When it comes to marketing your business online, you probably already know how important it is that your website and other online assets rank as high as possible on Google and the other major search engines.

However, the search engines don’t publicize all the factors they take into account when ranking sites, so optimizing your site for search (often called search engine optimization, or SEO for short) is a science that can be tough to grasp. We’re in luck, though, as our industry has some top-notch SEO experts who got together for this week’s chat to discuss the best ways to grab the most valuable real estate online. Erica Campbell from ForRent.com is one of those experts, and she joined us as guest moderator for this week’s chat.

Here are the highlights from the discussion:

How can I use SEO on my website and in my online ads?

  • Erica Campbell: In order 2 make ur biz a success & stay ahead of comps u need 2 tap into SEO 2 draw more customers to ur business website.
  • Ryan VanDenabeele: Always fill out your Alt tags and name your photos with key words.
  • Erica Campbell: First and foremost you need to go back 2 to the basics w SEO and use meta tags.
  • David Kotowski: First thing (and easiest) is to make sure your website incorporates lots of different media and isn’t entirely Flash.
  • Erica Campbell: The search engine spiders deem the title tag as the most significant meta tag.
  • Ken Shafer: If you’re looking to optimize your online ads on other sites, b sure to include property name & the city/hood in the desc.
  • Jessie Lambert: choose your keywords wisely…use resources like google adwords so that you are optimizing your potential traffic.
  • Erica Campbell: Do not use a URL as the Title Tag. Every page that you want indexed on your Web site should have a different title.
  • Ken Shafer: You should keep your title tags to right around 70 characters.
  • Erica Campbell: Make sure when u upload videos to YouTube that u use titles, desc, URL and keywords- same SEO approach with social.
  • Erica Campbell: Tip: Have no more than 24 words in description tag (repeat words max 2 times). This tag should utilize keywords & keyphrases.
  • Tanni Mannan: Location or the most important keyword at the beginning to the title tag.
  • Ryan VanDenabeele: Get a new CMS! RT @30lines: And what if my website vendor’s CMS doesn’t allow me to change title tags on each page?
  • Erica Campbell: It’s important to keep your SEO tactics as natural possible so that you don’t raise flags to the SE’s.
  • Resite Online: Flash files with database driven content are still not crawlable. With HTML5 and CSS3 there are non-Flash animation options now.
  • Mike Whaling: Google has openly admitted they don’t look at keywords anymore … too easy to game the system.
  • Tim Grace: Not saying don’t include geo terms where appropriate, just that they don’t always need to be 1st.
  • Ellen Thompson: You should be trying to rank for a broad array of keyword related to your property, geography.
  • Tim Grace: Trying to rank for “apts for rent” or “chicago apts” is largely a fool’s errand for most props/mgmt cos.
  • Mike Bozeman: We also find that more details people tend to search for (long tail), the more apt the are to convert.
  • Tim Grace: Long tail = go for searches w/ neighborhoods or other qualifiers like unit/prop attributes i.e. “Cheap apartments Buckhead”
  • Ken Shafer: Don’t get bogged down in “high volume keywords.” Research, less-competitive, focused keyphrases.
  • Erica Campbell: According to @comscore, 62% of search engine users don’t look past the 1st page of results.
  • Tim Grace: The tools on @seomoz are fantastic if you have a few bucks to spare. Money well spent.
  • Erica Campbell: Other things 2 consider: site nav, screen size, speed of display of ur pgs, spelling (get it right), usage of tables,url structures.

How important are photos and videos on my site? Anything specific I should be doing with them to improve my rank?

  • Erica Campbell: Photos and videos are absolutely important especially for Google Universal Search.
  • Ken Shafer: Hosting your videos on YouTube and embedding on your site is a great way to boost views…big signal for YouTube SE.
  • Ken Shafer: Having your videos on other channels will increase the likelihood that they will appear in blended results.
  • Ellen Thompson: Videos on your site keep people on the page longer, an indirect factor in SEO.

Does Foursquare help SEO? Does Facebook? Twitter?

