This is the second article in the series of hints and tips to help you with improving your website’s visibility in the Search Engines (otherwise known as SEO).

Look at your competitor links

Look at who’s linking to your competitors and see if they’ll link to you, hard work and not particularly fashionable but it still works. Checking through hundreds, or thousands of competitor links can be tedious but if you don’t do it you could be missing out on a potential gold mine of links.
You can use tools such as Yahoo Site Explorer to view the backlinks of other websites, or even push the boat out and download a Firefox plugin like SEOquake to give you a bit more information. Have a browse through the sites that are linking to your competitors and ask yourself:

  1. Why are these sites linking to my competitor?
  2. Would they link to me?
  3. Is there anything I can do to get them to link to me? (e.g. produce specific content, special positioning).

It makes sense, try and get yourself as many of your competitor’s links as possible, then outrank them off with some more creative link building and your own SEO techniques.

Good Usability means good SEO

Following basic accessibility standards insures that your site can be crawled and indexed by search engines, but as we know – that isn’t enough. Taking usability principles, such as good page markup, use of headers, titles and information architecture can give you a boost in search visibility.
In fact, when it comes down to it a lot of the things search engines look for, even off-site, you can relate them to end user needs. If you’ve got the user fully in mind, then it follows that you’re doing things right for the search engine too.
Having a good understanding of why search engines do things (and it’s always with the user in mind), rather than trying to find shortcuts (none of which work, by the way) will help you make better, more informed decisions about your website and business.

SEO is measured by ROI not rankings

While early judgement of SEO effectiveness can come from watching the net movement of various rankings, your campaign should be focused on ROI. There are a lot of companies that still chase “vanity” rankings: those that they’d like to have, but have no real business value.
Set your sights, your KPIs and your targets for the bottom line impact of your SEO campaign. How do you do this? Integrate your PPC & SEO campaigns and try to estimate the value of your keywords before you begin, this will give you a much better idea how much you should invest into SEO to get a return over your campaign period.

Localise, don’t just translate

If your site is international, make sure you do a thorough keyword and market analysis before starting SEO work.
Google doesn’t have the lion’s share of search in every country, for example, and cultural differences mean differences in emotional triggers and different searches. If you’re running an international campaign and all you’ve done is paid a translator to cater for other countries, you probably haven’t gone far enough. There is no substitute for good market research, and nowhere is this more important than in setting up your site in markets that are foreign to you.

Pay attention to the basics

This sounds like “teaching your grandmother to suck eggs”, but make sure you pay attention to on-page basics such as Title, Meta, Heading and content for a fool proof start in SEO. Showing search engines your pages are relevant for the search terms you want to rank for is one of the most basic and yet effective aspects of SEO.
The title tag (in the <head> area of your page code) is, as the name suggests, the title of your web document and therefore is seen as very important by search engines. Make sure that once you have done your keyword research that you use these keywords in your title tag where appropriate.
Both title tags and meta descriptions are elements of your page which are presented in search results, so here is your opportunity to increase your click-through rate from search results by crafting compelling wording. Don’t neglect your meta descriptions just because they don’t directly effect rankings – a high click through rate from SERPs may well boost your position!
Heading tags (<h1>, <h2>, etc) are your on page titles, and as such are also seen as important by search engines. Reinforce the keywords you are targeting with your title tag in your H1, and use lesser heading tags appropriately to create a semantic page structure which is good for users and for search engines.
Ensure you have enough text content on the page that search engines will deem your page worthy of being indexed, and write copy which naturally uses your core keywords as well as long tail phrases which may be relevant to your page.