Thursday, April 7, 2011

DO YOU REALLY NEED SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION?

Have you ever been told you need SEO? Do you really? Maybe. Maybe not. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It means putting your website through steps to make it easier for search engines to find based on a set of criteria important to you. Not only that, but it means that you're going to come up higher on the search engine page rankings because of it.

While it's true that Search Engine Optimization can help you become more visible, you should also know that SEO has become a big business and it isn't all on the up and up. There are difficult cases that necessitate spending lots of money to get results, but the average person doesn't need to spend that much. If your website is built correctly in the first place, you're off to an excellent start because good web design has Search Engine Optimization built into it. It may only need some minor work to dial in your settings and add additional features. If your site wasn't built correctly, it may need more work to update it.

To figure out if your site needs work, start by asking yourself the following questions:
  • Why do I have a website?
  • Do I care if anyone finds me?
If you don't care if anyone finds you - you don't need any SEO! If you want people to find you and search engine results are important to you, you can do some easy tests yourself by plugging in keywords to various search engines. (Tip: You can get results across multiple search engines by searching on DogPile.com.) Were you happy with your rankings in the searches you ran? If you weren't, Search Engine Optimization might be needed. If you were unsure of what to search for, you can get ideas by going to the Google Keyword Tool. Plug your web address in and find out what keywords come up most often on your site. Were they relevant or did a high number of irrelevant words repeat all over your site? With this tool, you can also get keyword suggestions or see what your competition is doing.


Still not sure if you need SEO? Check to see which statement fits you best:
  1. I really don't care if anyone new finds me. I have a website because people expect websites and I want existing clients to keep in touch.
  2. I just need a presence online and a place for people to read current info about me. They'll be searching for my name or they already know my URL.
  3. I want to put forth an expert voice in my field and I want to be well known for it. People will search for what I have to say by subject.
  4. I need people to be able to find me based on specific search phrases and I need to come up within the first two results.
  5. I used to rank high in searches and now I don't.
If you are aligned with statement #1 or #2, you probably don't need to spend any money on SEO - provided your site was built correctly utilizing proper web practices. (An exception would be if you have a very common name and you need to make sure you are set apart from the other million people who share your name.) If you picked statement #3 or #4, you may need a tune-up with special attention to your text, page titles, graphics, and page descriptions. If you picked number #5, you may also need a tune-up. Search engine results are not static. They are constantly changing and depend on a number of things including what your competition is doing. Have your site analyzed and see what it needs. It may only need minor changes.

The bottom line:
Most people don't need to spend thousands on SEO. If you are told that you do or that you can achieve #1 search engine ranking by paying them a couple hundred dollars every month, run quickly the other way. It isn't necessary and could actually hurt your rankings depending on how results are achieved. While search engine optimization seems mysterious, other than taking some time and know-how, it's really pretty simple.

If you have questions or would like to have your current site assessed, feel free to contact me.

On your own:
Check out this Search Engine for Dummies Cheat Sheet for more info.

Books:
Good comprehensive beginner book - Search Engine Optimization by Kristopher B. Jones  












Good advanced book on SEO - The Art of SEO - an O'Reilly book