Every time I come home from a conference, I'm reminded of just how many new people are streaming into the industry every day. While many of us have been optimizing web sites for a decade or longer, the greatest majority of site owners are just now finding their way into the world of organic optimization.

To that end, it seems like a good time to write one of those posts reminding us all where our focus should lie when it comes to building up a search presence for our sites. While there are a million and one details you can focus on to improve your site, it really all boils down to six key componants.


Tactic #1: Keywords

keywordshat.jpgTargeting the right keywords may be the single most important thing you do when it comes to optimizing your web site. All the time and effort you put into writing focused content, building links with relevant anchor text, and carefully crafting engaging and keyword rich tags will mean little if you optimize for the wrong phrases.

Taking the time to brainstorm the different topics and areas of your web site before beginning your keyword research gets you off to a great start. Once you've done that, gain an understanding of the keyword buying cycle and the level of competition for the keyword phrases you wish to target.

Then compile a list, match it up with the content for your site and move on to tactic number two.

Tactic #2: Content

contentmanage.jpgOnce you've decided which keywords and phrases you plan to target, you can break your list down into areas of existing content to optimize and new content you'll need to create. (In fact, keyword research can be one of the best ways to get ideas for new content for your site.)

Write your content with your keywords and phrases in mind, but remember to focus first and foremost on your readers and how likely the content is to keep them engaged and lead them down the path to conversion.

Once you've created or edited your content to place emphasis on the phrases you'll be targeting, you're ready to move on to tactic number three.

Tactic #3: Code

The way your web site is built and coded can be the single biggest stumbling block to your organic search success. Run into canonical issues, fail to make your dynamic content accessible, let your designers unleash a flashturbation nightmare on your site and the engines will run screaming at the door.

Thankfully, good search engine friendly design isn't difficult. It just takes a web designer or developer with an understanding of how engines move through a site. Good navigational structure, a proper site map, good use of heading tags, anchor text and an understanding of how to properly use redirects goes a long way toward helping the engines work their way through your site.

Work your way through Stoney deGeyter's Best Damn Marketing Checklist and then move on to tactic number four.

Tactic #4: Optimization

voodoo.jpgWhile search engine optimization still strikes many as being a complicated mix of voodoo and funky code called HTML, the truth is it's quite simple. Learn about title tags and how to write good ones, realize the meta keyword tag is pretty much useless, write good meta description tags that will generate clicks in the search results, and learn about the proper use of keywords in the ALT attribute, URLs and headings.

One of the most overlooked areas of onsite optimization among those new to the industry is internal linkage. Don't forget you can link to page within your site in places other than the navigation. If your content refers to an idea, product or service you offer on your site, link to it using descriptive anchor text and reap the benefits.

Once you've worked your way through those key areas of your code, you're ready to leave your own site and start working on tactic number five.

Tactic #5: Links

Once you've made sure the search engines can read your site and you create content designed to let them know what your site is about, you need to start working on gathering links from other web sites. These links will serve as validation for your site's credibility in the eyes of the engines.

Seeking links from quality realated sites that point to pages within your site using relevant anchor text will let your site know that other people find your site valuable. Gather links by offering unique valuable content, special deals and promotions, and by building relationships with respected bloggers and members of social media networks.

Keep in mind link building is a tactic without end. In an ideal world, you will continually work on adding the type of content and creating the types of contacts that will lead to more and more links as time passes. Which brings us straight to tactic number six.

Tactic #6: Patience

waiting.jpgFor as much work as search engine optimization can be, it's the one thing you DON'T really have to DO that is most difficult for site owners to manage. That's being patient. We live in a world where everything, including marketing, has immediate and measurable results. We can quickly see the impact of an ad on the radio, tv or a billboard. The phone starts ringing and sales often start rising as soon as the exposure beings.

The problem with search engine optimization is that it takes time. It takes time for the search engines to find your site, time for them to index it and time for you to build up enough credibility to convince them to rank you as well (or better) than the site they've known and trusted for years.

While some sites show up almost instantly in search results, the reality is most sites will takes anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to really begin to see the fruit of their efforts. Practice patience, it may be the most imporatant thing you can do on your way to organic success.

Photos courtesy creative commons licenses from Flickr users PowerBookTrance, Depone, Svenstorm and Moriza.

February 23, 2009

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.


Did you coin the term "flashturbation"? Love it :.)

very nice article for newbies like me!!

Nice post. It is essential to know the components of SEO when you want to optimize a web site. These components are vital for better optimization and will help your site achieve the end result of a good SEO.

Thank you for great SEO tips. SEO process should be well thought. Not all the sites are worth to get links from. It often happens that webmaters forget about their sites and just focus at obtaining as much inbound links as possible. As you wrote website content does matter much. Informative, regularly updated website has more chances to be linked to than a low quality site.

