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The Basics of SEO and How it Relates to Website Design

Why is my site not showing up in the search engines? This is one of the most common questions that I am asked. Most business owners have a hard time understanding the dynamic nature...

Written By: Matt Walker
Why is my site not showing up in the search engines?
This is one of the most common questions that I am asked. Most business owners have a hard time understanding the dynamic nature of the Internet and they think that 'website development' and 'showing up in search results' go hand-in-hand. While these two activities are related, there are big differences between building a website and making it visible to Internet users.

I heard a pretty good analogy several months ago which attempts to put website development and search engine marketing into perspective:

Let's suppose that you hire a contractor to construct your new office building. He may be the best contractor in the world; he may do a fantastic job with the actual construction of the building; but if he builds it in the middle of nowhere, then nobody will be able to find the business or purchase your products/services.

The same concept applies with website design and search engine optimization (SEO). You can hire the best website designer on the planet, but if you don't do some form of Search Engine Marketing (SEO is a method used in SEM), then your site will remain in the middle of nowhere. There are professional companies that specialize in making your website visible in the search engines. Many times these companies also do website design, but more often than not, they just concentrate on SEM/SEO.

So, what is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?
SEM is the practice of promoting your website, over the internet, to expose your business to potential customers via the search engines. SEM is a comprehensive campaign and incorporates many different activities.

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
SEO is one method used in SEM to adjust a website so that it can be found and read easier by the search engines, thus making it appear higher in the natural (organic) search engine results. This allows your customers to find your business when they type in your targeted keywords. SEO is technical in nature and takes time to really be effective. There is no easy, short-term solution for good SEO. It's a long-term effort aimed at creating total value for your business/website.

Generally speaking, there are two parts to SEO: 1) On-page factors and 2) Off-page factors.

- On-page factors include your web site title tags, heading tags, META
tags, internal linking (links between website pages), page content, number of web site pages, no-follow tags and many other factors.

- Off-page factors mainly include link building (getting links to
point at your site). Link building includes directory submissions, search engine submissions, relevant industry links, blog commenting, social media optimization, and other ways of getting people to link to, visit, or just talk about your site.

SEO is a very time consuming process and must be done correctly, in an orderly manner, to be effective. What most people don't understand is just how time consuming the process is, what is involved in the process, how long it takes to be effective, how much it costs, and, most importantly, how much of an impact it can have on their business.

Let's take a step back for a minute. Most searchers don't look past the first page of search results when they enter a search query. If they don't find what they are looking for on the first page, then most people revise the search query and search again. 90% of all searchers never go past the third page of the search results. So, what does this mean? Well, it means that if your business is not in the top 3 pages, then you are essentially invisible.

First Page Results = $$ Big Rewards $$
As you can imagine, being on the first page of search results can mean a significant increase in business and money to you, especially if you're being found for competitive, converting keyword terms.

So, how do I get to the first page of the search results?
You need to implement a comprehensive SEM campaign and you must be patient and methodical. A good SEM company will help you do this and will guide you in the right direction.

SEO Services are not cheap
You can forget about spending a couple of hundred dollars over the course of a month or two and hope to be on the first page of Google. Depending upon how competitive the industry is and how competitive your keywords are has a direct correlation to the amount of money you will have to spend to see good results. Generally speaking, you will find companies who will do your SEO campaign for as little as $500 per month for a small website and a couple of keywords OR if you are a large company with hundreds of keywords, then you could be looking at $10,000+ per month. Fortune 500 companies spend millions every year on their SEO campaigns.

Cost is relative! What you should be concerned about with SEO/SEM (as with any marketing effort) is your return on investment (ROI). Sure it may take a few months to get your keyword rankings to improve, but if after that you are seeing hundreds of percent ROI, then the cost is negligible.

Never Believe Ranking Guarantees
There are a lot of fly-by-night SEM/SEO companies who will promise you first page results.DO NOT BELIEVE THEM!! Sure, they might get you to the first page for something non-competitive like "underwater basket weaving in a deep pool".but nobody is searching for that.

If someone guarantees you first page results:

1) run away screaming
2) if you don't run, then ask them to guarantee first page results for a competitive term like "real estate"
3) watch them squirm and back-peddle (this is my favorite part)

No respectable SEM/SEO company will guarantee you first page results! Why? Because we don't control the search engines and if Google decides to change the way it ranks sites, then we can't do anything about it. However, a good SEO/SEM company will stay on top of these changes and update your site accordingly.

So, what does this all mean?
When you are thinking about getting a site designed you should at least be aware of the fact that:

- Most website designers don't do search engine optimization. They may build your site so that it is SEO friendly, but they are just building a functional site (like the contractor and the office building). You have to think of SEM/SEO as a marketing effort. The responsibility is on you, the business owner, to market your business. It's called search engine MARKETING for a reason.

- You should get SEO involved as soon as possible in the website design phase. Just like any other form of marketing, you need to hire an ethical, knowledgeable company to make your site visible. You need to get an SEO company involved as early in the website design phase as possible so that you don't build a costly site that cannot be found/read by the search engines (stay away from full Flash based websites). SEO-friendliness should be kept in mind when you compare website prices.

- You can't expect miracles. Your site will not be on top in a matter of days, weeks, or even months in many cases. However, if done correctly, your site should rank well for many years to come, which means money in your pocket.

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