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Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) on a shoestring

The economy may be in a slump but fewer marketing pounds do not need to hold your search engine optimisation efforts back. In fact, with so many of us logging on for savings on everything from food shopping to cars to holidays, now is a fantastic time to take your web address higher up the search engine listings.

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The economy may be in a slump but fewer marketing pounds do not need to hold your search engine optimisation efforts back. In fact, with so many of us logging on for savings on everything from food shopping to cars to holidays, now is a fantastic time to take your web address higher up the search engine listings. Although a cohesive, corporate SEO strategy is a costly undertaking in terms of both time and money, it is possible to make a real dent in your online marketing 'to do' list with these top tips for search engine optimisation on a shoestring. 1. Do your research Approaching your new SEO project in the same way as you would research a presentation, sales deal or other business event is a real time saver. By brushing up on the latest SEO theories, search marketing thinking and competitor activity, you'll be in a much better position to take full control of online branding and secure better search engine results. Researching an SEO project can be done completely for free. Check out independent web sites and industry forums such as SearchEngineWatch or SearchEngineGuide. Any decent SEO book will also include links to free downloads and seminars. Industry sites review the tools of the trade often making it easy to keep abreast of trial memberships, beta versions of useful software programs and new releases at reduced prices. 2. Check out the competition If you don't want to direct your cash towards text books and courses, checking out what your competition is doing is a quick and cost free way to identify web sites to target for link backs, pick up keyword suggestions for optimisation and recognise good on-page optimisation processes. As search engine visibility is based on important on-page and off-page factors, set aside at least a couple of hours to go through your main competitor web sites with a fine tooth comb. How often do they update? What keywords appear most frequently? What kinds of information do they include on the site? Are they making use of multimedia content? Keep a log of your findings and refer back to it as you progress. The next step is to check out the sites providing your competitors with backlinks. You can do this by using Google and the link:site URL function or by downloading the more detailed (and free) trial version of Advanced Link Manager. This handy tool not only shows who is linking back to other sites but also shows the link text and breaks referrers down by search engine. Add any sites that are relevant to your own list of sites to approach. This technique can save you pounds on subscriptions to media services. 3. Use your existing client base As a business insider you will use very different terminology to your clients and potential client base. The only way to ensure you're directing your efforts towards the right set of keywords is to ask your customers how they find you online. You can add to their efforts with your own keywords and then whittle down the list to a handful of terms that your SEO efforts should be directed towards. Spend time getting this right as it's much more costly to change tack mid-project after realising that your resources are being used on a set of words that won't bring you the desired business. 4. Use social media sites The explosion of social media usage is one of the most exciting developments of the web 2.0 generation. Most are free to use and with an estimated 270 million registered social networkers worldwide, they are an exceptional treasure trove of potential traffic and quality link backs if leveraged correctly. Although you will have to invest time in social media activity, the best sites such as Blogger, Digg and Furl are all free. Creating a grass-roots presence on these sites is an excellent first step on the road to higher visibility and, while updating your blogs and book marks, you are creating highly visible links to your site. 5. Invest in a professional copywriter With all of the money saved on steps one to four, it's essential that you don't scrimp in the one area that can make or break a strong SEO presence: web site content. Good content should include a good keyword density, use synonyms, add value to the site, be interesting to read and reference important terms in the title. All of this, and it should ideally result in tangible conversions. SEO copywriters know how to craft text that takes into account these all important on page optimisation concerns without impacting on the user experience. About the author Rebecca Appleton is head of the search engine optimisation team at SEO agency, Top Position. An award-winning online journalist, she oversees the digital marketing, social media, strategic link building and web site copywriting activities carried out for clients in the UK and USA. Find out more about Top Position's SEO service at www.topposition.co.uk.

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