Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

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Brainstorm New Media - Asheville, NC

It is well known that search engines drive the large majority of traffic on the Internet. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft (MSN) and a host of smaller search engines and directories hold the results that are fed to millions of users each day through SERPS, or Search Engine Result Pages. The higher your rank in the SERPS, the more likely that you will garner a larger volume of the traffic from that particular query. What is a bit harder to figure out, however, is how exactly that these rankings are determined and updated.

How Search Engines Work

Search engines function based on a series of algorithms that determine a certain page's relevancy to a particular query. Those relevancies are ranked in sequential order by a scoring system - Google's is called PageRank - which presents the query results to the end user through the SERPS. Algorithms to determine "score", such as PageRank, are incredibly complex and take into account hundreds of on-page and off-page factors. The process of search engine optimization seeks to increase ranking (and thereby traffic) through the consistent improvement and manipulation of these algorithms. The three most important factors that influence search engine rankings are:

1. On-Page Factors - Placement of keywords or keyphrases in heading tags on each page, proper internal linking structure, meta tags, site design and structure, outbound links, keyword density, and more

2. Inbound Links - The basis of the original PageRank and the most important way to consistently increase ranking (through "link building"), inbound links are counted as "votes" for your site by the search engines. Each "vote" is assessed for importance based on the individual rank of the page providing the link, how many outbound links are on the page doing the linking, and the text-to-query relevancy of the anchor text used in the link.

3. Content Relevancy - In order for a page to show for a given query, quite unbelievably, the phrase actually has to show up on the page. While most people target their main keywords, they forget to research and include the thousands of possible phrases that could lead someone to their site.


Page topicality is paramount. If you want a page to be found for a certain query, make sure that you have a page devoted to that keyphrase. For example, a site that sells used cars would be much better off to have multiple pages with titles like "Used Audis For Sale" and "Used Mercedes For Sale" rather than just trying to optimize one main page with a title like "Used Cars For Sale - Audis, Mercedes, and More!". By laser-targeting each individual page to specific search traffic, ranking can be increased across the board for many, many different terms.


Clouding is a development and link building concept that refers to the usage of many "offshoot" terms on individual pages of a site with the purpose of augementing the overall ranking for the main term, while developing individual rankings for each specific keyphrase. An example of this is a site having to do with marketing - by having multiple pages with targeted phrases like "internet marketing", "direct marketing", and "marketing plans", the main site phrase "marketing" is augmented by the incoming anchor text for each individual sub-section, all of which include the main keyword, "marketing".

"Long Tail" Search

"Long Tail" keyphrases are the thousands of keyphrases that a site may be listed in the search engines, usually by virtue of their inclusion in content rather than specific targeting. While you may be optimizing your restaurant's website around the phrase "Atlanta Vegetarian Restaurants", the user is actually searching for something more like "best BBQ tofu sandwiches in Atlanta". Long tail phrases generally account for far more traffic than the top 10 or 20 highest traffic phrases - something that is generally overlooked by most site designers. The way to meet this challenge is with content, content, content. The more relevant content you have, the more likely that long tail phrases will show up on your site and be found by the engines.

Expert Content

Great content is king on the web. As the web gets larger and larger, this holds true more and more. No longer are most users willing to read through obvious marketing copy, poorly-formed opinions, and badly written content. The better, more topical, more current, and more expertly written content on a site is, the more trust they will receive from Google, et al., by virtue of quality inbound linkage. By writing and dissmenating expert articles on the web, a site can develop traffic through several ways - increased search rankings due to "linkbaiting", or the practice of developing inbound links through the use of "sticky" content, social media traffic (through Digg, Reddit, Technorati, or other social media aggregators), and standard inbound link traffic. The idea is that if your readers feel that you truly "know what you're talking about" and, as such, provide links and social media votes, then the search engines will generally feel the same.

Local Search Optimization

More and more of the major search engines are displaying "local results" first in their search results, Google leading the way with their new "10-pack" listings of local businesses. There are many factors that go into the placement of your business in these results, and we will use best practices to make sure that your site is properly optimized for all the major local business aggregators, online yellow pages, and web directories.

Realistic Expectations, Profitability First

Some companies will promise you anything (such as the ridiculous "Of course, you can rank #1 for your main keyword - now what's your keyword again?). We know that high rankings mean nothing unless they are followed up with traffic that converts. All the search traffic in the world won't do your business a bit of good if it's coming from the wrong place.

Contact us to learn more about how our integrated approach to marketing and technology consulting can benefit your business!

Call (828) 423-0420 to schedule a free discovery/consultation session today!

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