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A Beginner’s Introduction to SEO

David Marshall Posted by David Marshall, Vice President of Editorial and Digital , Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

David Marshall heads the editorial department, which is responsible for 40-50 new titles per year and 5-10 digital products or initiatives. 

A Beginner’s Introduction to SEO

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Can People Find You in Cyberspace?

What: So you’ve got your website set up, and you’ve told everyone you know about it. Now what? Next come the hard parts:

1) Figuring out what millions of people in cyberspace are searching for

2) Persuading a certain percentage of them to visit your site.

3) Making sure the percentage who visit are the type of people who would really want your books or services.

You can improve your chances of being found by choosing optimal keywords and phrases that are screened for both volume and competitiveness. For example, don’t simply use the word “diversity” if you are writing about diversity in the workplace. You will be competing with hundreds of thousands of other sites that have chosen this keyword. Instead, find one that is more specific, such as “diversity training.”

Choosing your keywords carefully will help the search engines find you. Tools like Google Adwords Keyword Planner, (which lets you know the monthly searches on any given word) will give you a sense for what keywords are too broad and vague and which keywords are specific enough to attract an audience.

Why: The more people who arrive on your doorstep, the more mouths you can feed. If optimizing the search engines can double your website visits, and you convert every 1,000 visitors today to $5,000 in speaking engagements, then 2,000 visitors should net an extra $5,000 in revenues. If you sell 50 books to every 1,000 weekly visitors, doubling your traffic means selling 50 more books every week.

When most people enter a word or phrase into their favorite search engine, they ultimately click through from the first or second page of results. If your site is back on page 16, most of your potential customers won’t find you. Why settle for page 16 for “diversity” when you might win page 2 for “diversity training”? Sure, fewer people will type in “diversity training,” but they’ll be more qualified to purchase your products and services because they have self-identified as seekers of help in this area.

How: I recommend you start with a mini-audit of your current Google, Yahoo, Bing, and AOL rankings. Then, re-evaluate your keywords. You can use several free tools to test which keywords may work the best for you. After you have chosen the best keywords, make sure they are in the optimal positions in your website to be picked up by the search engines.

How Much: If you do this yourself, it will not cost anything except for your time. Or your Webmaster can do this for you in conjunction with SEO specialists for a fee. $1,000 is a reasonable fee for a one-time consulting project. Pages without Search Engine Optimization tend to have a limited shelf-life; they draw attention when they’re new and then their traffic drops to next to nothing. Pages with good SEO can bring steady traffic to your site for years, particularly if they’re written in an “evergreen” way (e.g. they are written intentionally to be timeless, with no references that would date them).

Remember, SEO is just the first step. Once you succeed in bringing people to your site, you need to make sure a good percentage of them take meaningful action there. This is called “visitor conversion,” and you can read more about that here: http://blog.kissmetrics.com/what-converting-websites-do/