Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Did you know that we have left the Age of the Information Economy behind and are now well into the Age of the Attention Economy?

What does this mean? It means that if you rely upon the Internet to conduct your business, the age of putting up a web site and getting instant results are long gone.

Now you must clamour for the attention of web surfers, your prospective visitors and customers, who are lured by the frantic actions of the billions of pages currently indexed on the web.

To give you some perspective, Google alone indexes over 7 billion pages.

Therefore, to survive means to grab people’s attention and you do that by using good digital rhetorical skills.

Now there’s a scary word – rhetoric. In my case, rhetoric was a term the nuns used to throw around in regards to the essays we wrote in English class. You know, the reading, writing, and rhetoric thing? Go back now to first year high school English; remember the purpose of an essay?

It is to grab your reader’s attention and persuade her to adopt your point of view, to agree with your argument. And that is what rhetoric is all about: rhetoric can be defined as the art of persuasion: of using words, either verbal or written, to catch attention and persuade readers to think, do, or believe what you want them to think, do or believe.


Mechanical Rhetoric

Now let’s apply this concept to search engine optimization. The first challenge is to grab your readers’ attention.

How do you do that? One big way you do that is by ranking high in the search engines, because then, when a user enters a relevant keyword term, your site will come up as one of the (hopefully) top 10 web sites!

Okay, so working backward, how do you rank high?

First, you fill your site with good, solid, well-written content. You offer value to visitors. The search engines measure your content and score it according to its value to users. In other words, you use the skills of good rhetoric, which includes the skilful, artful, and meaningful use of words.

Second, you select keywords that your users are most likely to use to search for what you offer on your site. The trick here is to select keywords that are likely to be used, but that won’t draw a big number of web sites in a keyword search. Here’s where you need to work with an SEO expert, or employ the use of special keyword software.

Third, you have a lot of quality sites that link to your site. These links are viewed as “votes” for your web site, and the “better” the site in the search engines’ eyes, the higher the value assigned to your site. The search engines look at the quality of the content on sites linking to yours, as well as their relevance to your site.

Fourth, you need to design your site in a search-engine friendly way. How do you do that?

First, don’t use Flash. You know those sites that have that introductory page where it says “Click to skip?” Well, the search engine crawler never gets beyond that page and therefore doesn’t index your web site. Also, avoid using JavaScript. Same thing there, the search engines get lost in the complex code it generates and that’s the end of their crawl on your site.

Second, make sure all your internal links are working, and make them text links that contain your keywords – in other words make them text links and NOT buttons.

Third, if you use image maps or pull down menus for navigation, make sure you also have textual navigation on the same page.

Fourth, pay careful attention to the content of your Title tag, Description tag, Header tags, and body text. As for your keyword tag, apparently Google doesn’t even look at it, but make sure you still have it contain all your site’s important keywords.

Also, make sure you use your keywords in each of these in a relevant, normal way. Some webmasters make the mistake of loading these tags with keywords in a manipulative, phoney way: the search engines can see right through this tactic and will penalize your site accordingly.

Also, in your body text, bullets, italics, and bold are weighted more heavily, and if possible, use your keywords here as well.

Keep in mind that SEO is a specialized subject that changes continuously, as the search engines update and change their algorithms. You need to be using a company that deals with SEO on a regular basis to ensure you get the best advice on your website.

There are many web design companies out there, but can they optimize your site for the Search Engines? Maybe this is one of the important questions you need to ask when looking for a website.

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