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article imageHow critical is search engine optimization for businesses? Special

By David Silverberg     Oct 22, 2009 in Internet
You might have heard about search engine optimization (SEO), but what is it and how can you make it work for your business? An SEO consultant offers the top 10 tips on getting your business to show up on the first page of search engine results.
Let's say you run a winery and you want your wine business to rank high when someone types in "wine" into Google or Yahoo or Bing. Ideally, you want to be on the first page of results, perhaps even the first result. But it's not easy for your biz to stand out among the hundreds of thousands of competitors, so what can you do?
Search engine optimization, or SEO, has been a hot buzz word for business managers and webmasters looking to win Google love. But a lot of info about SEO is misconstrued and poorly promoted, allowing many clueless CEOs to wonder about SEO's real appeal. gets asked about SEO all the time, and in our experience there seems to be two schools of thought.
The first school thinks it's the be-all and end-all of the Internet, the holy grail that is an absolute necessity in Web development. After all, if people don't find your site on the first page of whatever they're searching for, they're not likely to find it at all.
The second school seems to be made up of the skeptics. They either don't understand SEO or they think it's complete B.S., a way for consultants to pull the wool over an entrepreneur's eyes so they can make a big buck. This group is understandably cautious, as it's a process that is not always clear to those with less technical brains.
But rest assured, SEO is real and it matters.
In order to make sense of it all and clear the air for skeptics, spoke to an SEO consultant and assistant editor of Search Engine Land. Matt McGee tells it like it is, and his suggestions could be a goldmine for any small-business owner. What is SEO really?
Matt McGee: Search engine optimization is an ongoing process that involves developing a website so it will be found more easily on search engines. Should a website owner go alone or find a consultant?
McGee: I’d say if have more time than money, then SEO is something you need to learn for yourself and most people can do it themselves. It's not rocket science and there are countless resources on the basics.
But if you have more money than time, then invest that money wisely in hiring an SEO consultant. Realize if you get an email from a SEO company, it's spam, hit DELETE and find someone you can trust. Treat them like business partners -- vet them, talk to them, do your research. It's not like someone servicing your copier. How long does it take to optimize your site for search engines?
McGee: SEO is an ongoing process, it takes time. Don't expect instant results in a month. If you have a six-month contract with a consultant, by the sixth month you should see some results.
This is especially true if you're a newer business. Don't give up if you don't see success right away. How important is it for sites to link to yours?
McGee: Sites rank high on Google search results when the search engine's bots find many quality links referring to your site. You absolutely need to get links from other sites to yours, and the best way do that is create a great website. If you're selling something, what kind of content should appear on the site?
McGee: If you make red widgets, then create an amazing resource for those widgets. Make the ultimate glossary on those units, offer a great FAQ and develop thorough and detailed content. You can't just take a 10-page brochure and put it online. What about keywords on your site. Do they matter?
McGee: Find out how people search. If you sell stuff like iPods and Zunes, and you optimize your website for the terms "digital music players," that's not a good strategy. Why? Because people look for the terms "MP3 player. So is it effective to plaster a website with keywords?
Matt McGee  an SEO consultant
Matt McGee is an expert on search engine optimization, and is a columnist for Search Engine Land
Courtesy Matt McGee
McGee: Every page on your site has primary keywords optimized and then two related phrases, but don’t use the same terms in the page title -- which needs to be unique -- on another page.
Each page has to be unique with its keywords. So one page with just be on red widget repair, the other will be on the different types of red widgets, but the keywords in each page should relate to those phrases. How important is the page title?
McGee: The page title is the single most important on-page SEO factor. That's the words are on the top of your front page. Include the relevant keywords here. How much does your website name matter?
McGee: Your company name matters if you go local. So if you are called Toronto Dry Cleaning and your website has the same name then you'll rank high when someone searches for those general terms.
If your company name has a high keyword rank, you'll do well on Google. How can networking online help with SEO?
McGee: So let's say you have some great wine to sell. Network with wine bloggers and give them a free bottle of wine, tell them about your product and hopefully they'll write about your wine and then Google will find that link.
Don't just find local bloggers, but wine enthusiasts across the world. There is tremendous power in a single link, especially with local search. Do dead links hurt your page's rank in a search engine?
McGee: Dead links will happen, it's the way of the Web. Just clean them up when you spot them, so the Google spider doesn't catch them.
If the spider hits dead link after dead link, it will think your website is like that house at the end of the street with the jungle lawn. Any final tips on keywords or wording on the page?
McGee: On many retail sites, you'll see the words "Order here," but that's useless in SEO. Instead, write "Buy red widgets here" which Google will recognize. This is low-hanging fruit, really easy stuff to fix.
More about Seo, Matt mcgee, Search engine optimization
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