Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Starting SEO

Starting SEO for your Existing Website
You may have recently launched a website or are about to launch a site that’s currently under development, but you have not given any thought to search engine optimization (SEO) until now. If so, then you may feel a bit overwhelmed. There is no shortage of articles and information about SEO online. Even a minimal amount of digging can give you a bad case of information overload which can leave you wondering how to apply various SEO strategies to your new website after it’s live, or even if it’s possible. 

It is possible, so don’t panic! Although it is ideal to implement SEO during your website’s development, you can absolutely employ an effective SEO strategy after your website has been developed, although you will face some unique challenges. This article really caters to small or micro-sized (one person) organizations. If you work for a larger organization, you may get more out of my article titled, What You Should Expect from an SEO Proposal.

My website needs SEO and I’m out of money

Small-to-medium-sized companies may not realize they need to budget for SEO for many different reasons including the fact that they’ve never heard of SEO until after their website is complete. Web development shops often bundle SEO into the overall development package under headers such as “search engine submission” or “search marketing” without a detailed explanation of what this actually means. SEO that is bundled together with website development may not actually be the comprehensive, full-service SEO that stand-alone SEO vendors provide. Just for clarification purposes, when I say website development I am referring to both the design and programming of a website. Most website development agencies provide both services, but lone consultants tend to do one or the other.

When SEO is bundled with website development, it can be easy for companies to dismiss it as an unnecessary cost which does not provide any clear value, particularly when they are trying to get their website completed in a reasonable time frame and within a limited budget. If you did not leave any wiggle room for SEO services such as on-page optimization, keyword research and link placement in your initial budget, you will definitely feel overwhelmed if you decide you need these services AFTER your website has already been developed.

The good news is, in most cases, you do not need to delay the launch of your site because you did not implement SEO. You should, however, take immediate action to correct the situation. Here are a few things you can do if you find yourself with a brand new website which has not been optimized for search engines.

1) Speak with your website development company to see if they have implemented any SEO tactics. What you’re looking for at this point is at least some basic keyword research, customized title tags and the presence of relevant Meta and ALT tags throughout the website. If your website has dynamically generated pages (e.g., shopping cart pages), ask about search engine friendly URLs. You may be surprised to learn that your website is fairly search engine friendly, even if it wasn’t on your radar during the planning phase.

2) If your web developer (in this case, your programmer) indicates that SEO has not been applied to your new site, ask how much it would cost to add some SEO components to key pages of the site. The cheapest way to do this is to create the SEO tags yourself or hire a consultant or copywriter to create them and submit them to your programmer for implementation. It should not be prohibitively expensive to optimize a few pages of your website once your site is live.

3) Develop a short-term and long-term search engine optimization strategy starting with optimization of your home page and a few key secondary pages, and track the results. You can then build a long-term SEO strategy which may involve hiring an SEO firm the following year if you can demonstrate results from your short-term SEO efforts.

Keep in mind that even companies that are lucky enough to implement SEO during the web build must continue to budget for SEO indefinitely. In fact, many SEO packages include optimization of 10-20 top-level pages of a website. Optimization of additional pages often costs more and may never be addressed, thus you will actually be ahead of the game if you plan for optimization of all your site’s pages and not just a handful of the top level pages.

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