Sunday, December 3, 2006

Best Practices: SEO That Works

SEO in the broadest sense works when you carefully consider and plan your campaign.

This means having a good understanding of:

• Your offering
• Your unique selling proposition
• Your competition
• The resources that can be used for your campaign
• Best SEO practices

This section will help you achieve clarity on these points, and provide a best practices SEO checklist.

Create an Elevator Pitch
A good way to begin planning your SEO campaign is to create an elevator pitch.

An elevator pitch is a one-or-two sentence "story" that makes your offering and target audience crystal clear. So named for something one could deliver between stops on an elevator, one of the most important aspects of the elevator pitch is its succinctness.

A good elevator pitch is dramatic, tells your story, and can be used for sales purposes. Most important, if your elevator pitch is right, you should be able to use it to understand the most important keywords to use from an SEO perspective.

Know Your Competition
Learn from your competition. Compile a provisional list of keywords and phrases you want to target with SEO. Then Google, Google, Google these keywords like crazy.

Examine the results of these searches carefully. On the one hand, the search results from your targeted keywords should be related to your offering. If there's no connectionif the sites you come up with belong to completely different realmsthen something is wrong and you should reexamine your SEO campaign premises.

On the other hand, your site and pages need to be at least as good as the competition's offerings. Otherwise, SEO or no SEO, you won't pull ahead of the competition in natural listings.

What can you learn from the competition? How can you improve upon it?

Use AdWords as an SEO Tool
As core SEO becomes simply one of the tools used to advertise destinations on the Web, it makes sense to supplement pure SEO with targeted CPCCost per Clickprograms, such as that provided by Google AdWords.

AdWords should be used as an auxiliary to SEO programs, not as the primary focus of an SEO campaign. Attention should be paid to distinguishing within AdWords between content and search ads.

As an auxiliary SEO tool, the best approach with AdWords is oblique: don't target your primary SEO keywords (you can rely on SEO for this) as much as conceptually related topics that might draw visitors who might otherwise overlook your site. For example, a relationship and dating site might use AdWords to target people interested in Meg Ryan movies such as Sleepless in Seattle.

Work with Consultants
SEO consultancies have become big businesses, and many of them are reputable outfits that will help you put implement the practices outlined in this article.

But beware: this is also an arena that tempts shady operators. Review SEO success claims with some degree of skepticism, and make sure to verify claims whenever possible. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


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