Increasing Your Web Traffic
When it comes to running an online business, more web traffic usually has a direct correlation with more customers and sales. The mysterious machine that lies between every online business and its customers is the search engine. While there is no precise formula for guaranteeing a top search engine listing, this article will show you how to use some precise methods for greatly increasing the odds of your search engine success.
Web users use search engines to find information. People input data and search engines output data. Among the most important search sites are: Google, Yahoo, and Ask Jeeves. They all use a range of techniques to find web pages on the Internet and rate them. One of the most important techniques is called ‘spidering’. Spiders crawl through the web and index websites. Most of the sites that will appear in search results are those that have been found and spidered. Each search engine uses a different, secret algorithm to determine what data from the index to output and what order to list it in. As you can imagine, Websites that appear at the top of the search engine rankings will have the greatest web traffic.
By utilizing the methods listed below, you should be able to significantly help your search engine traffic. Search engines frequently change their algorithms, so you might want to check back here from time to time for updates.
Establishing Your List of Keyphrases
If you've ever peered under an old, rotting log, you've probably also discovered a small gray critter that curls into a ball when touched. If you were to make a website about this animal, you would need to know its name, not just its strange habits. As is turns out, this creature has many names or 'keyphrases'. But which one should you use? More importantly, which one would everyone else use? To solve this problem, you need to consider two spectrums: General to Specific and Common to Obscure.
General to Specific:
In general, you could say this creature is an 'animal'. 'Animal' would be a very poor choice for a keyphrase, however, seeing as it includes the entire animal kingdom. On the other hand, the species name 'Armadillidium vulgare' would be an equally poor choice. It is so specific that (a) hardly anyone will know what you're talking about and (b) it doesn’t include the entire set of the small gray critters that live under logs and curl into balls. The keyphrases you want to use are between these two extremes. Here are some possibilities: 'doodle bug', 'basketball bug', 'sow bug', 'potato bug', 'wood louse', 'pill bug', and 'roly-poly'.
Common to Obscure:
Now you have your list of keyphrases, but some are still inappropriate. Some are used by only a small percentage of the population and will barely increase web traffic. Others are used by a very high percentage of the population and may not be able to stand up to the competition of other websites. How do you figure out which ones are obscure and which ones are common?
Here are three ways:
1. Put your keyphrases into a search engine, one at a time, and observe how many results are generated by each.
2. Use Google Adword's Keyword Tool to identify terms that garner a high level of search traffic.
If you use these methods, you'll probably discover that 'roly-poly', 'pill bug', and 'potato bug' are the most common keywords and that ‘wood louse' and 'basketball bug' are the most obscure. Using the three most common keyphrases is sufficient, in this case. Now you just need to know what to do with them! The next step is to apply these keyphrases to your web page.
Optimizing Your Site
Now that you have a clear idea of your list of keyphrases, it is time to integrate them into your site. The practice of developing a site that is looked upon favorably by the search engines is called ‘Search Engine Optimization’.
Analyzing the Competition
Search engines are known for their secretive and ever-changing algorithms. It is impossible to tell exactly what they are looking for but you can get a pretty good idea by closely examining websites that have already achieved search engine success.
You may have already discovered what pages you are in competition with. If you have not, simply go to one of the search sites, type in one of your keyphrases, and press Enter. The first results are what the search engines think are most relevant. If you analyze these pages, you may be able to discover what makes them favorable. All you have to do is come up with a list of factors that you think might affect search engines and observe how they are presented in competing pages.
Here are several suggestions for what to include in your analysis:
1. Page title
2. META and ALT tag content (see the section “Editing Your Site”)
3. Number of keyword occurrences
4. Outgoing links
5. Incoming links (To get a list of incoming links for a particular site, you can type ‘link:’ in the Google search box followed by the URL)
6. Overall organization
7. Page length
9. Font style (italics, bold, underline)
Although the complex analysis of web page optimization is beyond the scope of this article, by looking at the details of your competitors’ pages, you should start to see some distinct patterns, particularly as far as word-choices, keyword density, and linking structure.
Once you have gained a clear understanding of what your competitors are doing, you are ready to build your site.
Editing Your Site
For starters, we recommend focusing on the following elements of your web pages:
1. Title – The title of your page is what people and search engines see first. You must put your keyphrases in your title if you want your website to be found by targeted customers. If your website has multiple pages, you can and should use different keywords for the titles of each.
2. Body – Your keywords should appear in your page content many times. The most common keyword should be concentrated on the most. In this case, it would be ‘roly-poly’. The other two common keywords should definitely be used but do not need to occur quite as frequently.
