Search Engine Optimization Unmasked - Pt 1

Tom Snyder photo by Tom Snyder on Feb 23, 2009

A week doesn't go by without someone asking us "How do I get my site to the top of the search engines?" The answer is a simple one:

1.) You and your site first need to DESERVE to be at the top 2.) Then you need every single element in your site that the search engine spiders use to determine that you deserve to be at the top absolutely correct.

That, of course is in a perfect world. But we all know that the world of search engine placement is far from perfect. But that basic premise can help your site place well in that imperfect world of Search Engines.

The primary goal of a search engine's organic listings is to produce the best possible results to a visitor search. That means when someone searches for a company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that sells sausage, the very first position on page 1 of Google should be occupied by a company located in the city of Milwaukee that actually sells sausage. And if there are several, the one that the most likely to sell the best sausage in Milwaukee would come up first. Using common sense, one could assume that would mean the company that has been in business the longest, has had a Web site for the longest period of time, has a great reputation and so has lots of other Websites linking to it.

So it's no surprise that a Google search for "sausage milwaukee" has Trivera client Usinger's as the #1 result. Not only that, but the actual shopping cart where you can purchase Usinger's bulk sausage products also comes up in on the first page as a separate entry, and little further down, Usinger's Gift Boxes come up as well. When Google lists local businesses on a map, Usinger's comes up in first place there as well. Additionally, and probably contributing to Usinger's success, is the fact there are also a bunch of other sites in the first few pages that refer to Usinger's. Klement's, another Milwaukee sausage company that hasn't been in business as long as Usinger's comes up #2. A few other local sausage companies also show up further down the list, and as you get deeper into the 435,000 results for that search, they get less relevant and less helpful to actually helping one find a Milwaukee sausage company.

And that is an example of exactly how every search should be. Unfortunately, the vast majority of searches produce results that are just the opposite. Incorrect, frustrating, useless and in some cases dishonest results often make searching an exercise in futility. And while that's bad for searchers, it's good news for Web site owners.

Going back to my original hypothesis, oftentimes, the sites that deserve to be on the top aren't built in a way for the search engines to determine that they should be at the top. But SOMEONE needs to be #1. So the resulting vacuum fills the first page with junk... that is until someone whose rightful position may be on the second or third pages of results finds an SEO specialist that help them move up and become the leader by default.

A prime example is the Varicose Vein Treatment market here in Milwaukee. 2 years ago, a search for that produced a list of directories, non-targeted medical information sites, and news links. What wasn't there were listings for any of the vein clinics in the Milwaukee area, even though there were over a dozen. All of them had Web sites, but there wasn't a single one that was built in a way that the Search Engines felt they should occupy the top spot. Great Lakes Radiologists was one of them.

In an effort to get serious about capturing a larger market share they contacted Trivera. Re-branding and repositioning themselves as the Women's Vein Clinics of Greater Milwaukee, gave us the opportunity to register a domain name with "vein" and "clinic" right in it. Even though they didn't have any actual clinics in the city of Milwaukee, "Greater Milwaukee" in their name gave us that legitimate entre into the search engines. The site was optimized using all the techniques and tools that Trivera has mastered throughout a history of SEO services that began before Google even existed.

The site immediately began to get traction in Yahoo, MSN and AOL. Because the domain name was brand new, Google kept the site in its "sand box" for a few months. But after that short period of typical probationary exile, the site skyrocketed to page 1 positions in every one of the 23 keyword phrases we optimized it for. Within 6 months there wasn't single targeted keyword phrase that didn't have them come up in position 1,2 or 3. Traffic to their site continued to increase, and two years later, the site still owns top organic positions. A plethora of Paid Placement ads now peppers the first page to try to undermine that succcess. But when you take the fact that people are 3 times more likely to click on the top organic result than any of the paid listings and combine that with the cost for those paid ads, our client has come out the obvious victor.

Two different cases, but a common moral. Whether you deserve to be #1 or not, you have little chance of getting there unless your site has been properly optimized. When the Search Engines determine who wins and who loses, you need to have your site built to let them know you belong at the top.

More on that in my next article.

-Tom Snyder

Share this article