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Starting an online business? 5 SEO tips before you begin



eCommerce is an enormous growth area and for those of you about dip your feet and go online for the first time, this article aims to point out some of the initial SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) factors involved.

Many businesses, from start-ups to those already established with a bricks and mortar presence, are cognizant of the reach of the web and are going online to promote their business. Whether the goal is to sell products or market services, to do either effectively, the starting point has to be the Business Plan. This involves formulating an online marketing strategy and identifying website requirements.

Your website is a project with an IT component, and like any project, the requirements can prove to be the most problematic part. Many IT projects fail because they don’t meet requirements that weren’t specified in the first place. It sounds obvious doesn’t it? So, the design of your website should start with a Functional Specification which draws on a business analysis of the needs and goals of the website.

Search Engine Optimisation?

For most, one of the goals will be to reach an audience via organic search. This could be a search on your brand name or your product. When you get ‘googled’, you want to be found! For some, the design will be a trade-off with the SEO requirements – the most beautifully designed site in the world won’t bring you customers if they can’t find you!

Factors affecting search friendliness

So, below is a list of things to think about when you decide to go online:

1. Domain Name

Your domain name is critical. A domain name that encompasses your keywords will be much more easily found than one which bears no relation to your business.

Also, a domain name can be used effectively for geo-targeting.

For example, www.partyponiesireland.com has the keywords in the domain name and will rank better for Ireland than www.partyponies.com

2. TLD

Top Level Domain name or country code. This is the .com or .ie part of the domain name. All other things being equal, a domain name with a .ie will rank better for a target market of Ireland than a .com.

Anyone can register a .com, but .ie names are subject to restrictions, generally you have to be a legitimate registered business. For this reason, a .ie may confer more trust amongst visitors and is definitely recommended for those targeting Ireland only.

3. Location of hosting

The country where your website is physically hosted on a server is a factor in how search engines view the geographic relevancy of your site. For Google, a .ie domain hosted in Ireland will default to appearing in search results for Ireland. A .com hosted in Netherlands will default to that country’s search results. However, you can indicate to Google your target country using Google’s Webmaster Tools.

4. URLs

Have your developer create search-friendly URLs (page names) which include your keywords.

5. Technical

  • Flash is popularly used for graphics on websites and can create very stylish websites. Unfortunately, search engines don’t read Flash, so you need to balance the graphic design against content that search bots can crawl and index.
  • Load speed is now a ranking factor with Google. If your site looks cool and zeitgeist, but is slow to load pages, then Google may rank it lower as it believes visitors won’t wait around. Your web developer can combine JavaScript and CSS files to speed up the load time.
  • The technical infrastructure of your site is important to allow search bots to crawl it successfully. Ideally, your site should validate to XHTML and CSS standards. See validator.w3.org

Are you about to create a new website? If so, is there anything else you think should be on this list?



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The Author:

Based in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, I'm a Digital Marketing and SEO consultant working with small businesses to improve their profile and build their business online with a collaborative and knowledge-sharing approach. Whilst concentrating on optimising sites for search engines, the opportunities presented by social media and networking are also part of the picture and this fast-moving space is very exciting for anyone doing business on the web. It's all part of the 'conversation'. http://www.hal9000.ie/seo/

Add Your Comment

  • http://twitter.com/fredchannel Fred

    Nice post Jennie. Welcome to Bloggertone!Websites are not something new by now. People should understand that investing on a website should be like investing in a shop on the hight street… but much better. In other words, the chain of events is the same: you leave the shop ready and beautiful and… now the question comes up: how do I bring more people into the shop?Two important and simple things that I would add are:1) Tell your developer to include and XML sitemap. This will help search engines index all the pages better.2) Even though description and keywords for every page of the site have lost relevance, the “Title” is still very important, even more important that the URL of the page.

  • http://www.btbtraining.com/blog Niall Devitt

    Hi Jennie, Welcome to Blogggertone! One further consideration is whether to include a blog which will seriously help with climbing up the rankings on Google. I also think that the location of hosting is a point that not many people realise, great post, thanks for sharing. Niall

  • http://www.seefincoaching.com/blog Elaine Rogers

    Good content???
    Welcome to Bloggertone Jennie – good to have you on board :)

  • http://www.cgonlinemarketing.com/ Christina Giliberti

    Hi Jennie – welcome to Bloggertone

    Great advice ; 0 )
    Just a few extras: Title tags, keyword density and relevancy. Competitor research, keyword clouds and blogs.

    Do make sure you track your efforts in analytics and constantly re-research terms.

    Tina

  • Anonymous

    Welcome to bloggertone Jennie, great advice.

  • Leslie

    I think this blog post is very basic and does not help much for SEO.

    Point 1 is wrong – you will not rank better if the area is in your domain name. Almost all ranking have nothing to do with domain name except in exact match searches, not a good idea for businesses.

    Rankings are more to do with competition, age of site, and links – many links usually.

