Ignorance is not bliss in online marketing. Common errors by inexperienced entrepreneurs can result in poor sales largely because few people visit their website. Why? Because little or no effort has been invested in the website’s search engine optimization, probably the most important aspect of having a website to date.


If you have a website, you are probably aware that where it comes up in everyday Google searches can make or break you. If I’ve lost you already, let me explain. Everyone using the Internet nowadays has particular interests and at one time or another will type a short phrase into the Google search field in order to find websites that represent their interests. For instance, if they have been invited to attend a baby shower, they may search the Internet by using the phrase “baby shower gifts.” What happens next is critical to your website if you happen to sell baby gifts. Listed on page one of the Google search results will be the most popular websites offering baby gifts, ranked mysteriously by a Google algorithm which takes into account the amount of traffic a site may get, how many outside links connect with this site, how relevant its domain name, page title, page description and actual content are to the phrase that was searched, how “rich” or all-encompassing that content may be, how often that content is updated, how many internal site links relate to the search, as well as the fulfillment of a gamut of other search engine optimization parameters.


While most people with a website have heard of search engine optimization or SEO, the majority of business owners I have worked with regard it as a non-essential service designed to rob them of their precious marketing funds for no apparent benefit. And it doesn’t help that their Spam filters are brimming over with emails on a daily basis from SEO “experts” promising them the top spot in Google rankings. I admit that does get a little tedious and hard to swallow!


For that reason, I include SEO as part of my website design services which removes any reason for my clients to bristle about its expense. In fact, it is with relief that they applaud this decision since they’d prefer to work with someone they trust. From my standpoint, it gives me a chance to show them an improvement in their rankings which in turn increases traffic and sales. Many of them say I am a magician. But I know it is just being aware of what Google is looking for.


One Big Reason Your Rankings May Be Suffering


If you happen to be part of an extremely common category of websites such as baby gifts, for instance, the likelihood of your website appearing as the number one search result, not to mention even appearing on page one of the first twenty search results, is pretty remote. In fact, it would not be surprising if your website came up on page 1,056 of all search results when you realize that a Google search for baby gifts just returned 24,200,000 results in 0.22 seconds.


Wow! That’s some steep competition! And which lucky website appears at the top of the list? I clicked on it and found it to be extremely well-represented in the category of baby gifts, with many choices, and lots of buying options presented in a professional and attractive manner. I also found it was hosted by Yahoo Stores which probably facilitated cutting-edge, sophisticated functionality in terms of shopping cart performance, in addition to advanced assistance in search engine optimization.


This did not surprise me. Since I have clients who have stores on eBay and Amazon in addition to an e-commerce website of their own which uses an excellent shopping cart powered by ShopSite, I am well aware that you can easily reap the benefits of relationships with such Internet behemoths in boosting your Google ranking. Whether the additional registrations I have conducted for all my clients’ websites with Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics also contribute to excellent search rankings is not a confirmed fact, I would venture to say that if the associations with Google doesn’t positively affect their rankings, certainly the knowledge gleaned from them does!


My daily foray deep into the visitor analysis for each and every one of my websites gives me a definite competitive edge in understanding what affects visitations, searches, rankings and results. Further, each of the Internet giants I have mentioned has a financial stake in the success of its stores by sharing in a percentage of sales, charging listing fees or charging a monthly shopping cart fee, all of which I consider well worth the money! You definitely get what you pay for.


Of course, I can’t argue with the value of using PayPal as your store’s payment gateway which allows you to utilize their wonderfully complete functionality to accept credit cards for free! Years ago, some of my clients were paying exorbitant monthly fees to banks for such services, many of which were deficient in performance and pitifully weak in back-office support. It is truly refreshing to have found some of today’s Internet giants to be both easily accessible and wonderfully responsive to user needs!


And I should add that the ultimate leader of the pack, Google, offers unbelievable options in terms of a knowledge base on practically every possible subject, at no charge…yet is one of the richest companies in the cosmos.


What To Do To Improve Your Google Rankings


But back to your baby gift website and its less-than-stellar Google search rankings. What can you do to improve your ranking if you are competing with the entire world? First, just as I would recommend in any marketing effort, your e-commerce website would perform better in Google rankings if it were appealing to a special segment of a market rather than an entire generic category worldwide. Instead of targeting “gifts,” or even “baby gifts,” better to try to narrow the category down to describe a more unique aspect of baby gifts, thematically, geographically or some other way which makes your effort different from all the rest. While you will still be competing with a huge number of other websites, if by chance someone is more specific in their search terms to include your specialty, your Google ranking may be positively affected. Another helpful strategy is to include a blog as part of your website because that content gets updated more regularly and will attract Google’s attention. Generally, while I continue to advise being frugal with your marketing expenditures during this economic downturn, I urge you to be sure to promote your website everywhere you can to increase traffic on your own. In addition to adding your website’s URL (www.yourwebsite.com) to every mode of marketing you use including your email signature, your business cards, letterheads, advertising, newsletters, flyers, conversational networking opportunities, etc., it is also your responsibility to scour the Internet for the endless array of sites that will include free listings about your business such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yellow Pages, Yahoo and Google Free Local Listings, etc., as well as Forums and Blogs on appropriate subjects where comments can be posted including linkbacks to your website.


In analyzing your Google rankings, don’t put too much emphasis on your fear that perhaps it is your web designer’s fault for not having a facility for beautiful graphics because Google doesn’t even see the artwork on your website. And if it did, Google search rankings place no importance on how innovative, striking, appropriate or tasteful your artwork may be, sad to say. Rather, search engine optimization techniques required for successful ranking rely more on strategies which can ironically serve to denigrate a website’s aesthetics if not controlled by a web designer who has a complete understanding of what is necessary to achieve Google’s parameters while keeping a grasp on what maintains professionalism and viewer allure in website design.


Often, when I conduct a search on Google in a particular subject just to see what competition may exist for a client I am working for, I am disgusted by the look of some of the websites which have made it to the tops of the search return lists because clearly they have achieved their enviable position in the returns by nothing related to graphic design sophistication! Yet, their SEO specialists (if not the web owners themselves) have cracked Google’s code for ranking superiority by virtue of simply comprehending what defines a properly optimized website regardless of how it looks! I often wonder if there is a certain bonding that occurs among computer geeks that gives them a universal commonality making it a cinch to master the voodoo of SEO unlike others of us who focus more on the importance of appearances and branding excellence.


In any case, I am happy to report that both aspects can peacefully coexist to the benefit of the owner of the website who can enjoy an outstanding presence at the top of the search charts while winning the hearts of shoppers with the glamour, guile and glitz Google has missed altogether.

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