4 Components of Boosting SEO Performance

By Eric Papczun, Performics

Online marketers continually seek ways to get more performance out of their Web site's search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. Some even redesign sites altogether to more effectively allow for a new user experience which, if done correctly, can set the proper foundation to significantly increase search engine rankings.

Whether redesigning or working with an existing site, marketers can improve indexation, boost performance on the search engine results page (SERP) and deliver qualified consumers by leveraging four strategic components in every SEO activity:

1. Indexation
2. Content optimization
3. Link building
4. Distribution

For successful indexation, marketers should ensure that their sites are "friendly" to search engines. This can be achieved with properly formatted URLs rich in keywords and free of parameters, which will enhance a site's chance to rank well for targeted keywords. Marketers should also analyze the information infrastructure of their site and the related technologies to identify potential implications for the search engine crawlers since search engines cannot see through or make sense of such technologies as Flash, Ajax, or JavaScript to understand the content and themes those presentations may include. Auditing a site's navigational structure represents just one core component of an overall infrastructure assessment. It aims to identify any spider obstructions or PageRank flow issues and make the necessary adjustments to ensure the engines can see and index all public content.

Minimally, marketers should set up an HTML sitemap with a list of links to their Web site's pages to make them more visible and accessible to site crawlers and users. Hosting all of these links with a sitemap improves site visibility and navigation. Using technologies like Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) can also help by minimizing the amount of formatting in the HTML page code and making site navigation more crawlable for the engines. Marketers can also improve site indexation quality by removing duplicate content, optimizing Flash/Java Script elements, and creating and registering an XML sitemap.

Once the site is available for effective indexing by the engines, creating and optimizing content elements for the site will help marketers boost rankings even further. Any content management system (CMS) in use should take SEO needs into account to auto-populate key SEO content. A Web site's content must be valuable to the end-user and the search engine spiders; so marketers should structure video, news and image content for universal search without compromising site aesthetics.

Marketers should also keep the increasingly universal and personalized SERP in mind since it represents one of the biggest current shifts in SEO. Depending on searcher's intent, geo-location, and recent search history, different users see different results for the same or similar queries. In light of this trend, marketers need (more than ever) to understand the keywords their target consumers use on the engines, as well as their site's target market and competitive advantages. This enables marketers and their SEO teams to focus their efforts on optimizing Web pages to capture traffic generated by the keywords that their qualified customers are searching for on the engines. Marketers can also focus their keyword research efforts to:

- Map out the purchase process or conversion funnel
- Map keywords according to searchers' intent
- Create list of critical, high-volume keywords
- Discover keywords that drive offline search demand
- Ensure that the site incorporates content consumers may receive in offline channels
- Gain insights from site analytics and third party research
- Prioritize keywords based on all factors
- Create goals for each targeted keyword and track success

With the right site content in place and visible to the engines, marketers can take advantage of link building and distribution to further bolster SEO success.

Link building helps Web sites and their pages establish credibility and authority with the engines. Each inbound link a Web site receives serves as a reference or vote for that particular Web site. Search engines evaluate the value of each link by determining the relevancy and authority of the site and page that is providing the link. The more relevant and influential references the search engines can find, the more trusted a site becomes. To help boost the impact of each link, marketers should work with referring Web sites to optimize those links by ensuring the links contain descriptive anchor text, which is the text within the link. As a simple best practice, the anchor text should include the keywords that best describe the specific content provided on the target page.

Another important element, distribution, helps marketers get the most out of their SEO efforts. Marketers should consider creating and distributing such multimedia materials as news, social networking communications, maps, videos, images and blogs to get more exposure in universal search results. Enhancing sites for mobile consumption also earns more site visitors, and this growth trend is likely to continue.

Altogether, these competitive strategies help form a strong foundation for any SEO program and provide a realistic, cost-effective plan that will increase natural search visibility, rank and qualified traffic to a marketer's Web site. Understanding and embracing these strategic components will help marketers effectively reap the rewards SEO can provide.

About the Author: Eric Papczun is Vice President, SEO and Feeds at Performics, the performance marketing expert inside Publicis Groupe.