  • Erica Campbell: 4sq helps with your linking strategies- he more links you get the more likely you are going to get a higher search ranking.
  • David Kotowski: Foursquare listings do not appear in Google searches, although Bing includes them.
  • Ken Shafer: NOTE: links from social media sites (FB, Twitter, etc.) do not pass page rank or link juice.
  • Resite Online: Our Facebook and Twitter updates appear in our Google Alerts daily. They definitely effect search results too.
  • Mike Whaling: Easy “follow” link: Add your website to your LinkedIn profile. Use appropriate anchor text.
  • Tim Grace: Your presence on social sites is yet another result in a SERP [Search Engine Results Page], which is certainly still powerful.
  • Tanni Mannan: Twitter, flickr, linkedin, youtube, digg, stumbleuopn, del.icio.us are very helpful for SEO.

I’m hearing more about getting inbound links to my site. What is this, how does it help and how do I get them?

  • Erica Campbell: Make sure you are partnering up w authority sites such as .edu, .org and .gov sites for linking & have them use strong anchor text.
  • Erica Campbell: Make sure you don’t 4get to submit your site to local directories and Dmoz is still good in our book!
  • Eric Brown: All Inbound Links are NOT Created equal, Another plug for partnership Marketing with larger brands,
  • Erica Campbell: Ask your local chamber of commerce and college/university for a link.
  • Ken Shafer: Don’t forget! It’s not the quantity of inbound links, it’s the quality.
  • Erica Campbell: Send it (your website) to Yahoo! Directory also optimize ur floor plans on your ILS ad b/c we send those to Google Base.
  • Michael Pickens: Inbound link: Wife works for a major university and all the med students doing residency need a place to live. = link to Colonial.
  • Erica Campbell: Want to find out how many ppl r linking to you? put this in google: “link:www.sitename” and it will tell u who is.
  • Jessie Lambert: Writing whitepapers, creating photo galleries, viral contests, etc. are all great ways to create link bait.
  • Eric Brown: Apartment Operators are going to wake up to the Value of PR, Great PR = Great Inbound Links.
  • Erica Campbell: Also get ideas from your top referring sources of traffic coming into your site and ur destination urls (where r ppl going to).
  • Ken Shafer: Visit siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com to find out who’s linking to you.
  • Erica Campbell: Optimizing ur press releases is huge and don’t forget to submit them to reddit, newsvine, digg, etc. It’s free.
  • Eric Brown: Word of Mouth Always = More Sales.

I’m also hearing more about local search. Is this different that regular search? Is there anything I should be doing differently?

  • Michael Pickens: Working on claiming/verifying all our properties on Bing AND Google Places. If you have the time why not get it all set up right.
  • Ellen Thompson: Don’t forget yahoo local, merchantcircle, citysearch, yellowpages.com etc.
  • Tanni Mannan: Give as much information as possible for local SEO.
  • David Kotowski: Add GPS info to your pictures (this can be done automatically with some cameras) and they will appear in local image searches.

If I could only do one thing to improve my rank in search engines, what should it be?

  • Ken Shafer: Be an authority with great content. It’s the best way to get people to link to you.
  • Duncan Alney: Create keyword rich valuable content.
  • Meredith Mobley: Spending more time on social network sites=tons of link bait!!!
  • Jessie Lambert: Optimize your on-page strategy: title, header, navigational links, keyword density, alt tags, etc.
  • Resite Online: Get social! That includes a blog. The term ‘search’ is being redefined constantly.
  • David Kotowski: Make sure you have a mobile version of your site b/c lots of people are searching with their phones.
  • Mike Whaling: Follow all the experts from today’s chat & check out the resources/links they’ve provided!
  • Erica Campbell: Bottom line: People notice top search engine results. The higher the position, the higher the click potential.

More resources:

What are you doing to optimize your website? What are the tips you can share with us from your own experience? What are some questions you still have about how the search engines work and ways to increase traffic to your website? Thanks again to everyone who joined us for this week’s chat, especially Erica Campbell for helping us out as our guest moderator!

This week’s chat featured 342 tweets from 55 different contributors.