Search Engine Optimizing: THE FOUNDATION

by Dave Curtis on 01/02/2011

In my experience one of the most effective ways to maximize the return on investment in a website is to undertake a coordinated strategy to improve the website’s search engine rankings. For this reason, I offer a number of coordinated Internet strategies designed to boost search engine rankings and to increase targeted traffic to the site. My first area of expertise is search engine optimization but with a much broader understanding of optimization than merely arriving at the top of the search engines for specific keywords and key phrases, and going far beyond that stage of success.


Search engine optimization must be marketing oriented with a focus on design flow, site usability, ease of navigation to quickly lead visitors to “buy now” buttons (fewer clicks to reach any product, two to three clicks maximum), with few distractions on page (fewer choices result in more of the right choice: to buy) and strong navigation to direct website visitors to specific areas of listing purchase items, analytics (to track the effects of any changes, one at a time, to measure positive or negative changes) all working together to bring about maximum return. This starts on the first page of the site with promotional pieces for the most popular high volume sales items making it even easier for visitors to buy.

I will usually use the 10 to 15 target keywords provided by a client to perform keyword research analysis of the top competing web sites for each keyword. This is only the start. Determining what the top competitors are doing (both right and wrong) is the most accurate and effective means of determining where to start and when to finish optimizing your site’s pages and back-links before resting to perform analytics. Without the site audit and site competition audit there is no clear picture of what must be done and how much of a budget needs to be allocated to complete the SEO job successfully for the main keywords.

After the site audit is completed for the home page and section or category page keywords more are added for each individual piece of content and, once again, the competition sites are probed. The section / category hierarchy is critical to good search engine optimization as the more closely related the terms are to one another within any one category, the more highly specific (and thus more closely Google will define it) it will appear in value and thus show up closer to the top in search engine results. Using a combination of search analysis techniques which include looking at neighboring keywords, drill-down keywords and at the keyword effectiveness index (ratio of competing pages to number of predicted and actual searches) several are chosen with the highest KEI as well as others that will be added to match those targeted by the top competition.

At that point the sales and marketing teams are provided with these keywords and encouraged to coordinate with one another to write unique marketing copy using these keywords to produce copy for each product that is unique and which focuses on providing attractive competitive offers and unique brand benefits. Newer sites have difficulty targeting the most competitive keywords at first so these will be targeted with little regard to the competition. The major focus at the onset is on the keywords with the highest keyword effectiveness index (KEI) that have less competition. Once these begin ranking well, the other more difficult keywords will also begin to rank, so a mix of both will be the strategy employed by myself. Once tracking through analytics determines which keywords are bringing in the greatest return these areas will be strengthened first to enhance those returns even more.


As an important part of capturing sales, conversion form follow-up within 24 hours should be a priority and will work best for developing long term relationships when client data provided in forms is used in combination with in-house existing CRM software. Opt-in email newsletter or special offer on-site forms are used specifically to gather pre-qualified leads, preferably with a “featured client of the month” story formula case-study of the problem/need in a real life situation and the product as the hero providing the desired solution. Special offers, new product releases, additional services, industry regulation changes and other news of value are all appropriate for newsletter content.

Off site search engine optimization in the form of as extensive a back link building campaign as needed (as per analysis of top keyword competitors web site back-link count and search engine return page strength) for each product niche should be performed on an ongoing basis. If content and on-page optimization is king, then back-links are the queen of search engine optimization.


Branding: Professional and social media profile creation are performed next to brand your company wherever these profiles remain unclaimed by other existing entities with the same or very similar company names. Top tier directory placement in DMOZ and other major directories.


As my focus is on search engine optimization specifically there are literally hundreds of areas of technical concern that are beyond the scope of a web site SEO proposal which include things like the .htaccess file and robots.txt file and keeping abreast of the many changes to Google’s algorithm and what they mean to your site’s optimization. These include the latest Panda update (as of this writing, April 19, 2011), farmer update, Google’s change in the treatment of nofollow link sculpting to funnel page-rank, etc. I work daily with online networks of SEO, SEM, programming and PPC professionals, and monthly in Tampa at face to face meetups researching what works best now and for tomorrow, and quickly discards that which is no longer a valid part of search engine optimization such as that meta keyword tags as of last year are no longer used by Google, Bing or Yahoo.

This information has since been UPDATED however: In Oct 2009 Search Engine Round Table announced that “Yahoo Drops The Meta Keywords Tag Also” but informed us that the announcement made by Yahoo’s Senior Director of Search was incorrect. In the corrected statement Yahoo Senior Director of Search states that “…What changed with Yahoo’s ranking algorithms is that while we still index the meta keyword tag, the ranking importance given to meta keyword tags receives the lowest ranking signal in our system…. it will actually have less effect than introducing those same words in the body of the document, or any other section.” …and so (and possibly may still contain a page or two with the first bit of information that Meta Keywords are not used. This is invalid information – yet it is easy to see how even good SEOs can sometimes have inaccurate information still on their sites.

Many sites are still using web designers and Search Engine Optimizers who are focused on Meta Name Keywords <META NAME=”keywords” CONTENT=” “> tags. 

Good on-site and off-site SEO includes:

  • Esthetically pleasing pages with lots of white space and plenty of points of interest.
  • Keyworded title tag, headlines, body copy, internal links.
  • A primary phrase and two secondary phrases that jive with the nature of the page and your business.
  • Page headings (such as company profile and Some Specials) need to be made appealing and should be keyword optimized in the process.
  • Body text should be subtly optimized to sell and include some more keywords (without stuffing).
  • Internal Links need to be keyworded.
  • External links (back links) need to be influenced to include anchor text as the link and (if possible) with keyworded links within the body text as well.
  • Article posts on ezines, blog posts, keyworded press releases, – back link building is hard work but will also reward you with better ranking.

SEO takes time because Google tries to filter out spammy sites (especially newer ones take longer) that try to cheat their way to the top. Time is required (for high ranking) because it requires a lot of SEO/SEM content and inbound links. SEO never stops because there are always more niches out there.


SEO is a dynamically growing, ever changing vast array of constantly in need of updating techniques, and both online and computer installed professional tools required to gather vast amounts of raw website data from a) your site b) visitors arriving on your site c) your competition’s web sites d) from the search engines available online tools provided for webmaster and paid search marketing clients and e) from the search engine’s databases themselves.

Standard services such as mouse eye tracking provide useful information useful in taking steps to improve page value to customers. Web resources are wide open for developing better responses from visitors. What makes the difference between a number one selling site and one which ranks far below in third position? The answer is sometimes luck, but more often in competitive niches it boils down to how much tracking (analytics, and what kind) plus how much optimization is performed.

From time to time I, as an SEO would approach you as a client with additional options and services that are either brand new or that have been around for a while which appear useful based on the current state of development of your site. Options and services remain dependent upon wherever analytics can provide information that will convert the highest percentage of visitors into clients, or complete other desired actions on your site. You can create criteria for what counts as an action (for instance clicking on a link to a page where you make a special offer) that you can measure as a conversion. Or you can have a link to sign up on for an email newsletter. Then you use these “conversion” results to determine the base percentage of conversions for a set number of actions and work on tweaking things – tweak where the link is located to get to the page, tweak the text used in the link, tweak the text offer on the page the link leads to, or change a photo in that page – all these things (and more) lead to improving percentages of conversion. This is where your site earns more money too because conversions can also quite obviously be sales transactions – and these are also measured through analytics so you don’t have to tell your SEO when you’re making more money, he or she will see it in the analytics while working, and constantly push things forward to earn you more money from your site.