While the social, real-time Web is hogging all the buzz as of lately, it's still important to keep an eye on good old fashioned search engine optimization for your company's site. SEO can be an expensive endeavor, especially if you hire an expert, but it doesn't have to be.
We've covered the basics on how to improve your business website's search rankings, and here are a few tools to get you started without breaking the bank.
Analyze your site
First, you'll need to know what your existing site's strengths and weaknesses are. What better way to analyze your site than through the eyes of the world's biggest search engine? Google's free and easy-to-install Webmaster Tools will crawl your site and give you the data you need to analyze which queries and keywords are bringing people to your site, where your inbound links are coming from, and internal links within your site.
Any issues with your site will be found under the "Diagnostics" tab, which informs you of any broken links, malware, duplicate title tags, duplicate meta description tags and offer suggestions to improve your HTML mark-up.
Now that site speed is a factor in your search rankings, Google offers a free browser plugin called Page Speed that gives feedback on your site's page load time and identifies any glaring issues. Yahoo offers a competing tool called Y Slow that does the same thing.
Figuring out what keywords you want to capture is a critical component of SEO, and once again, Google has a tool to help with that. While its primarily geared to pay-per-click (PPC) search keywords, Google's search-based keyword tool will scan your site and generate a list of recommended keywords for different landing pages on your site.
At the end of the day, Google's tool exists to encourage you to buy search advertisements from them, so it wouldn't hurt to pay a few bucks and use one or two other tools alongside it. WordTracker ($59 a month) comes highly recommended in the SEO world. Other popular choices are Wordze, which costs $39 a month and SEOPivot for $140 a month.
Get Inbound Links
While there are products available that claim to help with generating inbound links, the highest-quality links (and thus, the ones that will most benefit your rankings) tend to come naturally.
Arguably the best way to generate inbound links is by creating quality, useful content (a company blog is essential) and effectively promoting it using social media like Twitter and Facebook.
Some site owners prefer to email other site owners and request links. This can be effective, but should be done thoughtfully and within reason.
At the end of the day, search engines are looking for content that is genuinely relevant to their users' queries. Avoid using methods that try to trick them into ranking your site highly and instead use that energy to make a well-constructed website with highly relevant and useful content. Top that off with some good old honest SEO tactics, and you'll be well on your way to high rankings.