Introduction | 2.Search Engines | 3.Getting Ranked | Writing Effective Press Releases | Branding | Using Bulk Email | More to come

Promoting Your Website
 
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3. Search Engines, Getting Highly Ranked
When looking for websites, most people seldom venture beyond the first two or three pages of results returned by a search engine -- this means you've got to try and get your site up as close to the top of the rankings as possible.

Of course with everyone trying to achieve this same goal you know it's not going to be easy.

However, there are some simple techniques you can use to ensure that your site is not relegated to the bottom of the heap.

Choosing Your Search Terms
The first thing you must do is decide exactly what word, words or phrase you want your site to be well ranked under.

It can not be emphasized too highly that selecting this search term is critical to getting maximum value out of your search engine listing.

If you sell wooden furniture made of teak and imported from the Philippines then it might be tempting (and very easy) to convince the search engines to give you a high ranking when a visitor types in "genuine imported teak furniture hand-crafted in the Philippines" -- unfortunately, people are far more likely to simply type in "wooden furniture".

What do you do? Should you go for a high ranking using a less common search term, or should you focus on the more common term in the knowledge that your listing might be crowded out by the many others also seeking to be highly ranked under the same term?

A quick check with Google shows that searching for "wooden furniture" turns up over 400,000 pages -- but a search for "genuine imported teak furniture hand-crafted in the Philippines" returned just 10 results.

Clearly it would be a trivial job to get your site listed on the first page of results from the more complex and specific query -- but what are the chances of someone actually typing all that in?

Fortunately however, web pages are relatively cheap and quick to create so you don't have to choose between optimising your site for just a single query -- you can build a separate page for search term you want to be highly ranked.

Yes, one of the key strategies for effectively harnessing the power of search engines is the use of multiple entry pages.

Each entry page can be optimised for a specific search query that you think people will be typing when looking for sites like yours. Exactly how many of these pages you create will probably depend on your budget.

The Optimisation Process
It's all very well saying that you're going to optimise a page so that it ranks highly for a specific search query -- but how do you go about determining what makes a page highly ranked?

This is the $64,000 question -- made even more tricky when you realise that each search engine will be using its own set of criteria to rank the pages it comes across. What gives you the number one position on Google may see you on page 10 of the results from AltaVista.

So -- all of those pages you're going to be building to try and rank highly for all those different search queries might just have be modified slightly for each search engine you plan on listing in.

If you create four query pages and want to get them all highly ranked on four search engines -- that's 16 pages you'll need to create. As you can see, it starts to get very expensive and time-consuming unless you're prepared to settle on just a few pages and the top four or five search engines.

It's Really Rather Simple
So how do you discover the secret recipe to getting highly ranked by a specific search engine?

Well the answer is simpler than you might think.

Just look at the top 10 entries that are returned when you enter one of your chosen search queries. Those pages obviously contain the mystery formula for ranking success -- now all you have to do is examine them closely and look for common factors.

I'm not going to list the key factors for each individual search engine because that would take too long and these are things that tend to change from time to time anyway. (Of course if you want to pay for my services I'll gladly do the job for you.)

However, here are a couple of things that seem consistent across most search engines:

  • Title text. The title of a webpage (the text that appears in the blue bar across the top of the browser) is often the single most important factor in gaining a high ranking. The reason for this will be explained below in the "common mistakes" section.

  • Inter-site Linking. Many search engines are now ascribing a higher ranking to a page if it contains many links to other sites and/or is linked to by many other sites. Google is one search engine that uses such links as an important part of its ranking calculations.

  • URL Naming. Your domain name can play a major part in your ranking. All else being equal, a site at the domain woodenfurniture.com will rank more highly in a search for "wooden furniture" than will one at "xyz.com".

    Since woodenfurniture.com has already gone, the next best thing is to include the words wooden and furniture elsewhere in the URL. For example, even if your domain name was xyz.com you could create entry pages at xyz.com/woodenfurniture/ or xyz.com/wooden/furniture.html. The search engines will be looking for the search term somewhere in the URL.

  • Bolding and font size. Some search engines weight words within a page based on the font-size or other attributes used to enhance their visual appearance. ie: a page with a large heading that says "Wooden Furniture" will score more points than a page that only has the heading in small text or uses a heading that says "Our Stuff"

  • Keywords as link text. Just as emphasised text scores more points than regular text, so does link text. If you can use your chosen search term as a link somewhere then this will also contribute to a higher ranking.

    One legitimate way to score big in this area is to create a "links" page which contains references to as many other sites containing information related to your own site. In the case of our fictitious wooden furniture website we obviously wouldn't link to competitors -- but we could link to sites describing different wood types, wood finishing methods, etc, etc.

    Another upside of such a page is that it makes your site more than just a simple online brochure or store -- it becomes a source of information and that can earn you extra points in the eyes of prospective customers.

There are many other factors and their importance depends very much on the individual search engine. You therefore may wish to spend some time examining the results produced by the search engines you're planning to list on so as to get a good understanding of what is important and what isn't. This information is critical to your success.

Some Common Mistakes
Many amateurs (and some professionals) make silly mistakes when trying to optimise pages for search engine rankings and here are some things to avoid:

  • Title Stuffing. Most search engines consider the text contained in the title-bar of a webpage to be very important when establishing a ranking.

    Some web designers have noticed this -- but made a silly mistake by assuming that they should therefore put as many keywords as possible into this title line.

    While this sounds like a great idea -- it is actually quite counter-productive because when a query is being processed by the search engine, it checks for the percentage of match with any given title.

    ie: the search query wooden furniture will be given a score of 100% against a title line that simply contains just the words wooden furniture. However, a page-title that contains the words wooden furniture, tables, chairs, stools will only get a 40% score -- because the words "tables, chairs, stools" do not match what was entered by the user.

    To be blunt -- less is more when it comes to titles! Much better to create a separate page with a different title for the other keywords.

  • Relying On MetaTags. A few years ago, most search engines relied heavily on the "keywords" and "description" meta-tags on a page in order to establish a ranking. Unfortunately these tags have become so abused that they're generally given a very low weighting when establishing a page's position within the search results.

    By all means make sure that you're using relevant keywords and a sensible description in your meta-tags but don't expect them to make much difference to a search engine such as Google.

  • Orphaned Entry Pages. As I have already mentioned, it's important to create specific entry pages for each search term and variants of those pages for each search engine. However, many search engine designers are aware that people are doing this with the intent of boosting their rankings and have therefore introduced techniques for spotting those pages.

    The test most often used appears to be checking to see whether a page is referenced from elsewhere on the site. For this reason, you should always create links back to the entry pages from elsewhere on your website. Don't leave your entry-pages unreferenced from elsewhere on the site or they'll likely be badly penalised as a result.

  • Keyword stuffing on the page. This is an old technique that used to be effective but will now almost certainly send you right to the bottom of the rankings. It involves adding a huge number of keywords to the bottom of a webpage (often using a text colour that matches the page background so they can't be seen). Virtually every search engine now checks for such tricks and will penalise you very severely if it's used.

Now it's time to look beyond the search engine for even more traffic...  

Introduction | 2.Search Engines | 3.Getting Ranked | Writing Effective Press Releases | Branding | Using Bulk Email | More to come