Be Your Own SEO
What can a SEO firm do for you that you can't do for yourself? Nothing, if you have the time and resources. But to be fair, they can do it quicker and better, because they have the know-how, experience and all the right programs. Search engine optimization is a field of study that not everyone could or would want to master. Most SEO's don't advertise services unless they've had some success in the area and first hand experience to back it up.
You do have to be careful when choosing a good SEO because there are some incredible sales pitches out there. Think about it next time you run across one. Anyone can guarantee you a number one placement for your site name - it's the only site out there with that domain name so if it doesn't come up number one, it's a no-brainer to fix.
Other sales pitch busters:
-Why would you want to be ranked #1 on keywords that aren't going to bring you traffic that you can convert into sales? You wouldn't, it's a waste of effort.
-Why would you want to optimize pages for search engines that people aren't using? The number one search engine will bring you 90 - 95% of all your search engine traffic and 99.9% of all your search engine traffic will come from the top three search engines and the 2 major directories. Optimize your pages for the top search engine since that's where most of your search engine traffic is going to come from.
-Why would you want your site submitted to hundreds or thousands of search engines and directories? There are only a handful of legitimate search engines and directories you absolutely need to submit to -- the rest are a complete waste of your time, obscure directories, link farms and FFA pages that will bring you tons of junk mail if you submit a valid e-mail address, so don't fall for a pitch like that if you're going to pay for SEO services.
Actually, it's going to cost you, either way. Research, analysis and optimization is going to take up a lot of your time and if you buy automated programs to help you monitor and track your progress, well, some are quite expensive. SEO covers a lot of territory that the average person just doesn't have the time and resources to tackle. A lot of improvements you can do yourself but if you make a major mistake or don't get it right, it could cost you more in the long run. Either way, results are not guaranteed no matter what anyone tells you, so if you're not up to it, save yourself some time and grief and hire a professional. The return on your investment will be more sales from increased 'targeted traffic'. Targeted traffic means people who want to buy what you are selling are finding your site instead of your competitors sites, not just zillions of hits from uninterested parties.
First, you really have to know your targeted market to select keyword phrases that they will search on to find sites similar to yours. Once you select the right combination of keywords to attract your market, you must incorporate them into your pages and optimize each page to get as high a listing as possible. You can rank higher than other sites if your pages are optimized better than theirs are for the same or similar keywords if you match the search engines criteria closer than they do. Incoming links to your site also help determine your positioning. As the algorithms change and shift, you will want to test and tweak each area of your pages to get the most optimal results possible to beat your competitors.
First it's all about just getting listed in at least the top 30 of each major search engine, then it's about getting listed in the top ten. To rank #1 for as many targeted key phrases as possible is the ultimate goal. The more listings you get for related search terms and keyword phrases, the more traffic you will get. Once you get in the top thirty, it's all about outranking your competitors for that coveted #1 spot. Your industry competitors aren't necessarily the same as your keyword ranking competitors. In search engine ranking, your competitors are global for each keyword, regardless of the industry.
You have to start with a baseline report of your current standings so you can measure your progress. Optimization to maintain high rankings is not a 'one time only' thing, it's an ongoing process of monitoring and tweaking, and is dictated by the web itself where content, sites and search engines are constantly changing. Write down a few keyword phrases that you think will bring targeted traffic to your site and make sure you optimize a page for each keyword phrase. Do it right for each key phrase and watch your rankings rise.
The plain facts are:
You have to make changes. If you don't change your code and text in your pages (or pay someone to do it for you), your ranking will not change. You must make changes if you expect your results to change. "If you keep doing what you've been doing, you're going to keep getting what you've been getting." If the search engines are not crawling your site, it's because you haven't made it easy for them to find what they are looking for. Any SEO that tells you they can get you listed higher without ever making changes to your code or pages, is probably going to eventually get you penalized or banned from using unethical tactics over time. SEO firms can't do anything to consistently raise your ranking without your cooperation, and how good your results will be is dependent on your willingness to make changes and implement the advice that is given you. A good SEO will charge more to re-write your pages for higher rankings for you. That's the price difference between standard (reporting and consultation so you make the changes) and premium (complete code editing, formatting, creating additional optimized pages and copy writing changes). If you don't feel comfortable editing your pages or creating new ones, hire an SEO copy writer who knows how. Some SEO's may be able to legitimately raise your rankings temporarily, but not for long without your cooperation. If you don't make regular changes and monitor them or pay someone to do it for you, your overall results will not be consistent.
You must analyze your traffic. You cannot measure the success of an SEO campaign without stats. If you do not have access to your traffic statistics, how do you know which search engine is bringing you more traffic? How do you know which pages to tweak for higher results? How do you know if your high rankings are bringing you traffic that converts into sales or if your other marketing campaigns are bringing the traffic? The bottom line is, you don't. SEO firms can analyze your stats and tell you exactly where your search engine traffic is coming from and what keyword phrases people are using to get to your site.
If you are still serious about doing your own SEO, be prepared to spend several hours each week on it, and at least download the free 30 day trial of WebPosition Gold 3, run your own baseline report and follow the advice given in the program. Search engine optimizers use many different programs to run reports and make analysis of your site, but this one program is a good start for do-it-yourselfers because it teaches you the terminology and basics of SEO with an up-to-date search engine criteria database. Follow the advice and you could truly see your site traffic nearly double within weeks. You will be surprised at how making just a few changes to your pages can dramatically increase your rankings and traffic. You have nothing to lose by doing it yourself.
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