Everyone has heard of, and been bombarded with, how important it is to ‘Optimize’ your website. The reason we hear so much about this topic is because it is vital to your online success. Having the greatest website ever created with incredible content and vehicle information is absolutely worthless if customers cannot find you. It’s like having a flashing billboard in the middle of the desert where no one ever goes. There are a number of experts and philosophies in this realm and most of them have good suggestions. But, like most important decisions, it is difficult tell the difference between golden nuggets and fool’s gold if you don’t have at least a basic understanding.

There are two main areas of maximizing your websites presence in the search engines – Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). SEM is paid advertising – you have the ability to buy or bid on placement of your website on search results pages and on other pages where potential customers might be found. SEM is an important part of the mix but I would like to spend time today concentrating on the other side – SEO. SEO is totally free, as long as you don’t count your research time, time your developer spends on making changes, and any consultant’s fees you might incur. Your goal with SEO is to make your site as search engine friendly as possible in order to move up in the ‘natural’ search results. So where do you go to find the tips and tactics to do this? A great place to start is with the undisputed leader in search engines – Google.

Google has many great pages and tools dedicated to helping website owners maximize their natural search potential. They will never reveal all the secrets of their search algorithms but they make the basics very transparent. Why? They want their search results to be as relevant as possible to the user in order to maintain their value. A great place to start is on Google’s Webmaster Central – http://bit.ly/9agPIe – this is the launching pad to many great articles for best practices.

While the target audience for some of these articles is the designer of a website, knowing the fundamentals is a benefit to anyone. Some examples of good articles to begin your studies are:
‘Google Basics’ http://bit.ly/aIJucT which goes over the basics of how the search engines work.
‘Webmaster guidelines’ http://bit.ly/98UJvQ which gives an overview of good site design theory
‘Anatomy of a search result’ http://bit.ly/d753rJ which goes over different terms for the text within search results and gives examples of each.

By reviewing the articles and suggestions Google makes available, you can arm yourself with one of the greatest weapons available – knowledge. This will make your next conversation, conference, or sales pitch more comfortable and meaningful and keep you in the driver’s seat.