A Ten Minute Search Engine Optimization
by Ross Dunn

Many small businesses simply do not have the resources to hire 
a search engine optimization (SEO) company to promote their web 
site. There are countless resources online for do-it-yourself 
(DIY) optimizers where professional SEOs offer general 
recommendations and advice. This article is my opportunity to 
offer more of my SEO experience in the form of a 10-minute 
optimization process. 

This process will be effective for any page designed in HTML 
with at least 1 paragraph of html text but for the purposes of 
this article, I will concentrate on the all-important home page.

Setting the Stage
Before I begin, there are a few things that you must know before 
proceeding and you should spend more than 10 minutes considering:

Determine Your Target(s)
99% of you know who your target market is, now you need to 
choose the keywords that you believe they will search for. There 
is no use obtaining top search engine placements under terms that 
are not being searched. This step, alone, requires extensive 
explanation but there are a few simple tips to keep in mind. For 
one, you will want to check your current traffic statistics and 
note what traffic you are already receiving and under what 
keywords. Now, visit the site of a competitor who you know is 
doing well online (either through conversation or news articles). 
Look at their titles on individual pages and try to determine a
pattern in the keywords that they have chosen. Also look at the 
source of their pages (Internet Explorer: click "View" then 
"Source") and copy their META tags into a notepad on your 
computer. Between the titles and the META tags you should be 
able to determine with reasonable accuracy which keywords are 
most important for rankings.

It is important to note that professional SEOs have many more 
resources at hand to determine such information with higher 
accuracy.

Design - Is Your Page Marketable?
This topic can be touchy to bring up but the simple fact is that 
traffic will have less impact if your web page is unmarketable. 
Now this covers a lot of different aspects of design, however, a 
few basic rules should be followed. 

1.  Avoid using strange color combinations that make it hard for 
a viewer to read your sales copy (red text on a blue background 
is a perfect example of a painful design). In the same respect 
it is important not to use text that is too small; try to keep 
your font size to a minimum of size 10 or 12 (2 or 3 in 
Dreamweaver). 

2.  Unrelated advertisements on your web site provide distractions 
to your viewers. If you are selling BMWs then it is generally 
not a good idea to show an advertisement for herbal Viagra. 

Every single graphical element of your home page has the 
potential to add or deny credibility. Using this space wisely 
will ultimately create happier visitors and generate more profit.

The Ten Minute Process

1. Spot Check for Sp@m
Before optimization begins it is crucial that your page is 
devoid of any 'tricks' that a search engine may construe as 
sp@m. You may not even know they are there! Some web designers 
with out-of-date information add hidden text because they think 
it will help your rankings. This is entirely untrue and can 
cause extreme problems for your search engine visibility. To 
check for hidden text just hold down the left button on your 
mouse at the very top of your page and drag it down to the 
bottom. If there is any hidden text (normally text that matches 
the color of your page background) it will appear as it is 
highlighted. Second, you will want to search for unnecessary 
repetition of keywords on your page. Do you see instances of 5 
or 6 keywords being repeated in a row anywhere on the page? If 
so, remove this.

There are other forms of sp@m that you should be aware of that 
are not covered within this article. For more information see 
our resource article: "Inspecting Yor Web Site for Sp@m".

2. Spot Check for Relevancy
It is very important for your site to be focused. For example, 
if your web site is supposed to be devoted to 'BMW car sales' 
then a link or information on real estate sales is entirely 
unnecessary. Keep in mind that most of the top search engines 
will rank your site depending upon the topic they determine you 
are offering. This determination is largely made based upon the 
text within your web site. Dont give them any reason to get 
'confused'.

3. Polish & Optimize Text
The text on your home page is crucial to maintaining the 
attention of fresh viewers. In fact, copy is so important 
that many companies prefer to have a professional copy writer 
create the content. Since this is not an option, you have to 
keep your text engaging as well as smartly optimized to present 
an obvious topic to the visiting search engine spiders or 
visitors. To do this, keep your mind focused on the keyword(s) 
that you have chosen to target on the search engines while you 
write the content for the page. Implement the keywords within 
the text without sacrificing the true intent of the information 
 to engage and retain your viewers.

Important Note: Often the first 25-30 words of your home page 
are what each search engine will use for the description of 
your web site. Try to utilize your target keyword/s within this 
area but be certain the resulting sentence is legible and 
descriptive.

4. Optimize the Title
The title of the home page can be optimized quite simply by 
placing the keyword or keyword phrase that you have chosen to 
target first and then finish with the name of your company or 
web site. For example: 

"BMW Car Sales  MyBMW.com"

The search engines place a great deal of weight on the title of 
your home page and the keywords within your title will likely be 
chosen as the title of your listing on the search engines. The 
title also plays a huge role in the relevance of your site. The 
topic denoted within your title will be compared to the content 
within the body of the page, if the topic and content match, you 
will have a much better chance of obtaining higher targeted 
placements.

5. META Tags
The META tags are located within the invisible source of your web 
page. They were originally designed to provide the details of 
your web site to visiting search engine spiders and they still 
do, to a degree. Since this part of your web page is invisible, 
META tags were increasingly used to misinform the search engines 
of the content of a web site  spamming. As a result, META tags 
play a lesser role, but they should still be properly optimized 
so that they contribute to the topical relevance of your web 
site. 

META tags are basically composed of the Description and Keyword 
tags. The description tag should provide the same or similar 
25-30 word description of your web site that you created earlier 
for the first text within your visible page. The description is 
occasionally used as your description within the search engines 
but it is unpredictable. The Keyword tag should include the 
keywords/phrases that you are targeting in order of importance. 
Start with the most important and then proceed to less important 
but still relevant keywords. It is extremely important that you 
do not repeat any word more than 3 times within the Keyword tag. 
This includes words within target sentences. Also do not place 
repeated keywords close together.

6. Navigation Provide Clear Paths
Is the navigation within your site entirely graphical or 
programming oriented? In this case I recommend that you create 
a textual link menu at the bottom of your page. For added punch 
(and this is a big hit) you should make each link count by using 
the keyword/phrase that best describes the target page. For 
example:

BMW Accessories | Used BMW for Sale | More About MyBMW.com

versus these less powerful links:

Accessories | Used Cars | About Us

7. Test and Spell-Check
Preview the page and spell check it. Then, once you are certain 
everything is properly balanced, upload it to your server.

Hurry Up and Wait
What happens now is entirely up to the history of your web site 
and your marketing budget. There are many search engines that 
offer paid submission for the regular or prompt indexing of your 
new page/web site. If you have paid for prompt indexing then you 
may see the fruits of your labor within a couple of days 
depending on the search engine.

In this case I am going to assume that you have a non-existent 
search engine budget. If your site has already been submitted to 
the search engines, then you can simply wait until a spider 
returns to check for new content, at which time it will be found 
and processed accordingly. If you wish this process to proceed 
post-haste or your site has not yet been submitted, then you may 
submit your newly revised page to the search engines for what 
may be a faster response time. Be sure to read the rules that 
each search engine carefully defines before submitting or 
resubmitting your web page.


================================================================
Article by Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Placement Inc.
(http://www.stepforth.com/), 1358 Gladestone Ave., Victoria, 
BC V8R 1S1
================================================================