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posted: 12/26/2011 5:00 AM

Website content key to attracting search engines

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Joanne Osmond speaks to many of us when she says, "A lot of people who know their trade well really don't know websites."

Osmond's trade is websites. Fortunately, she knows them well.

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Osmond is president of Market Drafters Inc., a Lake Villa firm that designs websites for small businesses. Her designs are based on templates that are less expensive than original graphics.

Most of Osmond's sites are self-managed, which means business owners can do many of their own changes. Once chosen and adapted to a particular business' needs, the design template isn't changeable, but text, Osmond says, is easy to change.

If you have a modicum of Internet ability and a little time, you may not need Osmond, or someone like her, to make your website more effective. Even so, her approach is worth noting.

"We spend a lot of time on the balance between what looks good and what will attract a search engine," explains Osmond. She also pays attention to site navigation, "so someone can find the information they want with one or two clicks."

If site visitors can't easily find the information they seek, Osmond says they simply leave.

Your site must be visually appealing, Osmond says. To her, that's "one font, with the same colors and same design on every page." Photos help, especially, Osmond says, before and after shots of a cabinet refacer's work or the exterior of an attorney's office building. "If I see the building, I know where to go," she says.

Visual appeal certainly matters, but content is key for both search engines and the selling process any good website should do.

"Your website must answer the questions people have," Osmond says. "It must help them solve the problems" that brought them to your site in the first place.

"Don't hoard your knowledge. Share it. Put what you know on your website, so people say, 'I understand. I'll look here a little more.'"

What you know must be stated in a way that will attract search engines, however. "Google can help," Osmond says.

Go to Google keywords, she suggests as an example, type "cabinet refacing" and Google will respond with a list of words and phrases that relate. Those words, Osmond says, should be sprinkled liberally throughout your website content -- though in a manner that makes sense. "Don't write 'cabinet refacing' 100 times," she says.

"Type in lowercase, because that's how people type when they do searches," Osmond says. "Use some bold face in your text, because bold type has a stronger rating. Chapter and section headings help."

Links to related businesses matter to search engines as well. That cabinet refacer might link to businesses that sell countertops or sinks, for example. A Realtor should link to local school sites.

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at JKendall@121MarketingResources.com.

2011 121 Marketing Resources, Inc.

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