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Optimization Top Tips

Tip #1: Target the Right Keywords

For those of you new to search engine marketing, a 'keyword' is simply a word or phrase that people would search on to find your Web site. You might think that choosing the right keywords to target should be a no-brainer. However, you'd be surprised at how many people jump in, optimize their Web site, and achieve top rankings. They then cry out in dismay when their hit counter registers no more visitors than it did before they went to all the work to tune up their site.

What happened? They failed to choose keywords that people were actually looking for. Therefore, I recommend you:

A. Brainstorm a list of keywords and phrases that apply to your Web site's products and services. Try to place yourself in the shoes of the Web searcher. Avoid generalities like 'small business.' Yes, you may sell a product for small businesses, but who is going to search for 'small business' when they are looking for a new Windows accounting program?

B. Take advantage of excellent services like WordTracker to tell you which keywords are popular, but still not so competitive as to make a top ranking next to impossible. There's a fine line between targeting keywords that are TOO general or competitive versus keyword phrases that are so specific that few people ever think to search for it. WordTracker handles both with ease. In addition, it will do much of the brainstorming for you by taking just a couple of keywords and producing a broad list of related words and phrases from which to choose.

Again, please don't make the mistake of picking the wrong keywords. Nothing is more disappointing than taking the time to achieve top rankings and then seeing no increase in traffic from all your efforts. Also, don't pick keywords that are too popular or broad like 'games' or 'entertainment.' You'll not only get visitors that are far less likely to buy your product, but the amount of work needed to gain that ranking will not be worth the trouble. You'll then join the ranks of misinformed critics screaming 'search engine optimization doesn't work - don't waste your time!' SE Optimization works and works well, IF you take the time to do it right.

Tip #2: Proper Submission to the Major Directories is Critical

One of the most significant changes in search engine marketing in recent years has been the rise in popularity of human reviewed directories and catalogs like LookSmart, Yahoo, and Open Directory. Some search engines prominently display directory listings for many popular searches. MSN is a prime example. Do a search on MSN and you'll generally find the first page of results dominated by LookSmart directory listings. Some of the other major engines also list directory results prominently, or at least emphasize them in various ways. You can recognize directory listings since they are often called 'Web Site results' rather than 'Web Page Results.'

Once you submit to a directory, it's difficult to go back and correct mistakes later. Some of them like Yahoo and LookSmart charge you as much as $200 for the privilege of simply being reviewed for inclusion. Therefore, it's of utmost importance to get it right the first time.

There are many strategies for achieving great visibility with the directories. Some of them involve keyword placement and some involve human psychology.

Read all the information you can about submitting to each directory BEFORE you submit. Even if you've submitted already and ranked poorly, you should find some strategies to help you reverse the damage.

Tip #3: Optimize your Page Content

There are countless tips for optimizing your page's content so that it will be more 'relevant' to a given search. Each engine ranks pages differently, so most tips are not universal. However, there is one tip that overrides them all:

Create pages that emulate the 'statistics' of pages that already rank at or near the top of the search results.

These statistics include:

  1. Frequency of the keywords on the page. Tip: This does not mean more keywords are better. Instead, emulate the same number of keywords of top ranking pages as closely as possible. Be careful not to base your entire strategy on the statistics of a single top ranking page. The content of a top ranking page could have easily changed since it was last indexed. Therefore, every page ranking in the top 10 may not always represent exactly what the engine is currently looking for today. Using averages is one way to combat this problem.
  2. Total words on the page. Tip: Mimic the approximate number of words of a top ranking page on your own page.
  3. Weight of the keywords on the page. (i.e. frequency divided by the total words) Tip: Too high a weight is just as bad a too low a weight.
  4. Area or location of the keywords on the page. (i.e., title, heading, etc.) Tip: A keyword is given more relevance by an engine when the keyword appears in the engine's 'preferred' areas.
  5. Prominence. Tip: Generally, the closer to the front of the area you can place the keyword, the better.
  6. Proximity. Tip: The closer that the words of a phrase appear together, the better.
  7. Off-page criteria. (i.e., link popularity, click through popularity, etc.) Tip: Even when you've done everything else right, don't forget the off-page factors!

Bonus Tip 1: In general, you should try to include your keyword or phrase in the title tag, the heading tag, the link text, and to a lesser extent, your meta keyword and description tag. There are other areas you may want to include the keyword depending on the engine. For example, Google is known to give a ranking boost to keywords that are in bold or large print.

Bonus Tip 2: Naming your page after your keyword and/or obtaining a domain name with your keyword in it will often boost your rankings.

Bonus Tip 3: If you run a regional business where most of your business is local, it's critical that you include your full company address on every page of your site. Otherwise people could search for 'Ford dealer in Chicago' and you'd not appear if your company address were buried only on your contact page. Also take advantage of 'proximity' by putting the word Chicago as close to the phrase Ford dealer as possible. Lastly, make sure the address is in text form since search engines can't read your address out of a graphical logo on your page.

Bonus Tip 4: Don't spam the engines. Every engine has their pet peeves so make sure you know what they are and avoid them.

Tip #4: Increase your Link Popularity

This 'off-page' statistic has grown in importance in the last year, becoming a significant factor at many engines. You must have at least one or more links from other domains in order to be indexed by some engines. In addition, if you don't have a high enough link popularity, you'll never achieve top rankings on many keywords. Therefore, make link popularity a high priority in your Web marketing plan. There are many strategies for increasing links to your Web site. Links to your site not only improves your rankings, but will increase your traffic in a consistent and long-term manner.

If you're curious about how you stack up against your competition, give us call.

Tip #5: Track Your Progress

As you learn more about search engine marketing, you'll discover it is not an exact science. Some of your pages will rank well the first time out, and some will not. In addition, your rankings will fluctuate, calling for tweaks in design from time to time. Therefore, as with any marketing strategy, you need a method to measure your progress. In this case, you need a convenient way to report your rankings for each keyword and engine you're targeting, and to track the number of visitors to your Web site, along with where they came from.

Note: The information presented here adapted, under license agreement, from FirstPlace Software