Search engine optimization (SEO) has evolved from straightforward and fairly passive keyword tagging to a much more complex and dynamic use of social media. Some of this evolution is due to changes in Google’s and the other search engines’ algorithms, but some is due to a more competitive landscape, as companies and organizations look for ways to differentiate themselves from their business rivals.
Here is a list of SEO options, in order from least to most labor intensive.
|Meta tags: Keywords||Easy, straightforward. Not as effective as they once were, however, because of keyword abuse.Use Google Adwords to find synonyms. Also check site analytics for search terms used to find your site and ask viewers via focus groups or online surveys what kinds of information they’re looking for. Use their words in addition to the official keywords.|
|Meta tags: Descriptions||If a page has a description, it appears in the search results instead of the first few lines of the page. Indexing “spiders” look for descriptions.|
|Page titles||Search engines love page titles. Make sure each page’s title is unique.|
|ALT/TITLE tags for images||As well as making the site accessible to people using screen-readers, the spiders will index images if there are descriptions in their ALT and TITLE tags. (You need to use TITLE for Firefox—ALT doesn’t work on Firefox, but TITLE doesn’t work on Internet Explorer.)|
|Keywords in running text.||On each of your pages, concentrate on your organization’s mission and competitive strengths. Show how you differentiate yourself from others in your field or geographic area.Make sure your text is text—don’t embed text in images unless you’re willing to add ALT/TITLE tags to each image.Use Google Adwords to find synonyms. Find the uncommon terms—not just “mammography,” for example, but “diagnostic mammography.”
Note that the writing can sound artificial if it’s too dependent on official keywords.
|Page names||It may help to use distinct page names—for example, “contactus.htm” rather than “_1234.htm.”|
|Site map||The site map can help viewers find pages and makes it easy for search engines to index all pages on your site.|
|Google Places page||Google lets you create a page tied to your locality. The search result shows a link to your own website, a photo if available, and more information with a map and Google Earth image.|
|Google Map page||Create a map of other businesses, activities, and organizations near your location. For example, make a map of local restaurants and coffee shops in your area.|
|Search engine registration||The search engines will find you eventually, but it speeds up indexing if you register with the main search engines—Google, Bing, AOL, Ask.com.|
|Blacklists||Occasionally check the search engine administrator pages and blacklist sites to make sure your site hasn’t been blacklisted by mistake.|
|Custom error page with a link back to home||Your Error 404 (Page Not Found) page should include a link back to the home page so that the search engines don’t dead-end.|
|Meta tags for music and video||It’s possible to add meta tags so that the spiders can find and index your music and videos. Remember to tag Flash animations if you use any. YouTube lets you provide detailed descriptions, which the search engines will index.|
|Press-release distribution sites||Send press releases to distribution sites such as http://PRLog.org.Submit articles to article sites such as http://ezinearticles.com.|
|Press pages||Have a page on your site with all your press releases and photos. Link to all possible published stories about your organization.|
|Job sites||In addition to your own careers page, put jobs on local, national, and international job sites.|
|Calendar sites||Make sure that you list classes, events, and workshops on your own calendar page and outside calendar pages.
Use sites like American Towns, local tourist/events sites, local newspapers (online and in print).
|Social media: LinkedIn||Whenever an employee is mentioned on the website, provide a link to his or her LinkedIn profile.|
|Social media: Facebook Pages||Set up a business page (this used to be called a “Fan page” and is now just a page). Must be updated regularly to be effective.
LinkedIn now lets you create pages for your business as well.
|Social media: Twitter||Use hash tags to brand tweets from your organization. You may need to vet tweets, at least to start, or find a trustworthy tweeter inside your organization to manage this function.|
|Social media: Blogs||Blogs on your site will generate hits and raise your search engine rank, and the more interesting and active the blog is (i.e., you receive many comments), the better.
A blog linked to your site (for example, a blog by a trustee) is not as effective as an in-house blog for ranking purposes, but can help create a buzz.
Blogs have to be updated regularly to be effective.
|Google Alerts||Make sure you know when your site and organization have been mentioned on the Internet. Alerts can be sent immediately, daily, and weekly.|
|Comment and review sites||A customer-service function. Watch for compliments and complaints about your organization on listservs and blogs in your domain (CNET reviews, Amazon, WebMD, local papers’ blogs, etc.). Respond to all complaints immediately, if only to say that you’ll respond within a day or so.|
|YouTube||YouTube videos are indexed automatically; good instructional videos can create a buzz.|
|Flickr||Also indexed automatically. Flickr helps you create community interest about your organization if people take photos of your organization’s events or location and tag them with your name.|
|FourSquare||FourSquare.com lets people “check in” to your geographical location and create a buzz using their smart phones. Best for stores, restaurants, museums, and other businesses with actual physical sites.|