Search engine marketing is increasingly becoming popular with people from all walks of life and businesses of all hues adopting the web in a big way. The global recesssion has clearly thrust SEM into the spotlight as a great way to drive targeted traffic that is measurable and also making a huge difference to the bottomline of any company, the $ generated in revenue.
Search engine optimisation(SEO) and Pay per click (PPC) marketing are being accorded increasing importance as affordable means of tapping the market potential by reaching a targeted audience on the web compared to the traditional TV and/or newsprint advertising which are more expensive and the results are hard to measure. It is all the more imperative that SEO practitioners adopt more white hat creative methods to improve the visibility of their clients’ sites.
1) On page optimisation:
The search engine algorithms in place today are way more sophisticated than what it was a few years ago. This makes SEO such a dynamic field that SEO techniques which worked well no so long ago have lost their charm in the present.
With the incredible level of testing and research being done today by the likes of the amazing team at SEOmoz, the only on page factor worth its salt in terms of pure SEO value and ranking on the SERPs seems to be the title tag. The alt tag is making a comeback. The header tags have diminished in their SEO value and are now more useful to describe the information hierarchy on a page. Some of the other factors like well formed URLs and internal linking can help but to a certain extent.
All in all, in my opinion, I would conservatively attribute the impact of on page SEO factors to be between 30% and 35% when it comes to ranking well on the SERPs. The majority of the action clearly takes place outside the website and hence outside the sphere of influence of what a site webmaster can tweak on her site.
2) Top Quality Content:
Content is the currency of the web. The more unique it is and higher its value in disseminating valuable information, the more powerful it is and gets traded heavily on the web by being passed around.
Even top shelf companies who are a force to reckon with in their domain of business get so clouded in their vision of their industry that they either get too technical in their content delivery or just are not in tune with the demands of their market. Everything evolves in life and so do consumers as they search for products/services using search terms that are not technical or even colloquial.
All that needs to be done is to do a keyword research to find out what prospective customers are searching for. A look at Google Trends, Amazon and Twitter will also reveal what search terms are hot in a particular industry and pretty much the talk of the town at a given point of time.
The next thing to do would be to go to industry specific forums related to the keyword and read posts wherein users are asking questions related to the industry using these popular keywords. You must remember that not everyone who surfs the web is looking to buy a product/service. Everyone has some problem or the other and people are looking for solutions to solve their problems.
What starts off as a search for general information leads a user to looking for more specific information, then research and review of the products/services available and culminating in the purchase of the relevant product/service.
The content developer/webmaster can focus on topics that target these most searched keywords and develop content that provide solutions/advice to the pressing problems in that industry in sync with the targeted keywords.
Every piece of content written on the web does not have the propensity to go viral. Creating viral content is one of the most bandied terms on the web. It is not easy. You can get it right only after many attempts. So it is wise to dwell on topics that are popular in the present term (and relevant to your niche) and develop content towards that end.
You would be wise to avoid the curse of duplicate content within your site. This can arise due to two versions of the domain in existence, namely http://www.site.com and http://site.com You can also have the case of multiple distinct URLs leading to the same content. Canonicalization can help reduce this problem.
In the case of scrapers stealing your content and getting indexed first where they appear to be the original creator of content, I am sure Google would be able to find out over time as backlinks to your site’s content would be a strong signal for it to recognise the true owner.
If you post on your blog, the blog and ping feature should alert the bots straightaway. You would be well off tweeting the post/article on Twitter. Google scours the Twitter landscape for new content and is sure to pick up your tweet thus confirming the ownership of the content.
In my experience, I have found that personal experiences invoving trials and experiments in a particular niche that lead to well defined results seem to be quite popular and have a good chance of getting great link love. Readers on the web are discerning and can easily separate the chaff from the wheat. I have dwelt at length on unique content and its seo implications  in a previous post.
3) Social Media:
Let us be honest about this. Social media is not suitable to all businesses selling products/services. It is very powerful tool to leverage in businesses like travel sites, music and video sites etc. Twitter is the darling of the cybermasses today and undoubtedly has captured the imagination of millions of users worldwide.
The general belief is that to sell products or services on Twitter, one must have lots of followers. This means the same person has to follow others in order to make the others follow her. She ends up with thousands of followers and in turn follows thousands. When she has a critical mass of followers, then she can promote her services/products. I totally disagree with this.
I bet you will agree with me that when you have thousands of followers, you will not have the time to read all the tweets and follow links. Your twitter screen will be utter pandemonium with messages trickling in every minute or so. If you are struggling to keep up with your tweets, imagine the plight of your followers. They are in the same boat as well. There is no focus and it is a virtual free for all. It is well nigh impossible to get any message through to your followers in this scenario.
Judicious use of social media involves building relationships. If you are in the field of manufacturing baby nappies, then there must be like minded people out there in the hundreds (and not millions) who will be interested in your product. You would be well off building a good laser focused community on Twitter or Facebook or any other popular social media platform to leverage your position as a domain leader in the baby nappies industry and then disseminate information and/or sell products/services to an interested community.
4) Backlink Profile:
At this point of time, links are a singular source of authoritative signals to the search engines. If your site has an impressive backlink profile as a result of hard work put in over the years by you, the website owner or due to outsourced link building efforts of an industrious SEO professional, it has a huge impact on your site’s ranking on the SERPs of all the major search engines as it is not easy for a site owner to manipulate this.
Again. all links created are not equal. This may sound cliche but it is very much true. The key today to a successful link building campaign is the the number of unique domains linking to your site. The higher the domain diversity, the more powerful is your site’s influence in the rankings on the SERPs.
It is equally important for a site to link to its other authoritative peer sites as this strengthens the notion of the site’s good neighborhood aspect. It is also natural to invite some spammy links in the process as a site owner does not have control over who links to her site.
Some of the other important factors to consider are:
- Variation in anchor text of incoming links
- Smattering of domains ranging from strong to weak provides for a natural linking landscape
- Synergy in topicality of linking domains
In conclusion, the real time response of the web through social media and instantaneous response from users by way of blog comments etc gives anyone the opportunity to streamline the operations of their domain of buisness (niche) and helps them understand what their specific market is demanding which makes provision of what is required all the more easier.
Ravi Venkatesan is a senior SEO consultant at Netconcepts, an Auckland search engine optimisation company  that offers both natural search and paid search  to its clients in New Zealand and Australia.