As someone who's been involved with the SEO industry for over 2 years, I still find this article to be an excellent reminder of what the "core techniques" of good SEO are. I am saving this article to my bookmarks as a reminder of WHAT we do and WHY we do it.

SEO can be difficult to learn, but once you have grasp the concept and the basics it will become easy.

Good luck

I can think of so many of my clients who will find this article insightful. I have been an SEO writer for years, but still appreciate being reminded of the basics. I've skimmed this article and plan to read it again - word by word. Great stuff as usual!

Great article. Everyone tries to make SEO so complicated. It all comes down to being deliberately choosing words, but still being authentic. Something you did not mention was your domain name itself and how much of a role that can play elevating you up the search results.

Sorry for typo above remove the being between to and deliberately. FAIL.

I am also one of those 'newbies' to SEO and find this article very helpful! I think that my website (in the home improvement industry), hosted through a golf web company, is performing poorly in organic search. Because of presence of the word "golf"(in keywords, metatags, etc...), I fear that this is throwing off the search engines. We do have all of our keywords in there, but there's still 'golf' everywhere... Any suggestions?! Thanks again for the article!

Thanks for this post, Jennifer.

With all of the above, I think links take a certain kind of patience, as you've said. I think links are tied up with web etiquette in a way that many of those other principles are not. Forming relationships with other industry peers, with bloggers, and even with competitors to some extent often helps to raise the profiles of companies. So, there's a strategy for reputation building, and management.

But, I find that links can be a conversation stopper, kind of like meeting or marrying into into a family or circle of friends, being welcomed, and then asking them if you can borrow fifty bucks. Those two things exist in different worlds in the minds of many. You may value both the relationship and the link love. But a lot of people, particularly bloggers and other social media types, tend to approach (or withdraw!) with caution when you ask them to post your link. It's a real balance I find, since there are often ulterior motives at work, or (worse) perceived to be at work. Seeking links while at the same time building a relationship, particularly if you're selling something which in our case we are, can be a dance for those without rhythm. It's easy to step on someone elses feet.

Thanks again for the post!

Yes you were very right about the six and the last way. Patience must be inserted in order to success. :)

I'd definitely put links higher on the list to be honest. That is assuming it was in order of effect. Although it may well be in order of how you would implement them i suppose.

I've had quite a few clients, the most recent one in the erotic massage niche, who I have managed to get ranking quite well for their keywords with absolutely no site modification whatsoever. Just focused category relevant, anchor text focused links embedded in body text.

After all the necessary optimization moves like keywords, code, links, content, the hardest next thing is patience. SEO cannot yield results overnight thus, we really need GREAT patience.

Great post

Patience is one of the most overlooked parts, when people work with SEO. It just takes time to get the site indexed, and to get the effekt of linkbuilding and other optimization.

It is often hard to explain this to customers, but it should be done, at least if you are doing mainly white hat stuff.

Good content. Just wanted to add some points here that may be helpful for those looking out for professional SEO services. There are tons of SEO companies offering different SEO packages and solutions at highly competitive rates. However, when looking our for these services, its important to not only look at the affordability factor but also what is unique about their SEO service and what differentiates them from other companies.

While choosing an SEO company its equally important to analyze the SEO company's website in terms of their Rankings, Yahoo links, Google index, Alexa ranking and similar such factors which indicates the company's expertise in the field of SEO. So make sure you are doing enough research and smart work before investing your advertising spend.

Guy should also try the google webmaster tool.
It's a perfect help to index your pages.

Jazz @ Archery Bows

A really informative post and very helpful for seo beginners like me. I've only been doing it for a few months but still need some more practice to get it correct so that my sites come up in a good position on google when the keywords are searched for. When I look for keywords I use the google adwords tool which is very handy as it displays the search volume for each possible keyword entered and makes it easier for me to choose the best keywords.

I will bookmark this post so I can come back to refer to it in the future. Thanks for a great post!

Nice post. It is essential to know the components of SEO.

These couldn't be more spot on. Although, I would have to say that backlinks, or inbound links, should definitely be highest on your link building priority list!

- Jay

I wish you would write more. This site needs you to in order to be great!

Even after 9 years working in SEo it's good to be reminded of the basics from time to time - we all (well I do) tend to get caught up on the nitty-gritty when at times we need to stand back and go back to basics.

I particularly like the internal linking point - one site I have worked on recently looked good from the Title, Description, keyword side of things but after I improved the internal linking between pages the rankings improved dramitcally - I wish they were all that easy though.

I think that the Links is the most important part, because you can see one page sits over ranking 50 page sites and the only diffrnce is the amount of liks

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Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Six Key Tactics for Organic Success