    Quote – The technical infrastructure of your site is important to allow search bots to crawl it successfully. Ideally, your site should validate to XHTML and CSS standards. See validator.w3.org {end quote}

    This is nonsense. If a website can be easily crawled by bots they will. It has been stated in many places by Google that this is not a requirement – have a read of Matt Cutts.

    I hate to rubbish what you write but it should not be publish in a place like this when the information is misleading.

  • Patmbrosnan

    hi all
    I would like to make a comment on leslies statement,google ranking on the age of a site has very little to do with rankings. It is how you optimise it for the spiders, and a domain name is important if you keyword research your domain. If you have high ranking keywords in your domain and optimise them in your content you are on the right path. And google are now looking towards more good content that heavily relying on keywords h tagging your content is very important,and of course if you are willing to pay big money for ad words. It has come to my attention lately that google have a campaign out there ringing businesses with websites,and quoting as much as thirty two euros for each keyword that they will rank. Pat Brosnan http://internetmarketingconsultantkerry.com

  • Leslie

    hi Pat,

    Your logic is flawed. Does this mean that you are only going to optimise a site for those keywords in the domain name?

    A website can easily be optimised for hundreds of keywords. Build a brand and get away from this awfull advice to people – this is old.

    http://www.cubeonlinemarketing.ie/

  • Alan Grace

    Important factors affecting SEO which you didnt mention

    – Meta tags,page titles and meta keywords
    – Backlinks from other sites with good pagerank
    – Keywords in content and proper content written for Googles spiders

    All these are probably more important than any of the 5 points you did mention.

    Hosting location has little or no affect on SEO, as you said you can target it using webmaster tools but the hosting location is pretty much irrelevant and has no major bearing on SEO results or Googles spiders ranking the website.

    Text in Flash can be read by Googles spiders and has been possible since June 2008 – the comments in your post are dated and incorrect!

    http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/06/improved-flash-indexing.html

  • http://www.writewordseditorial.ie Derbhile

    Useful post – it’s about getting the basics right. Do you believe good copy is automatically SEO friendly, or do you think businesses should invest time in testing words against each other and building their copy around that?

  • http://www.hal9000.ie Jennie Molphy

    Thanks for the welcomes and the feedback.

    The post was aimed at a starter audience and was intended to be a guide to a few initial things to think about before you set up a website. Obviously, in 5 brief points it’s not a guide to SEO, much less a comprehensive guide to SEO!

    Once the initial things have been thought about, then it’s on to content and optimizing pages. After that will come your link-building phase (you can’t build links before you have a URL to link to).

    And after that, how successful you are will then depend on your competition.

    At WordCamp in Kilkenny earlier this year, the Google search representatives stated that there were over 200 factors at play in ranking websites. But they don’t say what they all are, or the importance of each one – the exact algorithm is not disclosed. This can lead to contention amongst SEOs, (and anyone who subscribes to Enterprise Ireland’s eBusiness forum will vouch for this!) as often it’s a judgement call.

    What remains true is that the goal of search engines is to return relevant search results and this is the thing to keep in mind when starting out with a website.

  • http://www.hal9000.ie Jennie Molphy

    Hi Alan,

    I think the hosting location is something people need to be aware of. For example, I know of one small business that have an entry-level site with Vistaprint. This is hosted in Netherlands and they don’t have access to their root domain folder, and don’t use Google Webmaster Tools. Fortunately, they got a .ie TLD so they’re doing ok on Google. But the point is they didn’t know where they were hosted, or that it mattered.

    I’ve found ‘The Art of SEO’ (by Enge, Spencer, Fishkin & Strachiola (2010)), to be a great resource. They list hosting in the local country to be a factor in targeting a specific country (p.275).

    In relation to the spidering of Flash, I stand corrected. Google can index content in SWF files, although other search engines may not be able to.

    However, best practice advice from Google is: “Try to use rich media only where it is needed. We recommend you use HTLML for content and navigation. This makes your site more Google-friendly.” (Jun 2010 http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=72746#1)

    So, I think it’s still a factor to think about.

    Jennie

  • http://www.hal9000.ie Jennie Molphy

    Hi Derbhile,

    I do think good copy is automatically SEO friendly, but perhaps it’s not the whole picture.

    The thing about content is to ensure that it uses the terms and words that people actually search on. For this some keyword research with a keyword tool is useful. Then it’s a case of proofing the copy for users and then a second proofing for search engines.

    User-friendly and Google (or search engine)-friendly are not mutually exclusive.

    Jennie

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  • Anonymous

    SEO is one of the best techniques which fruitful to optimize our meta keywords for natural listings , backlinks and for juicy traffic. Whenever i here about blogging, wordpress blogging come in mind.nnSEO NYC

  • http://www.buycirclesfollowers.com/ Circles Followers

    Great tips! I started a blog for my up and coming business and been looking for some good tips. I’m kind of a newbie to seo so I’m thankful for all the help I can get. Contemplating if I wanna turn to seo companies for help or if I should just follow your tips and try to do it myself…