“Searching is half the fun: Life is much more manageable when thought of as a scavenger hunt as opposed to a surprise party.” – Jimmy Buffett

Many ETR readers have asked me for advice on search-engine optimization — increasing your ranking in search engines so that when your prospect searches the Internet for information, he finds your site. Since this is totally outside my area of expertise, I asked my friends Peter DeCaro and Ilise Benun two online marketing experts, for some tips. Here’s what I learned from them . . .

1. First, determine which keywords are best for your industry or the traffic you are looking to generate. Keywords are the terms your prospects will type into a search field when they are looking for information. So consider the words and phrases they might use to describe your product or service. Here are some additional tips for selecting keywords:

  • Include plurals of your keywords, but avoid excessive repetition.
  • If a keyword is commonly misspelled (for example, DIRECTV instead of Direct TV) or if you have a name that people often spell in more than one way (like Strauss/Straus or Macintosh/McIntosh), include all possible spellings in your keywords.
  • Don’t use only obvious keywords. Include phrases that may get fewer searches but more targeted results.
  • Don’t let your combined keywords exceed 1,000 characters. The fewer the keywords, the greater impact they will have.

Need help coming up with a list of likely keywords? There are tools that can help. Good Keywords, for example, is one of the most widely used and respected keyword-targeting applications on the Web. It runs directly on your PC and can be downloaded for free from www.goodkeywords.com. You might also want to check out www.wordtracker.com, which will help you find all keyword combinations that bear any relation to your business or service — and they offer a free 30-day, money-back guarantee. Another company that provides keyword targeting is http://buildtraffic.net.

2. Next, based on the keywords you’ve targeted, create “meta tags” on every page of your website. Before you create your own meta tags, it’s a good idea to take a look at those of your competitors. You can easily do this on any website you visit. From your browser’s tool bar, simply choose the “View” menu. Click on “Source” and a window will open with HTML text that you can study.

The most important meta tags are found near the top of the page between codes like this: <head> and </head>. If you are creating your own website, depending on which software you use, all you have to do to add meta tags is type the words you’ve chosen in the appropriate places.

The key meta tags for marketing purposes are Title, Description, and Keywords. These tags control what surfers see when your site is listed in the search engines, which means they will help people decide whether to visit your site.

“Title” is what your visitors see at the top of their browser windows when they are visiting your site, as well as what they will see in their bookmark lists. So make sure each page has a Title that makes sense to visitors, not just to you. Be descriptive; failure to put strategic keywords in the page Title is often why Web pages are poorly ranked.

When your website comes up in search-engine findings, the meta tag identified as the “Description” is often the opening statement people will use to decide whether to access the link. The Description should concisely answer the question “What do you do?” For example: “XYZ Design provides client-focused, creative, and effective graphic design, art direction, and project management for marketing communications.”

Your Keywords should not only be in your meta tags, they should also be included in the first 25 words of your home page.

You can use Good Keywords as a meta tag creation tool. Keep adding the keywords you need into the Keyword Pad available within the software. Once you are done, a simple click will get you the required keyword meta tag, ready to be pasted into your HTML file. Now your website is “primed” for optimum search-engine placement.

If you aren’t comfortable with HTML editing, you can visit www.elance.com and place a bid for assistance from various U.S. and offshore agencies. Meta-tag placement for a 4- to 5-page website generally can be completed for under $100 if you place a bid request that is specific for such work.

3. Get your website listed in all top search engines. The service www.wpromote.com offers a very competitive pricing structure ($49.95 per month). The service guarantees express submission to all three of the world’s most powerful search indexes. As a result, your site gets the quickest possible submission to Yahoo, MSN, Ask Jeeves, HotBot, Excite, Lycos, About.com, DogPile, InfoSpace, WebCrawler, AllTheWeb, Overture, Teoma, Metacrawler, and other top search engines.

This initial listing will have you listed and indexed in these engines within 48 hours, and submission is complete and guaranteed in all of the above engines in just seven days. Furthermore, for all of the above sites, your site will be re-visited and re-indexed every 48 hours to ensure that all of the engines have the most recent possible version of your site in their indexes.

Bob Bly

Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant specializing in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has been hired as a consultant by such companies as Sony, Chemical Bank, J. Walter Thompson, Westinghouse, and Prentice-Hall. Bob is also the author of more than 50 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books), Targeted Public Relations, Selling Your Services, How to Promote Your Own Business, and Keeping Clients Satisfied. A phenomenal public speaker, Bob will share with you how easy it is to start your own business. Whether you’re ready to quit your job or are just looking to make a little money on the side, you’ll want to hear Bob’s advice.

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