January 2021 - This represents updates to the work I did for my thesis in my undergrad studies in Computer Science back in 2007.
Simply having a website or mobile app does not mean that one will reach the whole world with the desired goals of sales, engagement, or information distribution. It can be a daunting task to reach the masses, especially when first building a business or brand. The goal that I set for myself was to build a site that saw hockey stick like growth in traffic on a shoestring budget, employing as many free tactics as I could.
What is SEO
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a set of methodologies aimed at improving the visibility of a website in search engine listings. Most information available has a focus on search engine optimization techniques that require payment. The focus of this research is to provide ways to optimize organically, or utilizing methods that do not require spending money.
Acquiring links is the most important piece to optimizing one's site. Spencer (2006) writes, "Linking to a page in effect means voting for it, vouching for it. A web site that has no links pointing to it has no one vouching for it" (p. 15). Robertson (2006) quotes Cogentis founder, Chris Dimmock, "If content is king, then linking is queen," (p. 5). Also all links are valued differently. Sites with higher rank are usually valued more when linking to the site. Also the type of site is taken into account. Simon Hayes (2006) writes, "A link from a government or educational site is very valuable" (p. 3).
One way to acquire links is to simply ask. This can be accomplished by simply writing an email or letter and asking. Moran and Hunt (2006) suggest initiating a request with an email in order to obtain a link. Sweeny (2006) suggests offering a link exchange with other sites. This is where one can approach another Web site and request a link, and in exchange provide a link back.
Moran & Hunt (2006) recommend several areas to acquire links, "trade magazines, Blogs, research sites, and any related sites E-newsletter can also be a helpful tool to utilize" (p. 376). Furlong (2006) says, "Publishers are realizing a majority of the site visitors come from e-newsletters" (p. 14). Sweeny (2006) suggests using mailing lists, direct mail marketing, RSS feeds, and Blogs. He proposes another way to create repeat visitors by providing games and other entertainment. Sweeny also suggest affiliate programs as a potential way to acquire traffic (p. 225). Sweeny also suggests using web Rings which are a promotional grouping of topic specific sites (p. 295). Each link in the ring is directed to a CGI script on the web rings server that sends the viewer on to the next site in the ring. Sweeny (2006) writes, "Post on Forums and provide your Web site" (p. 206). This is a way to capture content focused links for a site.
Link building tools is another effective method of acquisition. Moran and Hunt (2006) recommend three of these tools, Zeus, Arelis, and SEOElite. Zeus is a spider that crawls the web searching for the most relevant sites that match one's Web site criteria. Arelis is designed to analyze and classify potential sites chosen. It also helps to solicit mail and stay on top of one's entire link building strategy. SEOElite has the same management features as the two previous programs, but also offers strong way to score these links. Overall Moran and Hunt (2006) state that, "These tools can help take some of the disorganization and drudgery out of link campaigns" (p. 383).
Banner ads are an effective way to employ the links themselves. One can use the banner ad as a visual tool to place on other Web sites to acquire more links. A great place to list banner ads is on Google AdWords covered in the paid placement section. The following link:https://adwords.google.com/select/imagesamples.html provides great examples of banner ads and the overall program assists in gaining links.
The focus of this research is unpaid practice but a discussion of paid link acquisition is necessary as to the importance of the overall practice whether it be paid or not. Paying someone to acquire links can be effective. Hayes (2006) states, "'link monkeys,' are computer experts who are paid by SEOs to put in links on other sites by typing comments into guest books or submitting information to online directories" (p. 3). There is an actual Web site called, http://www.link-monkeys.com/, which claims to be the number one source for link exchanges.
One must watch out not to use devious web practices that search engines do not allow. Moran & Hunt (2006) write, "Google watches when sites page rank jumps up because it may be because of paying someone other than Google money for good links and can devalue the site" (p. 378). Hayes (2006) says, "The easiest way to get a link is to rent space on a 'link farm,' a simple web page that contains only links to other sites" (p. 3), while Moran and Hunt, et al. suggest against using link farms.
Stop Wasting Money on Online Advertising
Too many people have a false impression that the best way to acquire incoming traffic to a website is through pay per click campaigns, or other paid advertising strategies. Business owners I speak with are knowledgeable in paid search marketing as they get inundated with promo material, but are often unaware of the benefits of natural search engine optimization. This is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from search engines organically, or without having to pay. Businesses and organizations need to focus their attention to this. This type of effort often produces much better results. The best part? Anyone can do it for free.
What I believe is the most impactful way to improve ranking is writing and engaging the community you may work within, which will provide inbound links. A quick and easy example of this would be submitting your site to open directory submission listings. This is the process of submitting your organization's information to a directory. Google's directory is a great place to start. There is a full list of services at the end of this article.
