SEO 101

You’ve probably heard the phrase “SEO” but maybe you don’t know what it means, what it does or why you need it. You probably already know what a search engine is. For those that don’t, it’s a tool people use to help them find what they’re looking for on the Internet if they don’t have a direct link to type into their browser’s address bar.

You can compare a search engine to a dictionary or a set of encyclopedias. Just as you would look in the dictionary for a word or the index of an encyclopedia, the use of a search engine provides you the opportunity to type in what is known as key words or key phrases pertaining to your topic which then produces a list of results to you so that you may further investigate the results. An example of a key phrase might be “website design.” To further narrow your search you might use “web design wisconsin” for instance.

Another way to think of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is that it is a process of steps applied to your web site to assist in achieving good search engine ranking and positive indexing results. Proper search engine optimization helps your web site to be found on the Internet, but even the most reputable SEO companies will not give you any guarantees. Why? Because they know better!

Outsourcing SEO

A skilled web designer has the ability to create an eye appealing web site with great functionality, but is not necessarily trained in SEO. It’s to your benefit to inquire as to whether or not your chosen designer is also trained in search engine optimization. If they’re not, this by no means takes away from their web site development qualifications! It does mean that they should have resources to sub-contract the SEO services for the development of your website and be willing to take advantage of these resources. If your designer does not offer SEO services, you may purchase one of our SEO Plans. But please make sure to check with your designer before purchase. We will coordinate (sub-contract) with them if they do not provide the service. It’s not unusual at all for a web site to be developed by more than one person as a team effort.

Consulting with others in the profession is something every web designer should be willing to do for their clients when necessary. One sign of a good designer is their ability and willingness to take advantage of available resources to put your site together properly. There are so many aspects to web design that no one person can possibly know or do it all. More than one set of eyes is always to your benefit when it comes to designing a web site. Skills one designer may not possess are generally the skills they sub-out in order to provide you with the best possible site they can build for you. A good web designer knows their limitations and takes full advantage of available resources to give their clients the best they can give.

About the Search Engines

The most popular search engine for quite some time has been Google. Google is the chosen search engine of over 80% of Internet users! You’re probably already familiar with some of the others. Here are a few examples: Yahoo, MSN, AOL, Netscape, Hot Bot, Dog Pile, and Teoma just to name a few.

One interesting thing to note is that if you plug the same search phrase into each one of these different search engines, you are very likely going to get different results supplied by the various search engines. This is because different algorhythms and search rules are used by each one. This is just one reason why having your site optimized professionally is to your advantage. You can very plainly see by this little experiment that not all search engines are designed to work like another.

Getting Your Site Found

It’s important to remember that no matter which search engine your visitors may use – ideal placement is within the first three pages of results, and of course first place is everyone’s priority. Google’s bots alone travel through billions of web sites every day. Your site is just one of those billions! Being just one amongst billions should give you some good common sense insight as to why good search engine optimization is so important and to why getting found isn’t just a matter of putting up a web site expecting it will be found automatically.

It’s a fact that most Internet surfers will view just the first two to three pages of results when researching their topic before moving on to another search engine or on to investigating the results they’ve just found. Even though there is never a guarantee of top placement, you would preferably want to be found on that first page of results and high up within those results. Competition is tough and the cold hard fact is that there is only one web site that can have #1 placement for any given topic. Rankings fluctuate as well, which means the guy who was #1 yesterday may not be #1 today. This should tell you that although #1 is great and something to be super-proud of, don’t expect in any way that if you get there, you’ll stay there.

It’s a constant struggle and a time consuming process to get good placement. Neither we or you have control over which search engine any person will use. The lesson here … you want to be easily found no matter which search engine is being used.

About Optimization

What is the “optimization” part of the term search engine optimization? Each search engines has rules their bots use when they go out to index and rank web sites. Search engines use something called “algoryhthms” to complete their indexing and ranking. The fact that your domain name that starts with the letter “A” doesn’t mean you’ll be at the top of the charts, placement is not in alphabetical order.

In simplified terms, to “optimize” something is to tweak it to make it better. In the case of SEO, we tweak your site according to search engine rules using legal techniques to make it better.

SEO involves a process of steps to help your site obtain good search engine ranking and positive indexing results. In other words; we help your web site to be found on the Internet, but we can make no guarantees. No self-respecting SEO person will make a guarantee of top rankings, simply because there are way to many variables that we have no control over. Neither your nor your site visitors actually see the SEO as it works in the background. A web developer skilled in SEO techniques (also known as a Search Engine Specialist) can help your site to obtain good positioning, which helps people find your site. Without SEO, you’ve just wasted your time and money on that new web site. A person or business can have the best looking site on the Internet, but if it can’t be found … what good is it? Did you know that just because you have a web site on the Internet doesn’t mean a thing? If it’s not constructed properly, if it doesn’t have proper SEO applied to it … it’s pretty much useless. Makes a great conversation piece, though, doesn’t it? Or does it? You can tell people “I have a web site.” When they ask “how’s the web site business doing?” … just what are you going to tell them?

About All That Flash and Splash

So, you love Flash or other animation and lots of graphics? You are not alone! Many people are initially drawn to this very cool look with its animation, rotating words and photos, and sigh … in some cases colors bright enough you need sunglasses to view it.

Let’s address graphics … as pretty as graphic images can make a site look is as bad as they can be for the search engines. Over-use or inappropriate use of graphics translates into the potential for poor indexing and rankings for your web site. Search engines read text content. Even if you include text in a graphic, can visibly see it on the page, the search engines cannot read it because it’s “encased” or “hidden” in an image, thus it’s invisible to them. It’s kind of like trying to see a picture hanging on the wall from the other side of the wall. Can’t be done.

