The thing about the terms ‘SEO’, ‘SEF’ and ‘SEM’ is that clients looking for web design don’t have a clue what it really means 99.9% of the time. And the sad part is that most web designers don’t either. So this post is about how to tell the difference and how to choose a web designer who will give you the best shot at reaching your business goals on the internet. So, what do these terms mean in the web design world?
SEF / Search Engine Friendliness
- SEF can be described as everything the web designer and web programmer does to your website to make it FRIENDLY (easy) for search engines to find and rank. Some of these things could include having links made of text instead of images, building your site with CSS instead of tables so the page has less code and more relevant content, having correct tags like H1, H2, ALT, XHTML, etc, a proper XML sitemap, circular navigational architecture, and even proper URLs like ‘/aboutus.html’ instead of ‘/$%-something/index.php’. SEF also deals with usability for your website’s visitors to navigate your site intuitively. This is all done in the development and building stage of your site.
SEO / Search Engine Optimization
- This is the most often used and most misunderstood term that gets name-dropped every time a client is being pitched for a web contract. Many people talk as though SEO is a mish-mashed combination of both SEF and SEO and still only know half of what either one is! SEO actually has its roots in marketing
and is a monthly/yearly ongoing job. One of the things connected with SEO is KEYWORD TRACKING which is finding the most highly searched keywords on the net for your industry and target market (we use www.wordtracker.com; there is a monthly fee but you can try it out free for 1 week -hint!-). These keywords should then be used to ensure the links on your website have the highest search value and to monitor keyword density on each page of your website’s content. For example, Google likes a website to have around 4% keywords on a page. So if you want to get ranked for the term “restaurants owen sound”, you should have that term appear 4 times on your page, assuming there are 100 words total within the page content. Using keywords more often than that can be interpreted as “keyword stuffing”, and can actually harm your search engine rankings.
So, anyone who tells you that they will give you an SEO’d website for the low start-up design fee for your website is either not being truthful or, more likely, is simply uneducated in the industry. If a company tells you, however, that they will give you a Search Engine Friendly website and make your website ‘SEO ready’ …then they probably know what they are talking about which will make it much easier when you go to incorporate SEO marketing techniques.
SEM / Search Engine Marketing
-I would describe this just as it reads; marketing online. One of the things you can have done or do yourself is to submit your website URL (www.yourwebsite.com) to search engines like Google, MSN Live and Yahoo. You can also submit your URL to directories, write comments on other websites that talk about your topic to share in online communities, start social networking 2.0 accounts like on Facebook or Youtube, and start promoting your own community to drive the traffic to you. You can also create a newsletter that you email out to your client lists to keep them informed of your business’s happenings, along with using RSS feeds to push your content out into the net. At the very least, you can pay for Google Adwords or for a company to submit your URL to thousands of websites on the net. There are many more techniques but this is why we recommend that you find an online marketer to promote you, like us!
So, to wrap up, here is the best analogy I made up recently to explain SEF, SEO, and SEM. Its like this, the 18-wheeler, big rig that is carrying your website to your audience and search engines is Search Engine Marketing (SEM), the Search Engine Friendliness (SEF) is the frame of your house and how it is built to weather the storm of moving over the net and (SEO) is the content within the house that makes it valuable to search engines.
So, let’s get the word out there and help other business owners know that the term “if you build it they will come” is over. And that the new phrase is ” If you build it, you have to build it right and market the thing properly online” -hahaha-.
Did you know that there are companies that just do SEO and SEM and that’s it? And they can charge hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars a month to do so… it’s that big of a job but it produces results! As my grandfather once told me “The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance!“.