Social media is another great way to promote a business or organization. Alyssa Gregory, from Sitepoint, writes about this process of using the medium to connect and promote.
Direct competition search is a very powerful way to gain traffic. This is a process of searching for organizations that share similarities and then finding who links to them. After finding an organization one can then do a search for that specific URL in the engine. This will produce a list of all of the backlinks to the company. One can then attempt to utilize this list of websites to acquire links on as well. This could be as easy as leaving a comment on the site through a web form, or directly contacting the site owner or maintainer.
In conclusion, the above methods work and are free. They have brought this site over a 300% increase in traffic to this site without a penny being spent on advertising. A well designed pay per click campaign is probably one of the most cost effective forms of advertising, but links do not persist and all too often businesses implement poorly performing campaigns. Organizations should focus attention on the concepts stated to provide a lasting increase in traffic and rank. Lastly, understand that improving rank takes time. It takes months to see true results. Check out how you are doing now with this Page Rank tool.
Sweeny suggests reviewing the top 20 results of a desired keyword in order to see what techniques others have used in order to rank amongst these sites. Sweeny suggests reviewing competitors' sites on search engines to find sites that link to the competition. Once the links are found web site designers can request links from the same places as the competition.
Trollinger (2006) refers to keyword ranking and says, "See who ranks number 1 through 3 and write down the top level domain as well the actual address" (p. 45). He is showing the importance of understanding how the competition got to where it is on search engine results pages (SERP) in order to utilize the same techniques.
Create search landing pages or pages designed entirely for specific keywords.
Make sure that the Web site is up to date with information. Changes should be constantly made and content must continuously be added.
'SEO Copywriting' is a technique of writing viewable text on a web page in a way that it reads well for the surfer and targets specific search terms. The purpose of Search Engine Copywriting is to appear at the top of the search page for targeted search terms. This also includes the title, description, keywords, headings, and alt tags. Craven (2006) suggests to have "250 viewable words per page with one or at most two targeted search terms strategically placed within the text and other on-page elements" (What is SEO Copywriting section, para. 4). Sweeny suggests having 250 to 800 words of body text per page (p. 94). Craven (2006) states that SEO Copywriting is good when, "there are not many search terms to target, and the search terms are on the low to middle end of competitiveness" (Summary section, para. 1). Spencer (2006) explains, "Each page should have body copy, ideally at least several hundred words of it, that reinforces the keyword themes that are targeted on that page" (p. 16).
Trolling (2006) says, "There's a fine line between dense keywords and getting you banned from search stuffing" (p. 46). Trollinger suggests using Seochat.com's Keyword Density Tool, and to shoot for a keyword density of 2-3% (p. 46). Burley (2006) says, "Writing for keywords is a waste of time" (p. 23). Moran & Hunt (2006) suggest that Keyword density is very important (p. 327).
In order to ensure success one needs to be able to see if the Search Engine Optimization efforts are actually working. There are several ways to check effectiveness of SEO. One can utilize page ranking, web analytics tools, and competitive intelligence tools.
One way to measure effectiveness is to utilize tools that can provide insight to search engine rankings for keywords. Web CEO, and SEO Reporter, provide keyword reports that show positions for each keyword in a large variety of different search engines. Google and Yahoo Webmaster Tools provide detailed insight on their respective engines, Sweeny suggests www.positionpro.com to analyze a sites position on web searches. An easy way to see rank is Google's Page Rank. Page Rank can be accessed with the Google toolbar or at http://prchecker.info/.
Web analytics tools are becoming more complex in providing measurement for SEO. Moran & Hunt emphasize the importance of these tools for optimization purposes. The tools can tell which sites are sending visitors to the site, which search engines are sending visitors to the site, keywords used to reach the site, and the amount of people that access the site. They can also tie the campaigns to key perfromance indicators, like sales figures, lead conversions, or whatever other conversion metrics may be desired.
Competitive intelligence tools like Alexa, Hitwise, and Compete can be used to measure performance against competition.
Moran & Hunt suggest Link Audit tools to keep track of who and where pages have links (p. 361).
Search Engine Optimization is all about getting high quality links. Measurement is integral to tell if techniques are employed properly. It is important to have lots of keyword rich text, but without links this keyword rich content goes nowhere on search engines.
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www.searchenginewatch.com Search Engine Watch is a similar page that has extensive content on Search Engine marketing world. There are articles written daily, forums, tips, Newsletters, resources, and stats. The site also offers a section where members can receive exclusive content.
www.searchengineroundtable.com Search Engine Round Table, "The pulse of the search marketing community." It has up to date news on the search engine community along with an extensive list of forums on a broad range of topics about search engine optimization.
http://www.seocompany.ca/tool/seo-tools.html A large list of several useful tools for setting up a site can be found at