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Search Me!

Use SEO to rise to the top of your customers’ web searches
By Jim Groff
May 07, 2010

Competing for a top spot in a web search is a frustrating business. It is almost impossible to know how many kitchen- and bath-based pages of information you may be competing with on the web right now. New content (web articles and blog entries) is created every hour. At the same time, only the experts really know exactly how a search engine like Google or Bing works—and their formulas are constantly evolving.

With that in mind, even if your company has the best website in the world, one of the first things you can do to help push your website to the top of any search results list is to remove obstacles to search engines—or “optimize” your site for those searches. Today, about 75 percent of all clicks result from natural, or organic, searches. That’s why a properly executed search engine optimization (SEO) program is so crucial to distinguishing yourself from your competitors online.


DEFINING SEO

As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work and what people search for. Optimizing a website primarily involves editing its content, HTML and associated coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines.

Typically, the higher a site appears in a list of search results, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine. SEO may target different kinds of searches, including image search, local search, video search and industry-specific search engines. Focusing on SEO has several advantages:

• It boosts traffic, maximizing the value of an existing resource: your website.

• Because many in the building materials industry neglect SEO, a strong SEO program can provide a company with a competitive advantage—prospects find you before they find a competitor.

• Unlike many marketing strategies, SEO can be precisely measured and analyzed through a variety of metrics: search-engine rankings, site visits, length of stay and others.


TAKING CHARGE OF YOUR SEO

As is the case with any kitchen and bath business, marketing efforts must be tailored to who you and your customers are. Because the web changes so rapidly, SEO must be a focus both during a site’s development and on an ongoing basis as the site—and the Internet—evolves. Whether you are your own web administrator, or you use an outside source, the best site development involves a SEO strategy that includes the following elements:

Content. You’ve always known that web content must be fresh and varied. Improving SEO is yet another reason to tend to that detail. Think in broad terms of what items will not only be of interest to your customers, but what might increase a web page’s value in a search. Photographs, video, news and blogs are all excellent ways to ensure that content contributes to search-engine ranking on the broadest possible basis.

Keywords and keyphrases. Be extremely conscious of your keywords and where you place them. For example, if you want customers looking for metal kitchen cabinet knobs to find your site in search engine results, find a natural way to work the exact phrase “metal kitchen cabinet knobs” into your writing as much as possible—on each appropriate blog post and on all static pages related to that specific topic. The extra appearance of specific terms not only identifies the product/topic to your customers, but makes a web page more visible to search engines. A word of caution: Web browsers and search engines are more sensitive than ever to the practice of packing metatags into HTML. Find ways to include keywords organically.

Link-juice flow: This tricky term refers, generally speaking, to the process of how your page “ranking” with search engines improves as more websites link to your site. The more links that exist from other web pages to a page on your website, the stronger your ranking and visibility will be with a search engine—and the more traffic will be driven to your site via searches. In order to make the most of this “flow,” you should identify which pages of your site are strongest for search engine performance and encourage links from other qualified web pages.

Any company that neglects these and other key elements of SEO, such as online press releases, regularly refreshed content and an ongoing SEO review, risks the very real possibility of significantly curtailed site visits, an unnecessarily lowered online profile and a weak prospecting effort. In addition, the savvier companies will spend time monitoring its SEO results, analyzing the effectiveness of its approach and continually modifying and updating its SEO program.


—Jim Groff is president of Baublitz Advertising, a full-service marketing firm that has served the building materials and construction industry since 1976.
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