SEO and Internet Marketing for Websites
Especially if you’re doing it for business purposes, there isn’t much of a point in having a website that no one is going to visit. Even if you are just a casual blogger, there is an inherent sense of satisfaction knowing that your words are being read by an increasingly larger audience on the Internet and this is even more pressing if you have an e-commerce shop, because no visitors means no customers. And no customers means no sales.
One of the most important questions on the minds of all website owners is, “How do I attract more traffic to my site?” There are more websites being built and launched on the Internet every single day and it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate the signal from the noise. How do you get noticed? How do you build your audience? How do you rise above the rest of the crowd? There are two main strategies here and they are not mutually exclusive: search engine optimization and Internet marketing.
The Importance of Keywords
Before getting into a discussion of either search engine optimization or Internet marketing, it is important first to understand the nature of keywords on the Internet. When you go into a search engine like Google or Bing, you enter a certain set of words to find the content that you seek. If you want buy a used car and you live in California, you might enter “Califonia used car dealers.” That is a specific keyword phrase.
However, it is important to know that “California used car dealers” is not the same as “used cars in California” or “Californian used cars.” These are all separate keyword phrases, even if they are inherently related. It is with this kind of differentiation in mind that you must approach all of your website promoting efforts. If you want to drive traffic to your website, you must first understand which set of keywords are going to be the most important to you. Then, you can start targeting your campaigns around these keywords, whether they be by way of Internet marketing or search engine optimization.
Search Engine Optimization
The Google AdWords Keyword Tool is a good place to start. When you enter a keyword (or a set of keywords) into this tool, it will tell you what word searches are related, as well as the relative level of competition for those keywords in Google. This is mostly from the advertising side, but this goes hand in hand with search engine traffic too.
So, what is search engine optimization (SEO)? It is the process of maximizing the number of visitors to your website that would come by way of a search engine like Google. Different search engines used different algorithms and rules, so “ranking” for your keyword in Google may not necessarily get you a higher ranking in Bing.
There are several service providers out there who can help with your SEO efforts, but many of the website builders reviewed on this site also come with integrated SEO-friendly features. These include formatting and structuring the websites in such a way that they are more easily read by the search engines, as well as having the right kind of metadata to help you better rank in your niche or industry.
Generally speaking, SEO can be broken down into two broad-reaching categories: internal and external. Internal SEO is composed of the tactics, strategies and methods that you would employ directly on your website in an effort to get a better search engine ranking for your target keywords.
Let’s take an example of a blog that writes about exotic cars and the blogger wants to rank for some of the major brands in that industry. Let’s say that the blogger has a post that talks about Ferraris. It is in the blogger’s best SEO interest to include the word “Ferrari” in the title of the post, as well as use that term a few times in the article itself. It is also helpful if “Ferrari” is in the URL. All else held constant, a post published at http://www.example.com/ferrari/ is more likely to rank than one posted at http://www.example.com/2012abc/.
Google and other search engines also understand the differences in types of text. Something that is written in bold is generally deemed to be more important, so the search engines may place greater emphasis on those words when determining the content of the post. On the other hand, “keyword stuffing”–or intentionally over-loading an article with far too many instances of the target keyword–can have a negative effect on rankings, because the search engines punish this type of practice.
There are many internal SEO strategies that are commonly used as best practices. If you have images, it is best to surround the images with relevant content. It also helps if you add the “alt” and “title” attributes, as it aids search engines in understanding the content and context of the image. Again, several of the content management systems and website builders reviewed on this do this automatically, making the process easier for you. IMCreator, for example, has several built-in search engine friendly features.
Search engine optimization isn’t just about the techniques and strategies that you use directly on your website. The other half of the equation comes from external SEO. This involves tactics that happen outside of your website, the most important of which has to do with backlinks.
A backlink is when another website links to your website. This indicates to the search engines that your website is important in some way. The more links directed at your site, the more likely that your website should be featured more prominently in Google and Bing. If you get a link to your site posted on a highly authorative site like CNN, that link is even more powerful. Not all links are of equal value.
Remember the importance of keywords? That includes backlinks too. The “anchor text” are the words that are actually linked to the site or article. For instance, linking to http://www.website-builder.com//compare/ like this–website builder comparison–would mean that while the target URL is http://www.website-builder.com//compare/, the anchor text is “website builder comparison.”
This is also known as a “deep link,” because it links to a specific page on the website, rather than to the main index page. Both regular links to the homepage and deep links to internal articles, pages and posts are important for your external SEO. Encourage other sites to link to your website and this should help in improving your SEO and hopefully attract more visitors to your site.
“Internet marketing” is a very broad-reaching term as there are just as many, if not more forms of Internet marketing than there are forms of traditional marketing. Think about what companies do to promote themselves in the real world. They may buy up billboard space on the sides of roads. They may buy airtime on the radio or take out a television commercial. They may have someone standing with a sign on the street to point people toward their store. They may send out flyers and pamphlets. They may host public events or sponsor charitable organizations.
The exact same mentality and philosophy applies to Internet marketing. Instead of billboards, marketers may purchase banner advertising on different websites, either directly or through an ad network. Google AdWords is a popular choice, as it allows you to target keywords and really refine your campaign to best target your ideal audience.
Internet marketing can also take on the form of e-mail marketing, building up a mailing list and then periodically sending newsletters and updates to subscribers. This can encourage repeat visits to the site or online store. Tying in with external SEO, article marketing is when a company or brand publishes articles on external websites, like article directories and relevant blogs. These articles contain links and help to build up brand presence.
Social Media Marketing
A quickly emerging trend for attracting website traffic is social media marketing. There are Facebook ads and promoted tweets on Twitter, for instance, but there are many other venues and strategies for marketing through social media and social networks too. At its most base level, your blog, website or online store should have profiles on the major social networks, like Twitter and Facebook, as well as other networks like Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest and more.
People are spending more and more time on these social networks, so it is important to try and capture their attention by marketing through these channels too. For example, it is prudent to have a good bio and profile image for a Twitter account, as well as a listing for your website address in the URL section. The same is true for Facebook pages.
A good way to help build up an audience is with a contest via a preferred social media outlet. Encourage “retweets” or Facebook “likes” to enter your contest, as this can help with the viral nature of social media marketing. The more people who enter, the wider your message can spread.
Creative Website Promotion
Attracting visitors to your website is not a one-time task. It is an ongoing project that will necessarily take on many different facets. Search engine optimization is very important, both internal and external, because most people discover new websites by looking for content through search engines. Similarly, social media marketing is increasingly important, as people are discovering new content posted and shared by their friends too.
Get creative. Just as you want to have something unique to offer to your readers and customers on your website that sets you apart from the crowd, oftentimes the best website promotion methods are the ones that are also the most unique and creative. Dare to be different.
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Erez is an experienced web designer and also the founder of website-builder.com. He writes for dizyne.net and IM Now.