If you were optimizing for a key phrase, such as ‘roly-poly houses’, you would not want to keep on repeating that phrase. Instead, it would be better to separate and rearrange the words by using phrases like, “If you need a house for your roly-poly, you’ve come to the right place!” or “Roly-polies are much happier when they live in houses.”
Search engines use the concept of ‘keyword density’ when determining how to rank your website. As keyword occurrence rises, keyword density rises. If your website is not keyword dense enough, search engines may think it is not relevant to the search term and give it a low rank. But be sure not to pack too many keywords into your pages; this strategy could work against you!
3. META tags – META tags are becoming less and less important but the Meta Description still plays a part in search engine optimization. The ‘META keywords’ are a very insignificant factor. If you decide to use them, they should contain no more than your top three keywords. Preferably, you would only use your most common one. The ‘META description’ should be a one or two sentence description of your site that also contains the top three keywords. Here is an example:
META tags go in the header of your website.
4. ALT tags – An ALT tag is an alternate text description used to identify images in a web document. Some search engine spiders take into account this alternate text. Ideally a unique, relevant keyword should go in each ALT tag. Too much repetition of keywords could have a negative impact on your rank.
BEWARE of Keyword Overload and Other Deceptive Practices!
Search engines do not look favorably upon website owners who use deceptive methods to beat their system. We strongly encourage you to create web pages that are, first and foremost, packed with useful information for your site visitors.
Those who try to “work the system” by repeating their keywords over and over again are sometimes punished with a severely decreased rank. The term used for these people is ‘keyword spammer’. Roughly, if your keyword takes up more than 2% of the text on a particular page, the Google search engine may consider you to be one of these people. You can use a ‘keyword density calculator’ to help determine how close you are to 2%. The intent of optimization is not to trick the search engines; it is simply to tell them that you have a relevant website and you want others to see it.
Besides keyword spamming, there are several other practices that are considered a violation of ‘search engine etiquette’. Here we will go over three common and intolerable optimization techniques. Search engines regard these actions as rude, misleading, and deserving of punishment:
As will be discussed later, incoming links can really help your rank. Since most Webmasters could benefit from incoming links, it is fairly easy to find exchange opportunities. When you do this on a massive scale and pile all the links onto one page, you have created a ‘link farm’. If search engines discover that you’re a “link farmer”, they’ll likely penalize or ban you. We highly recommend that you do not link to other websites for the sole purpose of raising your rank. Any web page you link to should be useful to visitors and relevant to the content of your own site.
You may find that you have to make major compromises in order to fully optimize your website. As your attempts become more obvious, visitors tend to take you less seriously. Some people solve this problem with a technique called ‘cloaking’. This enables you present a page to the visitors that is separate from the one shown to the search engines. It’s the best of both worlds, or so it seems. Search engines will often penalize those who practice cloaking by banning their sites.
Another way of hiding optimization attempts is to use invisible text. It’s not truly ‘invisible’; it is just the same color as the background. Only you and the spiders know it’s there. This is yet another way to attract negative attention from search engines.
For more information about these and other discouraged practices, visit www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html
Getting Your Site Found and Listed
You can have the most well-optimized site in the world, yet never be found on the search engines. The top search engines have become quite a bit more sophisticated in the past few years. Not only do they look at the content of your pages, but they also analyze how important they feel your site is, based on the number of incoming links and where those links are coming from. In fact, this could be more of a factor than the content that is on your site itself.
This is one of the most important keys to being favorably placed in search engines. If you want a high rank, you need other people to link to you. The more, the better. If you don’t have at least one incoming link, your chances of even showing up in the search engine results are slim to none. The best kind of incoming link (a) has a high rank and (b) is similar in topic to your website. These kinds of incoming links raise your rank and create more ways for customers to find you.
One method of getting incoming links is by doing a link exchange, which was discussed earlier in the “Deceptive Practices” section. Just make sure you don’t create a link farm. Incoming links are more beneficial when they make use of your keyphrases.
The best way to get indexed is by getting incoming links. If a site that is already listed in the search engines links to you, spiders will follow that link and add your site to the index. Another way of getting indexed is by manual submission at the top search engines. However, this method is questionably relevant and does not always guarantee you’ll be listed. You would be much better off getting a few incoming links from other sites than focusing on submitting your site.
You're Well on Your Way!
If you followed these suggestions, you have covered the basic steps to achieving positive search engine presence! You have done what you can to prove to search engines that your site is relevant and have taken some important steps to getting your site found. Spiders should soon be crawling all over your web page, hopefully for reasons other than snacking on your roly-polies!
Stay tuned for our next article in this series: "Analyzing Your Search Engine Results". If you would like to have more work done to optimize your site but don't feel you have the time or expertise to do so, please contact Datahost for assistance.