Saturday, September 19, 2009

SEO PDQ - Review of Rebecca Lieb's Book

As many of you know, I'm involved in a baby products business called CuteyBaby. As an enterprise today, CuteyBaby primarily exists online, so being found in Internet searches is an important part of the marketing strategy for that business. Enter search engine optimization (SEO) - a constantly moving target that for the most part, I have outsourced in my marketing life. Lately I've been wondering what's "behind the curtain" of the great and powerful search marketers out there.

Rebecca Lieb provided me with a very timely and elegant explanation in the form of her recent book: The Truth about Search Engine Optimization (amazon link). I have followed Rebecca's writing on ClickZ and other online sources over the past several years. Frankly, I was thrilled to see she had written this particular book because so many Internet marketing "how-to" volumes seem to lack substance, and I was in need of practical advice.

First, here is my basic definition of SEO:
Working to improve where you appear (higher the better) on major search engines' (Google, Yahoo, MSN) and relevant niche sites' (i.e. Business.com) search results through ongoing, systematic online content improvement.

Here are the things I found most valuable from Lieb's book to understand and/or implement in my SEO strategy now:

1. What women want.
Research what keywords your potential customers are searching on. For example, when people search on "removable wall decals" or "cloth diapers", I would like CuteyBaby to appear in the organic results (typically left side of the page). But there may be a ton of other relevant or related search terms, too. Use a keyword search tool like Wordtracker or Trellian (both have free trials) or Google AdWords keyword suggester (always free).

2. Text is everything.
Whether it's content, titles, tags, or links - everything a search engine sees about your site is text. Write for people reading your site, but understand how it looks to a search engine, too. Flash and lots of images may look exciting to a human, but to a search engine bot, it's just fluff. Be sure to give your images titles and alt text that make sense.

3. Get organized.
Use a content management system (CMS), or at least name your pages intelligently so that URLs make sense to the reader. I use Wordpress, and will probably continue with that for at least the blogging portion of my site, if not the whole thing.

4. A rose by any other name - not so!
Page titles are absolutely critical - make sure they are appropriate and help search engines know when to show your page as a search result.

5. Make friends in high places.
Look for opportunities to link to relevant external content, and get sites to link to you as well (called reciprocal linking). This greatly improves your search rankings, especially if the sites linking to you are well traveled.

6. Write good copy.
Write (or pay someone to write) intelligent copy that contains appropriate keywords and reads well to a human, too. The more quality text content you have on your site, the better chance you will be found.

7. Buyer beware.
Know that any company promising you top ranking in the major engines for category keywords for $500 is probably selling snake oil. No one has the key to instant search success.

There are over 50 tips/truths in the book, so if you are involved in SEO strategy at all, I recommend getting it. The tips above are just what's relevant to me at this moment. Also, if you are building a site, it really helps to consider SEO when mapping out and writing content - rather than retrofitting later.

Thanks Rebecca, for a great resource.