According to research, the first 30 results receive 90% of search traffic. Another important statistic to note is the total number of web pages out there. As of January 2005, there were 11.5 billion web pages in the publicly indexable web in 75 different languages! So, how do you ‘compete’ with all these pages to get into top 30? Here are 10 points to give you a good start in optimizing your site:
1) Take a long look at your website and structure
What tends to happen more often than not is you would concentrate all your time and effort on website design and once that’s completed, you would then turn your attention to site optimisation. However, what happens then is you end up with a beautiful site that you think absolutely rocks with complex or unclear navigation and no search friendly content. To no surprise, your on-line visitors (if any) are frustrated whilst search engine robots simply leave your site indexing the bear minimum. Keep the design SIMPLE - avoid splash pages, use of frames, excessive use of flash animation, etc. Search engines only read text so they will not appreciate your fancy designs, whilst on-line visitors will get turned off by the pages that load slowly. In addition, search engine robots are not designed to fill out forms or search your site, so it is crucial you set up other means to navigate your site through HTML links. Sitemap may help to ensure that a spider doesn’t miss any of your pages but keep the sitemap to no more than 30 links per page.
2) Content is everything
There are two sides of a coin with website content. Having optimised content on key pages of your site gives search engines the ‘food’ they need to index your pages. A well optimised page will contain around 150-200 words including a few strategic keyword phrases. Ideally this content will be placed closer to the top of the page. In addition, if you want to turn your on-line visitors into potential buyers, you need to provide them with useful and relevant content. Strong content is key in effective position of your site. Spend more of your time searching for and creating relevant content rather than finding easier alternatives that never reap the same results. Ensure that you write compelling copy for each of your key pages of your site based on your chosen strategic keyword phrases. Launch pages or ‘doorways pages’ are great but unless you have real value behind the pretty image, the customers won’t buy it for long.
3) Spend time researching your keywords
When researching keywords, make sure you consider the following: their popularity among different search terms people use on a daily basis and their competition in terms of how many other websites are competing for the same key word. The more people search for a keyword phrase you choose (i.e. number of daily/monthly queries) and the less there is competition for the specific keyword phrase (i.e. number of websites that actually use this keyword phrase), the bigger your chance of succeeding. This is also known as KEI – Keyword Effectiveness Indicator. To have the most relevant and up to date list of keywords, you need to conduct this research on a continuous basis. So, let me spend a few moments talking about popularity vs. competition.
In terms of popularity, there is no point of having keyword phrases in your list that people never search for. You can learn how popular a particular keyword or phrase is by looking at daily or monthly search queries. Unfortunately, in the last couple of years most internet companies have stopped supplying free daily search queries. Here are a couple of examples, majority of which are free that may help with your research: Metaspy, Clixshare, Google Keyword Tool, Overture Keyword Selector Tool, to name just a few. We recommend using an all in one solution WebCEO.
In terms of competition, make sure your strategic keywords consist of at least two to five words. There are two reasons for this. First, people are more likely to type two or more words in a search query and secondly, there is bound to be big competition for any single generic keyword. Let me give you an example. Imagine that you own a small hotel business in London. An obvious choice for a targeted keyword would be hotel, right? Wrong. Millions of websites compete for the same word, hotel. To give yourself a better chance, you need to narrow down your search and choose keywords and phrases that are popular but have lower competition. However, bear in mind that they still need to be highly relevant to your website.
4) Use your keywords well
Once you have created your keyword list, use these keywords effectively without overdoing it. As mentioned earlier, having relevant content with key strategic keywords is crucial in having an optimised page. However, don’t forget to include your keywords in the URL (if possible), TITLE Tags, META tags, HTML headings and ALT tags. Ideally your keyword optimised content needs to be closer to the top of the page. Whatever you do, ensure that your text in visible and nothing is hidden, otherwise you may be banned from the search engines mistaken for a spam site.
5) Develop your link popularity
So far in this post I have been discussing ‘on the page’ factors that could influence the position of your pages when they get indexed. Now, lets turn to ‘off the page’ factors such as link popularity. Through specific algorithms, most major search engines not only look at your page to determine the worthiness of your content for a specific search phase but also look at how many other web pages are linking to your site. By ‘other web pages’ I don’t necessarily mean any odd personal home page. I am talking about web pages that have relevant content and use similar keywords. In addition, the higher these pages are ranked, the stronger your link popularity. You can check page rank of any site using numerous free tools available on the net or by downloading Google Toolbar. Simply type in the URL in question and obtain its ranking from 1-10. The higher the number, the better the website is in terms of PR and thus more effective for your linking strategy. If you would like to find out who is already linking to your site or you would like to know who is linking to the site you want to get a link from, check out www.iwebtool.com and www..alexa.com. Again WebCEO does this wonderfully.
To start getting quality links to your site, it maybe a good idea to enter your strategic keyword phrases in Google, Yahoo!, MSN, etc. and get in touch with the first 30 websites that come up to ask whether they can place a link to your website from theirs. This method ensures that the websites you contact are relevant to your pages and that they have adequate page rank to be in the top 30 results. By starting to get quality links back to your site, your own page ranking should automatically increase resulting in higher positions on result pages. Another method of getting more quality links is cross-linking with relevant sites. This evolves placing a link to a specific site on your website and that site in turn will place a link to you. As you get more and more links back to your site, monitor their quality to ensure you don’t have any lousy links which may reduce your page ranking. Finally, stay away from sites which offer thousands of links back to your site. These are ‘link farms’ and a link from one of those will do no good for your page ranking.
6) Time to submit you site
Avoid sites promising to submit your website to thousands and thousands of search engines for a small fee. The truth is, the majority of searches are done on a handful of search engines around the world thus the traffic you may get from the remaining X thousands will be minuscule and not worth the fee. It may be a good idea to start by submitting to directories first such as Yahoo and Open Directory Project, as this will be processed quicker allowing time for the Google robots to find links to your site from directories themselves. It may also help to have some Paid-Per-Click advertising during the submission time. Be patient, the submission process can take time – ensure you monitor the process closely.
7) Don’t overuse Paid-Per-Click advertising (PPC)
There should never be a choice between whether to optimise your site or simply do some PPC advertising to get the traffic flowing. Optimising your site will pay off far more than any amount of PPC advertising you may wish to do. PPC is only effective short-term and spending more will not result in higher traffic volume. Finally, we all know that any marketing budget has its limits. As soon as your PPC funds are depleted, your web presence is lost like it’s never been here in the first place.
8) Avoid using frames
If it’s not too late, try to avoid using frames all together. Search engines have difficulty reading frame links so you would need to provide an alternative method for them to access your pages for indexing.
9) Refresh content and keywords regularly
Site optimisation doesn’t end here. You need to continuously refresh content on your website and use the most effective keywords to guarantee that search engine robots are coming back for more indexing whilst visitors are coming back for more interesting content.
10) Monitor your website traffic and trends
You have submitted your site, you continue to refresh your content and you are constantly refreshing your keyword list. Don’t forget to monitor your site traffic. The knowledge and insights you could gain by studying your daily traffic is vital in helping you improve your site in the future. Monitor where on your website the people are going the most, which pages are least visited, which words are used to search before people end up on your site, how long are they spending on your site, are they coming back, etc, etc.
...And remember, site optimisation is not just a one time job, it’s for life. Enjoy!