Simplified SEO for Small Business Webmasters - TEXT!

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Simplified SEO for Small Business Webmasters - TEXT!

by Mike Banks Valentine

Small business webmasters often believe search engine optimization is a complex and mysterious art that they must struggle to understand and master. It couldn't be further from the truth. SEO is basic and simple - TEXT.

As a search engine optimizer, I'm faced daily with the errors of well-meaning webmasters who have unknowingly done their best to hide their site and its topic from the search engines. They do this by naming image files with numbers or word fragments unrelated to the image. They have splash page with an image named "product.gif" containing no "Alt" tags, no text and a link to their inside page named "intro.html" which is full of images!

Even if you use the most basic of web authoring software, SEO can be built in to your site simply by naming your HTML files with important keyword phrases, naming the image directory with more important keyword phrases dropping those same keyword phrases into headlines and body text. Oh, and let's do have body text of at least 500 words. Many site owners seem to believe that a few product photos and a nice looking logo will suffice.

Wrong. You must have text using keyword phrases within your site or the search engines have no way of knowing what those products or services are that you sell.

Text is all that the search engines have to determine what your site is about. Text in your metatags, text in your headline, text in your body copy, text in image filenames and text in your domain name and directory names. SEO is all about words on the page NOT images of words in gorgeous graphics created by your designer and displayed in IMAGES of words in fancy fonts. This includes those menu links from image maps and buttons.

I have a new client whose resort has been positively written up in dozens of national magazines. I was glad to see links to those articles within their site until I clicked on one and got an IMAGE of the magazine page instead of text from the magazines. Many magazines do not allow reproducing their content without licensing, but all allow a limited quote with attribution along with links from the quote to the article on their site.

Those quotes would serve as dramatic testimonials for the client and there are dozens of important keyword phrases in those rave reviews that would be good stuff for both the search engines and the site visitors. Even if there were only one paragraph from each of the dozen great reviews on a single page, that TEXT would be just what the search engine doctor ordered. This will be our first move in working with this new client.

I've got another client that sends out press releases on a regular basis discussing their latest partnership or new product. These press releases are chock full of keyword phrases and important industry lingo and buzz- words. The catch? They distribute these press releases as PDF files and serve them to visitors via FTP, which essentially hides them from the search engines! Their partners then distribute them via FTP as well because that is how they received it. This strategy cheats my client out of links from their partners because those press releases are NOT posted as HTML pages anywhere!

The thing that I always emphasize to new clients is that search engines read text that appears on their web page only. Search engines don't read images or pretty graphics, they can only make assumptions based on those image names and the image "alt" tags. Try doing an image search at Google for "logo" and see what you get. Now try an image search for common words to compare the filenames used to describe those images. Search for any number combination and you'll see how common numbers are as image filenames.

Try another image search for keyword phrases that are important to your industry and I'll wager that is your competition. If you take an extra step and review the filenames in the URL that appear directly below those results describing where that keyword named image turns up. I'll bet the competitors who are tops in non image searches for similar important keyword phrases use those phrases in image filenames, directory names and domain names.

I've had clients that get their site redesigned soon after I've done site optimization who come back to me asking why their search engine rankings dropped.

Inevitably their site designer has not only used word fragments or numbers as image and page filenames, but removed hyperlinks from important keyword phrases in body text, text that was maintained at our instruction. Text hyperlinks are another important ingredient to SEO that designers dislike because it changes text colors in order to help visitors know it's hyperlinked phrase.

Although designers and search engine optimizers rarely work together, they should be required to. Even though the SEO's job would simply be to type keyword phrases in the "save as" box because designers won't do it on their own. If a copywriter is hired, they should work with the SEO as well, although the SEO's job would be only to convince the copywriter that it's OK, indeed is necessary, to use keyword phrases more than a single time. Copywriters don't like repeating themselves and often pride themselves on saying the same thing in various creative ways. Search engines don't yet fully support using a thesaurus to determine page content.
Mike Banks Valentine is a Search Engine Optimization specialist practicing ethical small business SEO Search Engine Placement, Optimization, Marketing


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