15 minute guide to understanding SEO for Business websites and beyond

SEO guide

With the growth of the internet the purpose of marketing and advertising has not changed, but the way achieve our goals has. Copywriting is no longer about simply persuading customers to buy and building brands, but about getting your products and company listed  into prime positions in search engines.  In this short article we share some basic search engine optimization tips and highlight how the importance of SEO goes beyond websites and touches areas such as press releases and white papers.  The article will help you optimize your site for search engines and covers the ten key aspects of successful SEO.

The 10 SEO tips for the company website

  1. Keywords – Use your savvy and free tools to identify keywords, then include them in every part of your site content .
  2. Structure – Create informative headings with different level tags and use a simple site structure
  3. Information pages – Develop useful and informative pages to attract links
  4. Maximizing incoming links – Use business associates, suitable forums, and social networks to get incoming links, but don’t spam
  5. “Good” website behavior –Don’t annoy search engines by adding too many keywords, having hidden content, or getting links from dishonest sites
  6. Using Flash – Keep navigation inside Flash elements simple, add URLs, and if in doubt remove the page content from Flash
  7. Text as images –Avoid placing text as images and if you do have to ensure that the plain text is on your site somewhere
  8. Unique and fresh content – Use unique content and update regularly to improve your ranking
  9. Refining – Pay attention to your site’s ranking and statistics and refine your site based on the results
  10. Purpose – Don’t get too obsessed with SEO, do ensure that your site is effective once people actually visit.

SEO beyond the website

Business documents  – Encourage the use of  SEO concepts in more traditional documents that will end up as part of business website
Naming for SEO – Select unique product or brand names to ensure that they are easy to find when searched for on Bing, Yahoo or Google

1.Using keywords and keyphrases

Identifying useful keywords is relatively simple once you combine your experience of your field with the tools available from Google and others.    Start off by creating a list of words that you associate with your industry and product line.  Imagine that you are a potential customer, think of the groups of keywords (i.e. phrases) you would search for to learn about products that meet your needs.   Looking back at past discussions of  SEO basics we can see that once keywords tended to be individual words, now that people are more search savvy the term keyphrases seems more appropriate, so bear this in mind as you choose.  Now we need to expand these and ascertain which are the most important words for your company’s website, the following tools should help:

Even Google’s basic search engine will help by suggesting additional words as you type.   In the hunt for good keywords one of the other places to look is your competitors’ websites especially if they seem to have a good ranking. 
Once you’ve identified a good set of powerful keywords incorporate them into the website content, title tag, and headings of the business website.  Often this means expanding the content a little to include a phrase rather than the single word that you might normally choose.  One aspect of using keywords effectively is to consider that it’s not just keyword density that is important, but that Google also ranks depending on the proximity of keywords to other effective keywords in the text.  As a side note don’t worry too much about what you put in the meta data part of the page as this is now given little or no weighting by search spiders.

2.Structuring your pages for SEO

Putting together a page structured for SEO isn’t hard so let’s look at the key points. Use simple, but descriptive page titles for each page. Include a good page summary in the description tag of each page both for search engines and to encourage search engine visitors when your site does comes up. Each page needs to have an informative h1 heading and a few lower
h2..5 headings for other sections (make different levels not just h1 & h2).

  When you create html links, including those to anchors the same page,  use a few words that describe the location that the link goes to. Use the alt attribute to describe each image you add in a keyword friendly way  (do include the word picture or image in your description). Lastly make the navigation of the website as simple as possible and create a search spider friendly XML sitemap to make sure it can all be found.  This can be done with any number of free tools.

3.Informative topic pages as link attractors

The key purpose of a business website is of course to attract customers who will make your business more profitable. Informative pages seem to be irrelevant to the sales process; “We’re not here to teach the customer how to do our job” is the kind of feedback you’ll often hear when proposing educational style pages.  But regarding optimizing your business’ site information based pages are a key tool in increasing ranking.  Putting it simply, the better the content, the greater the number people who will link to it, and the more good quality incoming links there are, the better the ranking on that relevant keyword will be.

4.Maximizing incoming links

Start your quest for incoming links by looking at existing sites and other organizations associated with the business.  Exchange links with the parent company, trade organizations, and reputable suppliers.   Now examine links from a social level how can you use your staff’s social network to get useful incoming links from Linkedin, facebook etc.  If your field has expert forums then take part in the discussion and make sure that there is a link to your website in your signature. If you’ve got informative topic pages add them to the relevant Wikipedia entry or search for questions to which a link your pages is the answer.  Engines supposedly place heavier weighting on .edu/.ac domains so a few links from a university would be a nice booster.  The key in all of these places is for links to your website to be natural and genuinely useful, try and avoid the perception of spamming sites.

