A Guide to SEO: Navigating the Changing Landscape With the Right Tools

Article ImageSearch engine optimization (SEO) is the process of maximizing your site’s visibility in search engine results, which is an art and science, according to Rebecca Lieb, analyst of digital advertising and media at the Altimeter Group. “In laymen’s terms, it’s being on the first page of Google results, not on page 372, where people are unlikely to see it,” she says.

When companies are looking to optimize their search, it may be a good idea to hire an SEO consultant. There are, of course, certain tools that will be necessary, but the first and foremost thing companies need is a basic understanding of SEO and how it works. “There’s one fundamental rule that’s critical to bear in mind in SEO, which is that search engines understand text,” says Lieb.

Search engines send out what are called spiders, crawlers, or robots, which read every piece of text on every publicly available website and store what they read in an index. Text on the top of the page is also considered more important to search engines than text found at the bottom. These spiders do not, however, understand or register anything else—images, video, animation, etc. Therefore, every nontext piece on a website needs to be named so that search engines can recognize them and they can be optimized for search. “So if you have an image of an apple, for example, you have to call it not ‘picture3.jpg,’ but ‘apple.jpg’ or ‘granny smith apple from ny.jpg’ to differentiate it from a computer, which could also be an apple,” Lieb says. This is especially vital in a global marketing world that, as Lieb explained, is becoming based more and more on images and video and less and less on text.

Keyword Research Tools

While text is vital, choosing the right text is even more important for SEO. Using words on your site that searchers use is key. This is where keyword research tools come into play, helping you determine what words searchers use most, and therefore, what words should be used on your site. While each search engine offers its own free keyword research tools, there are also other, more advanced packages that come with a fee. Keyword density tools are also available to determine if your site is using enough keywords, or maybe even too many. “With the paid tools you get more detailed data, and multiple search engine data—Google data shows the keyword results for Google only, not Google and Bing and Yahoo, etc.,” says Lieb. “Paid tools also offer more flexible and interactive reports, e.g., visual data, which is easier to understand quickly.”

Link Analysis and Web Analytics Tools

For SEO, companies don’t just need to choose one tool, though, as they all have different functions and work together to optimize results. Link analysis and web analytics are also available at a price or for free through each search engine.

Link analysis is important because the more sites that link to your page, the higher it will be listed in search results. “Google counts links almost like it counts votes. The more pages that link to another page, the more relevant that page probably is,” said Lieb. “But there’s more to it than plain old links.” She explained that links from substantive sources, such as from The New York Times hold more weight than something from an unaccredited blog. The same goes for subject matter. “If your website is about food, a link from a cooking website is more relevant than a link from a site about politics,” she says.

Web analytics tools help you find what keywords people are using to find your site and how long they stayed on the site once they got there so you know what’s working and what isn’t. This is important to take into consideration because, as Lieb explained, SEO is an ongoing process. While it’s more effective to bake it right into the design of your site, rather than trying to make the adjustments afterwards, all elements that go into optimizing search are ever-changing.

“Language changes, your products and services might change. Search Engine algorithms change all the time. So you have to watch where your rankings are,” says Lieb. “It’s like the weather. If it’s good today, it might not be good tomorrow.”

("Broken SEO" image courtesy of Shutterstock.)

SEO Tool Providers

Alexa Internet, Inc.
comScore, Inc.
Internet Marketing Ninjas
Raven Internet Marketing Tools
Self SEO
SEO Chat
SEO Egghead, Inc.
Softnik Technologies
Webmaster Toolkit
Wordtracker, LLP
XML Sitemaps