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SEO Tips for People Who Aren’t Dummies!

By Philip Lim
Posted Saturday, June 26, 2004


In the world of marketing online, one topic comes up over and over
with great frequency: site rankings. It can sometimes seem to be
the 'holy grail' in the highly competitive world of online
marketing, where search engines rule supreme. The reality is that
unless you have deep pockets indeed, SEO optimization in the long
run will be more affordable than simply buying placement with
click campaigns and advertisements.

This is the good news. The bad news is that the process is slow,
and it can take months (and months and months) of dedicated effort
to achieve decent rankings (one reason you don’t want to abandon
those paid campaigns while optimizing your site). But it is well
worth the time and effort in the long run, since it addresses the
one issue that is foremost when marketing your product and
services online: people use search engines such as Google and MSN
to do their looking. And search engine listings that are highly
ranked consistently outperform 'paid listings'.

So how do you get your site listed and ranked highly? Does it take
dedicating your life fulltime to this effort, or specialized
knowledge? The answer is "yes" and "no". It can help tremendously
to hire the assistance of a firm that specializes in SEO (and, in
fact, this is highly recommended). They can give you professional
guidance in this arena, and steer you away from common mistakes.

But for those with a limited budget (which is most of us, nowadays,
it seems) it’s also possible to do your own site optimization, and
work on a long-term campaign to help your site rise. It isn’t easy
(unlike those ads and books online that promise overnight success
with no effort), but by rolling up your shirtsleeves and diving in,
you can learn a tremendous amount, and help your site get found
when people type in your products into a search engine.


Search engine keywords are what lead people (as in potential
customers) who type in phrases in their favorite search engine to
your site. When they go onto Google, Excite, or other search engines
and directories, and are looking for a specific item, keywords are
the ones that they type in during their search.

To market effectively to them, you will need to think like them
(this is the basis of all excellent marketing). You will want to

What phrases people type in when looking for your product, service,
or content during their online searches (including the most common

misspellings, by the way). Not sure? Try looking at your web stats
for your site. You should see an extremely valuable area called
"search strings", with a list of words underneath it.

These search strings are the phrases that actually brought people
to your web site. Which ones were the most popular? You’ll want to
note these. But you’ll want to add more.

Sit down for a minute, and think of every possible phrase people
might use for searching for your product. At this point, don’t
edit yourself, just let the words flow and write them down. If
you sell used Chevrolets in Alexandria, VA, you might come up
with "used cars, used Chevrolets, vintage cars, reconditioned
cars, Chevrolet dealers, Alexandria VA car dealers, Alexandria
VA used cars", as just a start.

By now, you should have a list. Go through it again, and decide
which ones seem the most focused for your product or service. You
want search engine keywords that will bring targeted customers to
your site, who are interested in doing business with you, and the
right keywords can help accomplish this. Be specific and relevant
in your choices. Then, alphabetize your list, since some search
engines and directories list pages alphabetically; so use your
best phrases in alphabetical order whenever possible for better

Next, analyze which keyword phrases are realistic for obtaining
high rankings. While you may sell used autos, and want to get top
rankings for that term, ‘used autos’ is an extremely popular and
general phrase, and odds are, difficult to get good rankings for.
But if you sell used Chevrolets in Alexandria, Virginia, then it’s
realistic to hope for high rankings for search engine phrases for
‘Alexandria used Chevrolets’. You’ll also get a more targeted
audience (think ‘more likely to buy from me’), since most of your
customers will probably come from your locale).

At this point, you should have a list of keywords. If you have a
very short one, or are having trouble thinking of some, you can
gain access to professional software at minimal cost. Just start
a Google adwords campaign, or a CPC campaign on Overture. Each of
these sites have "keyword suggestion" tools that will give you
several keywords based on your product or service, and will
include the relative popularity of each one.


Once you have your keywords, you’ll want to use them in the right
places. The goal is to help search engines find your site for
those phrases, so you will want to place them in spots the engines
look closely at. These include the page Title, inside the meta
tags, inside the heading tag, in the domain name (more about this
in a later lesson), and the keyword tags.

You will also want to sprinkle them liberally throughout the
content (text) of your site, with special consideration for the
top of your page and its first paragraphs. This is especially
important on your home (index page), which is the one that most
search engines will cache when spidering through. And please,
have some real content on your page, and not just a list of
keywords, or your site could go down in its rankings. Search
engines do rank according to content relevancy, and the site that
says "Our dealership provides quality used Chevrolet cars,
reconditioned to meet our customer’s needs," (with at least 100
words of good, relevant content) will always rank higher than the
site that says, "cars, cars, cars, buy quality used Chevrolet
cars, quality used cars are here". In addition, you won’t drive
away customers offended by poor quality writing and obvious
over-usage of marketing phrases.

But you do want to maintain a certain ratio of keyword density in
your text; a keyword density of 5 to 7% is usually recommended. If
you don’t feel comfortable writing copy using keywords, a
professional copywriter who specializes in online writing can help


Mistake #1: One common error that many people make is to forget
to place ALT tags for their graphics. You may have a beautiful
logo or graphic on your web site, but if you don’t have an alt
tag, the search engines can’t "read it". Be sure to place
keywords there, and to label graphics with names that reflect

Mistake #2: Always have text on your site. When creating your
site, search engines depend upon text to decide what your site
is about. The more relevant the text, the better. The spiders and
bots can’t "read" graphics as mentioned above. Don’t just make
the text for the site one big graphic, as some firms do. The
search engines will skip over the graphic, and assume you have no
content at all.

Mistake #3: Finally, please don’t spam (by trying to ‘hide’ your
keywords by using a font the same color as the background, or
repeating keyword phrases over and over in the title and meta
tags). Search engines are now excellent at finding those who try
to break the rules (and their technology for doing so is getting
more sophisticated all the time), and will drop spammers from
their indexes like a hot potato. So play by the rules, and when
in doubt, ask an ethical SEO firm for advice, or visit one of
the many excellent forums online (such as Jill Whalen’s High
Rankings Search Engine Forums).

Your site will rise more quickly, and enjoy higher rankings, if
you follow these tips and their advice. And your traffic will
increase, at no cost to you!

About the Author
Philip Lim is the editor of which is dedicated to
teaching newbies or beginner marketers to internet marketing the
ropes. Enroll into our free 10 days intensive email course:
"Strategies for Internet Marketing Success". (


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