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Courtney Brown

SEO 101: Some Tools & Tips for Web Marketing Newbies (Now with Monkeys!)

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After much demand (and begging and pleading and even the occasional whimper), we have decided to have a little back-to-basics moment here on the Mack Web Solutions blog.

(Okay, so, it’s possible, we were the ones begging and pleading. Not the whimpering, though. That wasn’t us. Honest).

Regardless of how it came to be, the truth is that we felt a need to pull together some foundational information on SEO. For those of you who are familiar with this stuff, consider it a refresher.

For those of you who are new to the world of web marketing…welcome.

Serial Eucalyptus Officiation? Scholarly Elucidation Ogres? Starry Eyed Opals?

To start with, SEO stands for search engine optimization. This is pretty much a fancy (if succinct) way of saying, “stuff that helps you rank better in Google and Bing and Yahoo and all their assorted kin.”

We’ve explained the nitty gritty of search engine optimization elsewhere, but what you really need to know is this: SEO means placing specific, well-researched words in specific pages on your website in order to alert the search engines to the subject matter and value of your content and to show users that you have what they’re looking for.

So, in brief, it works like this. First, you make sure that your website is the best you can make it: clean, attractive programming and design, a site structure that makes it easy for users to find the information they’re looking for, and well-written copy that not only conveys what you do but also provides valuable knowledge to the people who might visit you.

Then, based on your lovely content, you find the right keywords for your major pages. These are the words that find the balance between the number of times they’re searched, their match for your content and services, and your ability to actually beat out your competition to rank for them. (There are tools for this. We’ll talk about that a little later).

Once you’ve found the right keywords (and really, you should only have one per page), you go about placing them naturally and prominently in the relevant pages. Conventional wisdom dictates placing them in your titles, URLs, copy, and images. However, beware. Increasingly the search engines are on the look out for anything that seems out of place. Don’t overuse them. Don’t awkwardly shove them anywhere you think you can. Don’t set Google’s spidey-senses a-tingling. That way lies…well, nothing good.

(Of course, keyword placement is only the first step. Once Google & Co. know what you’re talking about, you have to convince them that you are the best answer to the questions searchers are asking. You do that with a link building & social media strategy and content marketing (That’s our approach, but that’s for the advanced class. Don’t worry about it for now).

And SEO matters because…?

Unless you are the world’s only purveyor of hand-crafted citrus seed mosaics, odds are good that there are other people on the internet who do what you do. They sell the products you sell or provide the services that you provide or train the monkeys that you train.

Good SEO is a way to make sure that if someone out there in the universe has a bonobo desperately in need of some behavior modification, they can find you, instead of cut-rate Marshall the Monkey Man.

And, as a special little bonus, making sure your site measures up to the search engine standards also ensures that you get more targeted visitors to your site and that those visitors are able to find what they’re looking for and therefore more likely to become actual customers.

Some helpful stuff, just for you. And anyone else who can use the internet.

So, obviously the most thorough and reliable way to make sure your site is up to snuff, SEO-wise, is to find a professional to help you out.

That said, the universe has always had a soft spot for gifted amateurs. While we are always happy to answer your questions and help you out in any way we can, we’ve also pulled together a number of resources to help you better understand and, if you should so desire, take a stab at some SEO yourselves. These resources are simply skimming the surface, but will provide
a good foundation to start your SEO journey:

Earning Your Google Rankings: Not So Easy Anymore
Unfortunately, the world of search and search engine rankings can be more volatile than Vesuvius on a bad day. We put together this blog post on the most recent changes in the ever-evolving field of web marketing and its broader implications.

The Beginner’s Guide to SEO
SEOMoz develops tools for people in the SEO industry and we here at Mack Web Solutions pretty much bow down in awe before them. They’ve created this nifty overview of SEO and what it takes and how to do it. They periodically update it to reflect the changing face of search and it’s pretty fantastic. We can’t recommend it strongly enough if you’re interested in learning more. And, honestly, who isn’t?

Google AdWords’ Keyword Tool
We use this sucker for the main muscle of our keyword research. We collect a list of seed words and then plug them in this guy for an idea of the traffic already generated by the keyword, as well as alternatives and variants. It’s no replacement for human interpretation and instinct and ingenuity, but it’s a pretty decent supplement. (Beware though: we’ve heard that sometimes it leaves out good synonyms, whether through oversight or nefarious purpose. Always check the variant lists against your own ideas and mental thesaurus).

SEOMoz’ Keyword Difficulty Tool
This is one of the gizmos we use to determine the viability of a specific keyword. (Unfortunately, you have to be a Moz member to use it). But it’s pretty nifty. It gives you an idea of how hard it would be to rank for a particular keyword, based on an analysis of the pages that already rank for it. If you’re serious about doing your own keyword research and optimization, we really do recommend at least checking out the free trial on this guy.

And in conclusion…a pinata.

Just kidding. I don’t really have a pinata for you. I just like them. All brightly colored and full of candy and encouraging of cathartic birthday violence.

Really, this is just scratching the surface of all that SEO and web marketing require, but we wanted to give you, whether you be newbies or old hands, a quick rundown (you can get more each week when you sign up for our eNews).

Please don’t hesitate to come to us with ideas for other tools you would recommend and any questions.

Unless those questions have to do with primate domestication.

For that we refer you to Marshall the Monkey Man.