Google “lighting” and your top results will include Web sites for such lighting retailers as Lamps Plus and GREENCulture Lighting. Their position at the top of the list is no accident: it’s the result of savvy search engine optimization, or SEO, techniques deployed throughout the sites. Such premier placement gives a company an incredible competitive advantage, even among brick-and-mortar customers. According to Mark Phelps, President and CEO of Partner Marketing, 89 percent of consumers research products online before they make a purchase, even though only 7 percent of purchases are actually made online.
Further, search engines have eclipsed even phone books as the primary means of finding local businesses, with 82 percent of consumers using search engines thus.
“Ninety-five percent of consumers never get past the first two pages of search-engine results,” Phelps says. “If you’re the top position on the third page, you’re just wasting your time.”
Lamps Plus and GREEN Culture get many things right when it comes to SEO, few of which would be easily replicated without SEO expertise. But the sites’ blogs are one aspect of good SEO strategy that can be deployed by any enterprising do-it-yourselfer.
SEO can be complicated, but there are a few basics that virtually anyone can master. One of the ways for a business to improve its site’s SEO is to include a blog. The following guide for blogs can be adapted to other aspects of a Web site, as well.
1. Determine likely topics
Start a running list of subjects you would like to cover in your blog.
2. Brainstorm 100 keywords
Determine what search terms your target audience is likely to use in an online search. Stick to terms for which there is not too much SEO competition; don’t include too many single words, such as “lighting,” since a lot of sites have optimized for that term. Instead, try terms like “buy lighting,” “Art Deco lighting” or “lighting tips.”
3. Settle on 25-50 keywords
There are a number of automated services that allow you to find out both the popularity and level of competition for SEO keywords. Most of them offer free trials; try www.wordtracker.com , www.keyworddiscovery.com  and www.wordstream.com .
4. Incorporate two to four keywords from your list in every blog posting
Your keywords should appear at least once in the blog entry’s title, meta keywords, meta description/summary, opening paragraph, closing paragraph and body. Choose descriptive titles like “Pantone’s Color of the Year: Mimosa” over clever ones like “I’ll Drink to That!”
5. Build links
Links are critical for SEO. Links should be both internal (links to other pages within your site) and external.
6. Get links
This step is tricky, but few things will boost your site’s ranking as quickly as having other sites link to you. Try linking to other bloggers and letting them know you did so via e-mail in the hopes that they will return the favor.
7. Update frequently
Search engines look for new content. Build a backlog of posts for busy or uninspired days, such as valuable Web sites, interior design resources or inspiring photos.
8. Enable comments
Most search engines will look for this feature. Comments and customer reviews also facilitate the constant addition of new content.