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Some SEO Basics to Attain Success

Search engine optimization is an activity that will help your Web site rank higher on search engines, primarily to help your potential customers find you.  For the past few years, search engine optimization or SEO has come under fire as being ineffective and therefore a waste of your marketing money.

Part of this image is the emergence of black hat techniques and the companies that employ them.  In an effort to fool search engines, these companies try to, illegally manipulate how a search engine spider might see your Web site and therefore rank them higher.  These black hat techniques are often temporary, and always very dangerous.  Temporary in the sense that when you stop paying the company for your high ranks, they pull out their tricks from under your site so that it falls down in ranking, sometimes settling at a position that is much lower than when you started.  Dangerous, because it can get your site banned from search engines.

Fortunately, these deceitful techniques are always found out and search engines like Yahoo!, Google and Bing have constantly updated their search algorithms to defeat these techniques.  There are still companies that use black hat techniques but their client lists have since drastically dwindled.

On the other hand, white hat techniques like on-page SEO optimization, off-page SEO optimization, link building and creating better and SEO-friendly content are the surviving techniques, and which have been proven to be safe and effective.  Companies that use them have so far been successful in their campaigns.

There have been criticisms that SEO really does not do anything for your site.  You can be number one for keywords that nobody else wants or nobody else uses.  The critics say that for the really important keywords that would drive customers to your site, SEO cannot help you.

However, take a look at recent statistics to judge for yourself and see whether SEO works or not:

* According to Forbes' Ad Effectiveness Survey, 48% of senior marketers at different companies think that SEO is the most effective online marketing tactic that generated conversions; and

* SEMPO State of Search Marketing Survey found that SEO was the second highest way to generate returns on your investment.

What does this mean?  It is an indicator that, done right, SEO can be your most effective ally when marketing online.  SEO even exceeds paid placements and e-mail marketing in perceived effectiveness.  However, this is not to say that if you are a company looking forward to cash in on online commerce, you should just focus on SEO.  There are a lot of companies that made bad decisions and that killed their SEO efforts right from the start.

How do you succeed in SEO?  You have to:

1. Plan and research extensively.  You just cannot go to the Internet and decide to optimize your Web pages without careful planning.  What keywords would you target, who is your target market, and how are you going to go about it?  Like any marketing strategy, SEO should be well thought over and carefully planned, so that implementing it would take less time and have a better chance of success.

2. Educate yourself.  Not all SEO tactics are equal or appropriate for your products.  You should know what tactics would work best for you.  What is more important is that you have to keep yourself updated with what is happening in SEO.  Continuing education is very important because search engines often change their algorithm to improve their own search results.  Search engines also come up with new services that you could tap.  For example, Google started off merely as a search engine where you input your keywords.  Over time, they have introduced various refinements like Google Local that is geared for local businesses and just recently, they have launched a search service that caters exclusively to movies.

3. Test, evaluate and monitor.  It is not enough that you optimize your site once and forget about it.  As indicated, search engines change the way they index your pages.  What may have worked for you now may not work next year, and so you have to fine tune your SEO according to these changes.  Do not get discouraged if you do not immediately get the results you want, as this only means that you need to change some of the things you did for your site.  SEO is largely a check-and-balance exercise, and you have to find what works for you and why it works for you.