyword research must be done to find out what people are actually typing into the search engines. For example, do they type in "medical insurance" or "health insurance" more often? Is it worth targeting the keyword "dental insurance"? What do your competitors think its clients type?
Keyword research usually begins by asking the client what they think are good keywords and by looking at your competitor's Meta tags and text. You then have to brainstorm to find new and related keywords that were not previously thought of. The use of Wordtracker, Overture, and Google AdWords' estimates is indispensable. If you use the "KEI" offered at Wordtracker, don't fall into the trap of giving it too much worth. It is a good tool to help discover keywords that have not been exploited by the competition, but the really important number is the amount of traffic each keyword generates. Finally, create a chart to determine the relationship between keywords used. For example, there is no point promoting dental insurance if your site does not offer it.
The next step is to write the text. Hire a specialized writer to put the text together. Ideally someone who has been trained in Internet writing, Internet marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO), or get advice from professional SEOs, marketing experts, and usability experts. Work with the client to get a feel for what is needed for the site. Then use all these skill to put together the delicate balance needed between selling to people, selling to search engines, and making the text interesting/useful to read.
Once the text is written, come up with a catchy domain name for the site. Try to include part of the keyword in the domain, and to think ahead so that the domain can be expanded into the title. Our site www.gloriousbahamas.com is a good example of a domain with a keyword in it that is catchy and clearly stated. The keyword for that site is "Bahamas real estate", so having part of the keyword in the domain will help in the long run.
Title and Meta Tags
From the domain name, you can then create a title with the full main keyword in it (such as Glorious Bahamas Real Estate). The title is the most important text on the site. The Meta tags include the description tag, and the keyword tag. The description is what the searchers will see in many search engine results, so it must have the keywords in it and, more importantly, it must sell the site. Write a description that is objective, not subjective. Zeal has some good advice for titles and especially description writing at http://zeal.com/guidelines/style/site_titledesc/. The keyword tag is done just in case some engines still use it (though very few still do), so don't pull your hair out over it. Just list 10-15 keyphrases and try not to repeat any single word more than three times.
Now we come to the meat of today's search engine optimization. So far, we have not discussed anything new or original. It is the same strategies that have been used since I first got into the business of SEO in 1998. Today, with smarter engines, a site needs to be something that is cared about. A site has to grow, develop, and expand as if it were someone's baby. Gone are the days when you could build a site, get good listings, and then forget about it as it brought in the traffic and the dough. Take care of your site by adding useful content to it on a regular basis, and then the site will gradually grow from a few pages to dozens of pages. Not only will this make the site seem more alive - radiating with the healthy glow of a developing child - but it has the added benefit of increasing the amount of content the site contains, and thus increasing the amount of keywords found within it. For example with www.canada-health-insurance.com we add pages with more details about dental coverage or pages with details about government coverage for each province. Every month there are new pages, so that every time the spider comes back to visit, it spends more time at the site reading new content. This is one half of the key to getting good listings in the search engine results pages (SERP).
The second half of the key is getting good sites to link to your site. Going after web sites with related content, sites with good authority in your web site's field, and sites that are "popular" are the priority. Getting only reciprocal links is not the goal, getting the aforementioned sites to link to you because you have good, valuable content is the goal. Sites that do reciprocal linking usually have hundreds of links on their link pages and these will add very little value to your site. Don't waste your time with reciprocal linking. Only link to a site if doing so will increase the value of your site in the eyes of your clients.
A link campaign is a lot of work, and it involves a lot of frustration and rejection. You have to approach bigger sites and sell the value that linking to your site will bring them. For every 20 sites you approach, you will be lucky to get one to link to you. You have to be persistent, consistent, and determined.
Optimizing a site is no longer something you can do and then forget about. For a site to succeed in the search engines today, it has to constantly be changing and growing either in content or in links, and ideally in both. It has to appear that the site is the life and soul of its creator, and that somebody cares enough about it to pay attention to it. Because after all, if the creator doesn't care, why should the search engines?
About The Author
Shawn Campbell is an enthusiastic player in the ecommerce marketplace, and co-founded Red Carpet Web Promotion, Inc. (http://www.redcarpetweb.com/). He has been researching and developing marketing strategies to achieve more prominent listings in search engine results since 1998. Shawn is one of the earliest pioneers in the search engine optimization field. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org