When optimising your site to reach customers more effectively, why not improve on what professional search engine specialists do?
By: Angelique van Engelen
Last year was the year of search engine marketing and the experts predict the saga is going to continue full swing until at least in 2010. When you set out to work on your sites visibility, it is useful to know what the professionals that you cannot afford to outsource the whole headache to are up to and beat them at the game. Scanning SEO news, it's pretty obvious that high search engine rankings still are the be-all-and-end-all of online marketing, but things are beginning to move on from here. The new buzzwords that stand out are accessibility and usability and renewed energy is poured in what are believed to be new opportunities in areas like local marketing. But how much bang for your buck will you get this time?
Accessibility!. Usability! Apparently that is what the professional SEO community is focusing on to get traffic numbers up for their clients. Evidence the popularity of these words themselves. A keyword tracking tool like wordtracker shows this in a matter of seconds. Over the last two months accessibility has been scoring a count of 158 and usability more than double that number, 308. Not a lot of queries perhaps compared to a word like shoes or digital cameras or any tangible product you might be selling, but then luckily- there are not as many SEO businesses out there as shoe shops.
So how do accessibility and usability factor in SEO strategies? Is it again more of the same or are you missing out on vital elements if you simply improve on your existing optimising strategies? As your strategy for online marketing is on its way and you are getting the hang of having the right keywords to describe your business, its time to integrate everything yet again and focus on your sites usability and accessibility.
What is meant by usability is generally how well a site can be navigated through links, graphics and text. All your optimising efforts should have one goal in mind: attracting customers. Does your site still provide valuable information to your human visitors now that the spiders and robots can read it? This is key, say the guys at doubleclick.com, who have got good insights on whats going on in online marketing in a broad sense. Personalization is the hot term for relevancy, with the goal being to intertwine search with a consumer's daily activity. As clients become more sophisticated with increased demands, the marketplace will yield more efficient results. Technology will continue to be created to facilitate the massive amounts of data currently sorted by the engines, they report. Perhaps it is totally obvious, but you would be surprised how many strategies fail simply on wording and text writing.
Its no use optimising for search engines if the visitors to your site are not going to be impressed by what they read. Overly-complex phrasing will have to become a thing of the past and using common sense, neutral language will open up the content to a wider audience of search terms. It is best to get a copywriter to do this for you. If you are not sure whether your site needs a professional writers touch, there are some tools you can run over it to see if your linked terms actually make sense in the wider context. Throw your pages through this tool (free trial of seven days) and consider contacting a freelance copywriter for a quote if it appears your content is hampered; http://www.ezapplications.com/samples.htm.
There are millions of similar tools out there that can give you quite a good insight into your content. If you think your content is a mess, consider hiring a freelance copywriter to match content and keywords.
There are two good ways you can check how accessible your website is. Simply download the Lynx browser to see if you can successfully access all your pages and download the Opera browser and follow their instructions to enhanced accessibility. Good SEOs focus on a few standard setting organisations guidelines, which are complex systems of rules on unifying coding. What SEOs make sure of is that users from other languages and cultures, and users of differing age groups are not excluded from your site because of some silly technical hiccups. Where an SEO says hes making all the difference for his clients is that he has numerous checklists to make sure your business in whatever location or segment it is, is optimised. He likely will market his services saying that he will make your site more localised than your competition.
There is a lot of scepticism on the strategies in use here and it remains to be seen whether better accessible local business site optimisation will actually translate into tangible higher Return on Investment numbers. Local search appears to be performing well for national advertisers seeking to segment markets. The local dry cleaner however doesn't have (or probably need) a Web site so the lead is not accurately tracked, and the value remains doubtful. Dont buy into it until you see results from comparable segments to the one you are in!
All lists SEOs use to make sure your site is technically kosher are likely variations in one form or another of the lengthy, prioritised in-depth checkpoints published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a forum for information, commerce, communication, and collective understanding of the web. It can be found here: http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/. It is not deemed 100% fool proof, but its said to be Google-proof. The checklist consists of general, common-sense priorities that designers and programmers must take heed of. The bulk of the checkpoints are likely issues youve comply with for years already, but its always good to see if theres anything new. It could give you that edge over the competition you need!
Search engines increasingly take their lead from Google and use hyper linked text for relevancy so checking that your links make sense all the time is not a luxury but incremental for your business. Some SEOs will run software that check that if a hyperlink is removed from the text something that easily happens in forms- and determine whether it still makes sense in the general context of your site. An SEO would replace a simple hyperlinked word like more, with a more descriptive term such as more news and events, or similar. You get the idea here.
Source code in general is also quite important. Again, w3 sets the standard and you can run your site through their validator tool (http://validator.w3.org/) to get it analysed to see if search engine spiders/robots have any problems splitting your content/page into sections before indexing it e.g. header, metadata tags, headings, normal text, etc. If the spider has difficulty in calculating the structure of your code, some of the text could be misclassified or omitted. Find out and optimise!
Angelique van Engelen runs www.contentClix.com, an Amsterdam based freelance copywriting agency. She has lived and worked in the Middle East and London for over six years before returning to her home country, the Netherlands. Aside from web content, she specialises in writing sales copy, feature articles and research reports.