Let’s take a look at the drawbacks in the use of Flash and other animation. Not only can Flash be expensive, I can assure you that these are neat looking options (“eye candy” is another way to describe Flash) but neat looking does not make a good web site all on its own. The enticing look fades fast with site visitors and becomes nothing more than an annoyance to them, not to mention can be very hard on the eyes. Your site text content is the most important component of your web site. If it’s not, it should be. Yes, make your site look great – but don’t annoy your visitors or they will go elsewhere!

News Flash! Google is working on developing techniques for indexing Flash, however the process is not perfected at the time of this writing. The Flash developer must take additional steps to see what Google is currently able to read, create the Flash design accordingly and take whatever steps are necessary for indexing Flash on your site. Just because someone can create a Flash design, does not mean they are knowledgeable on how to accomplish this properly. Don’t just take for granted if you have Flash on your site, that the bots will be able to read it and that it will be indexed with good results. At this point in time, there is still no way I personally would recommend that a site be done entirely in Flash, nor would I recommend heavy use of it for your most important element … your text content. You can most certainly use it, but according to my information, it still should be used in moderation. I would much prefer to error on the side of caution when a client says they want Flash, than to take a risk that might cause their site harm.

Ooooh’ing and Aaaah’ing is a Temporary Phase

Imagine yourself surfing the web and you come across a site that is heavy with Flash or other animated features. You “oooh and ahhh” and are entertained for a little while but after the second or third time visiting — are you really going to want to return to a site that in order to view the information you went there to find in the first place, you have to jump through the hoops of 1) Additional clicks to get to the important content you seek? 2) Additional time it takes pages to load so that you may view the information? The “Flash’n’Splash Twins” are particularly annoying to those on a slower connection speed. Some of them can’t even see what’s taking so long to load on their screen and if it does load, it may play in a choppy irritating fashion. I find it hard to believe that a bright business owner would be interested in driving clients away like this. You can get them there with all the fancy features, but the point is the Return On your Investment (ROI). You can’t make money if you can’t keep the visitors.

There are still a large number of Internet viewers surfing the web on a 56k dial-up connection speed. High speed broadband connections (cable and DSL) are not yet the norm. High speed connections are not only more expensive than dial-up but aren’t yet available in many areas. Dial-up is still the major, if not only, available Internet connection in use for many rural business and residential areas.

It’s also strongly recommended to never ever use what’s called a “Splash Page.” A splash page is a fancy entry page to the actual web site. Generally speaking, a splash page offers some clever design, which is most often done with heavy use of Flash or graphics and very little if any real content that defines what your site is all about. Since the search engine’s ability to read text within a Flash file is still limited, there is little or no content for them to read. Your home page is literally the most important page of your entire site (or should be if it’s not!) and should contain the most pertinent information about the entire site in text format. It’s the page the search engines look for first. A splash page is pretty to look at but doesn’t do you a darn bit of good when it comes to getting and keeping site visitors and it’s absolutely detrimental to rankings and indexing.

Accessibility Issues

There are individuals that must use special computer equipment such as screen readers to view web sites because they have a visual impairment. Screen readers are just that — they read out loud the text content to the individual utilizing the equipment. These individuals hear web sites, they don’t see them! If you don’t have appropriate text content, they cannot view or read your web site! If your most important information is encased in a graphic or some kind of animation, they can’t read it so the sight impaired visitor is not able to access what may be very valuable information on your site.

The same thing holds true for any type of animation. I’m not saying you can’t use Flash, but unless you are a well known name like Nike or Pepsi, Flash, animations and the use of graphics should be used in good taste and in moderation. These options are not yet totally search engine friendly and sites that use these features are not yet indexed well. The day is coming when it will be, but it’s not here yet.

If you want to get and keep visitors, use “eye candy” sensibly. The most important components to a web site are the text content and ease of navigation. No matter how the site may look, these features are what’s most important to your site visitors. Think user-friendly no matter what the design.

About Paid Inclusion

Let’s say you heard or read that if you opt to use paid search engine submissions you’ll get guaranteed great results? Well, your site may be up there with the best of them, but the paid submissions show up differently in the search results. Did you know that many Internet users don’t click on paid submission or sponsored links? Don’t forget that the word “guarantee” doesn’t (or shouldn’t) exist when it comes to search engine ranking.

Here’s another interesting thought – if you can get your site’s results up there high in the rankings without paying for it – why spend the extra money? In many cases, paid submission is a recurring fee! Keeping that in mind, here are a few articles written by SEO expert Jill Whalen of Highrankings that you may wish to read over: No Quick Fix, Paying for Inclusion, and Common Sense SEO.

Did you know that no one person, no reputable SEO company … no one can guarantee you top search engine ranking? If someone or some company promises you this … runnnnn! If you believe them, you’re only hurting yourself. An SEO specialist will do their best to give your web site it’s greatest potential for being found. That’s the best anyone or any company can do for you. There are many dishonest companies out there and their main interest is in taking your money. Don’t fall into the trap of believing any “guaranteed top placement” bunk!

Paid Inclusion is not all bad, there are instances where it’s appropriate and even necessary. Discuss this with your SEO Specialist to determine if your site might benefit from paid inclusion.

Unless paid inclusion is warranted, a web developer trained in good SEO techniques has the potential of getting you like results – being found – and will do this for your site without you having to spend hundreds of dollars or more in annual fees to get the similar rankings. SEO has fast become one of my favorite aspects of web design. For me, it’s a lot like putting the pieces of a puzzle together.

If you’re ready to make the effort to get your site ranked well, submit your SEO application to get the process started and we’ll do our best to help you achieve this.

* For security reasons, the SEO Application is in PDF format. We must ask sensitive information in order to complete the work. For your safety, it’s not recommended this information be transmitted over the Internet. You will need to fax or mail us the completed document.