Search Engine OptimizationJust three years ago, “Google” was added to the dictionary. The trademarked term is not defined, however, by the company bearing the name but rather the act of searching for something online using the Google search engine. This addition is just one example of how search engine use in the past decade has infiltrated most aspects of our culture. And it’s not a surprise: the use of search engines has skyrocketed over the past ten years. So it’s no wonder that companies are willing to pay for their page to rise to the top of a result page. A report released by eMarketer shows that paid placement on search engines and organic search engine optimization (SEO) are more effective than traditional advertising and marketing tactics and is the most cost-effective way to gain new customers. Channels of communication with consumers are evolving and growing significantly in online space, so making sure that your site shows up in a Google or Yahoo search is critical to businesses. Marketing firms have entire teams of people that work on optimizing your search engine placement, but here are a few ways to raise your SEO for those with a tight budget (we are, after all, in a recession). Many of the most-used search engines today (like Google, Yahoo, Bing, MSN, etc) are all crawler-based. They each have an algorithm that “crawl” or “spider” the web to create automatic listings. What they collect through the information provided in the title, body copy and elements of your website design is then put into the ranking algorithm that is eventually delivered to the searcher. But SEO isn’t rocket science, and there are several steps you can take without having to break the bank that will bump up your rank.

Enhance Your Page Titles
One of the first things that spiders look for is page title. Make sure you have a title that is specific to your product–don’t be vague or general about titling the information on your page. Having a static title on every page of your site that only includes your company name or the overall site name will undoubtedly drop your site on the search engine result page and make it harder for consumers to connect with you. Instead, include both the website title and the page title so that crawlers can pick up more information.

Only Publish Unique Content
It’s hard to know exactly how many websites exist at any point in time. But netcraft, a company that surveys the web in attempt to accurately report the number of pages in existence, estimated last month that there are over 235 million websites in existence. How can you stand out competing with hundreds of millions of other sites? With the ever-increasing number of sites competing for the same audience, the way to get hits on your page will be to have content that no other site has. And because so much of search engine results are based off of the content, it is almost necessary that your content be search friendly–don’t bother with Flash, Javascript or AJAX when it comes to the body copy on your page.

Think About Your Image Names
When you’re designing web pages, it’s easy to keep get lazy with your labeling system and save your images with nondescript titles, like “IMG_001”. But making sure that your images have relevant titles will help with optimizing your placement on the result page–put yourself in the shoes of the search engine user and try to anticipate what they would search.

Utilize the Tags
This advice is for all the bloggers out there (and companies or organizations that have a blog on their site). Blog search programs, like Technorati, search tags to deliver results to those using their services, so make sure you utilize them correctly. Try to stick to a rotation of no more than 20 subjects and tag every post with no fewer than two tags. Not only will proper tagging make page navigation easier for the reader, but it can actually bring more readers to your site.

The final thing that you can easily do to better your position on a search engine result page is to make it easy for others to link back. This step can be as simple as adding a widget that allows readers to easily “link back to this article.” If you really want to increase your presence online, though, it may take a bit more work. We’ve all heard the old saying: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Although admittedly clich,, this phrase is fitting: networking is a fundamental part of running a website. Try to get other bloggers in your niche to link to you and encourage your readers to submit your posts to digg or StumbleUpon.

There you have it. Five tips that you could implement by the end of today. And if it weren’t obvious enough, don’t forget to link back to this post.