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Google returns more than 240 Million search results in the US every day. If you are trying to connect with your audience, optimizing your ranking in search results is an important component of your marketing and promotion plan. SEO techniques will help you structure your content so that the content is easy to find when someone searches for what you have to offer.

Successful SEO depends on your ability to intelligently apply the principles of good structured information design. SEO isn’t something you do to search engines; SEO is what you do to your content so that the content is accessible and useful for real users.

SEO is only useful if you have good content. SEO does not put lipstick on a pig. Delivering good original content from trusted sources is the work of search engine companies like Google and Yahoo! Search engines do not serve their clients by delivering mediocre or misleading content. If you do not have good content, no amount of SEO work will build long-term value.

Below is a broad four-step process for a strategy for search engine optimization.

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Target Market Business Analysis

Website analysis. Analysis of Meta sets/keywords, visible text and code to determine how well you’re positioned for search engines. For example, how much code do you have on a page compared to text?

Competitive analysis. Examination of content keywords and present engine rankings of competitive websites to determine an effective engine positioning strategy. Pick the top five results in the Google listing results to begin this process.

Initial keyword nomination. Development of a prioritized list of targeted search terms related to your customer base and market segment. Begin with this: What would you type into a search engine to find your business website or page?

Keyword Research and Development

Keyword analysis. From nomination, further identify a targeted list of keywords and phrases. Review competitive lists and other pertinent industry sources. Use your preliminary list to determine an indicative number of recent search engine queries and how many websites are competing for each keyword.

Baseline ranking assessment. You need to understand where you are now in order to accurately assess your future rankings. Keep a simple Excel sheet to start the process. Check weekly to begin.

Goals and Objectives. Clearly define your objectives in advance so you can truly measure your ROI from any programs you implement. Start simple, but don’t skip this step. Example: You may decide to increase website traffic from a current baseline of 100 visitors a day to 200 visitors over the next 30 days.

Content Optimization and Submission

Create page titles. Keyword-based titles help establish page theme and direction for your keywords.

Create Meta tags. Meta description tags can influence click-through but aren’t directly used for rankings. (Google doesn’t use the keywords tag anymore.)

Place strategic search phrases on pages. Integrate selected keywords into your website source code and existing content on designated pages. Make sure to apply a suggested guideline of one to three keywords/phrases per content page and add more pages to complete the list. Ensure that related words are used as a natural inclusion of your keywords. It helps the search engines quickly determine what the page is about.

Develop new sitemaps for Google and Bing. Make it easier for search engines to index your website. Create both XML and HTML versions. An HTML version is the first step. XML sitemaps can easily be submitted via Google and Bing webmaster tools.

Submit website to directories (limited use). Professional search marketers don’t submit the URL to the major search engines, but it’s possible to do so. A better and faster way is to get links back to your site naturally. Links get your site indexed by the search engines.

Continuous Testing and Measuring

Test and measure. Analyze search engine rankings and web traffic to determine the effectiveness of the programs you’ve implemented, including assessment of individual keyword performance. Test the results of changes, and keep changes tracked in an Excel spreadsheet, or whatever you’re comfortable with.

Maintenance. Ongoing addition and modification of keywords and website content are necessary to continually improve search engine rankings so growth doesn’t stall or decline from neglect. You also want to review your link strategy and ensure that your inbound and outbound links are relevant to your business.

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