5.“Good” website behavior


There is a fine line between optimizing a website and trying to trick search engines into listing you. If they feel you’re doing the latter you’ll quickly find your site nowhere in the listings, so here is a guide to staying in their good books.   Avoid “keyword stuffing”, in other words you need enough legitimate content mixed in with the keywords to be seen as an honest site.  Don’t create content that a genuine visitor wouldn’t be expected to read i.e. written in a very small font or hidden behind images.  Ignore offers of link exchanges with link farms or dishonest looking sites.  Use  rel=”nofollow” if you allow comments to ensure that your reputation is protected from any spam links that end up in the comments. Finally, if in doubt check the guidelines:


6.Be smart using Flash

A few years ago search engines simply couldn’t index Flash content, but those days are long gone and well coded Flash content is no longer the SEO nightmare that it once was.  This is particularly  true if the content for the Flash is loaded from XML or text files.  However Flash still has a key disadvantage – navigation.  Google may not understand the complex navigation of a Flash file and very often can’t link to content or subpages in the Flash. One technique is to use a relatively simple structure and add unique URLs for key sections  (try using  SWFAddress or UrlKit) .  But the simplest technique is to make it a policy to use Flash for only menus and decoration, and avoiding placing large amounts of content in it.

7.Avoid showing text as images

I know I shouldn’t have to say this, but don’t use images to show text.  There are still sites that use images of text whether they are datasheets that someone didn’t want to retype or sort out fonts. Or sometimes you see it when there are specific layouts that the web designer couldn’t do it in Flash.  Yahoo and Goggle are not going to be able to index words that they can’t see, and are not going to act on keyword that they don’t know exist.  If you absolutely have to have an image of text then place the same text as text, using the alt attribute, on the page or in an alternative location in the site.

8.Make content unique and freshen regularly

An important factor is to have unique content, search engines know if content isn’t original and won’t use content they’ve seen before to improve page rank.  This means that you should avoid text that will appear on other websites even if you have the right to use it.  The latest search algorithms such as Google’s Caffeine also rank according to how fresh (recent) content is, so plan updates accordingly.   At minimum keep the site up to date with current press releases, add company milestones, the latest products, and introduce online updates of your financial information.   A regularly updated site will naturally also have the benefit of appearing more professional to visitors.

9.Study and refine your SEO

Optimizing your business website for SEO is an ongoing process – not only do you have to check how well your site is doing but you should be aware of your competitors positioning.    Examining your ranking on keywords  is important, but so is understanding the statistics behind your website’s current visitors. Website statistics tools will be available from your site host; you could also use the excellent Google Analytics, or choose from many of the commercial services. Looking at the statistics for the site gives you a clearer idea of the effect that any changes have had on the number, type, and source of visitors.   Seeing which keywords lead visitors to the site will show you where it works and where it doesn’t, allowing you to bring new unique visitors to your business website.

10.Remember that good SEO is nothing if the website doesn’t perform its main purpose.

We’ve all experienced it, a website that you’ve clicked on because it came high in the search then left two seconds later because the content was hard to read, irrelevant, or the site didn’t look professional  This is where traditional skills come in; decide on the action you want the visitor to take on that page then use words and visuals to guide them to that goal. Your final aim to build is a business site with a high conversion rate where the right visitors come and enable you to achieve your goals. If you don’t get this aspect right you’ve wasted all your hard work in getting the SEO right.

SEO Beyond the website

We often think of SEO solely when we come to build or update the company website,  but with the line between offline business and online business rapidly disappearing it’s time to take a more active approach.

Thinking about other documents in SEO terms

These days many documents that we write for other uses will end up as part of a corporate website, Press releases, white papers, and product introductions frequently make the move and become an integral part of the corporate site. 
Staff should be encouraged to be aware of good SEO when writing all documents and site managers need to consider how to make this form of content more search engine friendly.  Simple techniques include ensuring that press releases are keyword rich and adding SEO friendly abstracts to longer documents such as white papers.  Including links in documents to pages on the business website will boost ratings (if you’re smart this can be achieved automatically through Word macros).

Naming for SEO

A simple way of making it easier to find your site on the web is to avoid using common words in the name of the company, product, feature, or brand. For example Qualcomm’s mirasol brand or Glory Praise’s Yodn brand are highly effective names.  If a potential customer hears the name they can instantly Google the product.  Whereas our own “Convince Copywriting” brand name describes what we do perfectly, but is unfortunately not unique or easily searchable.   With a distinctive product name or brand name you can virtually guarantee that your company’s business website will be number one when searching for that keyword.

Conclusion

We’ve packed a lot of information into quite a small space, but let’s look at the most important things you need to take away.  Firstly, understand your keywords then ensure that they are plentiful and placed well.  Secondly, devise strategies to increase incoming links from reputable sources. Thirdly, remove any barriers to search engines finding your content.  Search engine optimization is part of an ongoing process; it starts beyond the website and doesn’t stop as long as the website is active.

Good luck, I hope you’ve found this search engine optimization article useful. There are many professional SEO consultants who all have expert opinions on what makes for effective SEO and I look forward to receiving their comments.

About the author: Bob Cook is a senior copywriter at and CEO of Convince Copywriting.  A company that writes marketing materials for high technology firms. Mainly working with Asian manufacturers they produce a wide variety of text from press releases and websites to packaging and magazine articles.