I get this question about once a day. Since I’m tired of answering it, I’m putting it online.. which is what you should do with the questions you get all the time!

First, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) = 2 parts: On-Site Content + Reputation by Others.

This is very very simplified here.. in truth it’s more complex, but run with me here:

Here’s how Google, Bing, etc. decide who gets to be the highest ranking for a given search phrase. Pretend you sell tomato soup:

  1. You need great tomato soup. This means you don’t have carrot soup… the recipe (contents) of your website are tomato soup. It’s one thing, and it’s done well. The ingredients support the outcome.
  2. Other people say that you have great tomato soup. This means they link to you. If CNN.com links to you, that’s a powerful endorsement. Grandma’s blog, not so much, but it still helps. Nobody linking to you means you probably don’t have great tomato soup.

Any website we build, or that you build using our automated tools, will automatically have #1 nailed down. It’s built into the soup. You hire us (or buy our automated systems) to build you a site, and since we know what you are selling, we build in #1 during construction. That is, you come to us, and buy a tomato soup recipe – and we already know it’s good.

Next, you need backlinks, which are other people saying your tomato soup is good. There are a few ways to get great backlinks, and you really need to know only 1 simple concept, called “Anchor Text”. Anchor text is the actual text that is linked, and it is what Google and other search engines consider to be important. Here’s what I mean:

Tomato Soup OR  http://TomatoSoup.com

is better than

“Tomato Soup Click Here“.

In the latter example, “Click Here” is the actual anchor text, because it is hyperlinked. That’s it. If you know one thing about SEO, it’s this. The top example tells Google “Tomato Soup” = Your Link, whereas the lower link tells Google “Click Here” = Your Link. I assume you don’t want to rank for the phrase “Click Here”, since no human is going to search for that (at least not someone seeking your service). So if you sell, say, debt settlement, then you want “Debt Reduction” as your anchor text i.e. the portion that is actually linked.

Where this gets complicated is that phrases like “Debt Reduction” are extremely competitive. Until you know what you’re doing, aim low. Go for “long tail” keywords i.e. “Your Town Debt Reduction”. They’ll have fewer humans searching for this phrase, but you’re more likely to rank for (i.e. appear high in the search results) these phrases. An SEO’d blog (like this one!) can really help you by providing a framework for you to quickly and easily write SEO-friendly content so you get people to your website.

Once you have the content, you need some “votes” for your tomato soup i.e. your content. The best way to do this is

  1. Write articles on article websites. It’s free and it works. EzineArticles.com is the best, generally, but don’t buy the upsell.. it’s not really needed in most cases.
  2. Social Media – i.e. twitter, facebook, myspace, digg.com, stumbleupon.com – these are best suited to actual specific pages on your site. When using these, make sure the file name is your anchor phrase, i.e. YourSite.com/anchor-text-here.html for example.
  3. Blogging. Just google for [ “Anchor Text” “add comment” ] and you’ll find blogs that allow commenting; make a genuinely useful comment and you’ll get a backlink. Don’t just spam, or you’ll just be wasting your time. Take the time to read the post and write some real comment about it. This takes some time, but the well you’re digging can produce water for years to come.
  4. Craigslist… a lot of people overlook this one, but craigslist can definitely help your SEO if you post in relevant places.
  5. Forums. These are discussion boards, and the trick here is join a real conversation and say something useful, then when you do, be sure your signature contains your anchor text, linked to your website.

And that is the crash course on SEO. I’ll add some more sophisticated articles over time about using video, feeder domains, configuring wordpress, etc. but really, this is the root of the issue. Other systems are just icing on the cake, tactics but not strategies.

Also, not covered in the above is PPC (Pay Per Click i.e. paid advertising). Should you use it? It is exactly the difference between renting a house and building a house. If you rent, you move in immediately, but the minute you stop paying you get evicted. If you build a house it takes more work, but you’ll see more payoff in the long run if you build it right..but like building a house, things can go wrong and it can turn out to be more work than you expected. You can buy an existing house and move in, which looks like buying a seasoned domain that is pre-SEO’d (call us if you’re in a competitive market, we have pre-seasoned brands/domains for this). Buying an existing house (domain and brand) is more expensive than renting short term, but can pay off longer term, and you get to move in right away as well.

Happy clicking!

By the way, my favorite call-to-action for advertising is getting popular now: Call or Click – just that “Call or Click” added to the end of your ads.