10 Tips to the Top
by Jill Whalen
Having a website that gets found in Google, Yahoo, and MSN,
etc. isn't hard to do, but it can be difficult to know where
to begin. Here are my latest and greatest tips to get you
1. Do not purchase a new domain unless you have to. Due to
delay for all new domains, your best bet is to use an
existing domain/website if at all possible. If you're redesigning
or starting from scratch and you have to use a brand-new domain
for some reason, you can expect to wait a good 9-12 months
before your site will show up in Google for any keyword phrases
that are important to you.
2. Optimize your site for your target audience, not for the
search engines. This may sound counterintuitive, but hear
me out. The search engines are looking for pages that best
fit the keyword phrase someone types into their little search
box. If those "someones" are typing in search words
that relate to what your site offers, then they are most likely
members of your target audience. You need to optimize your
site to meet *their* needs. If you don't know who your target
audience is, then you need to find out one way or another.
Look for studies online that might provide demographic information,
and visit other sites, communities, or forums where your target
audience might hang out and listen to what they discuss. This
information will be crucial to your resulting website design,
keyword research, and copywriting.
3. Research your keyword phrases extensively. The phrases
you think your target market might be searching for may very
well be incorrect. To find the optimal phrases to optimize
for, use research tools such as Keyword
Google AdWords, and Yahoo Search Marketing data. Compile lists
of the most relevant phrases for your site, and choose a few
different ones for every page. Never shoot for general keywords
such as "travel" or "vacation," as they
are rarely (if ever) indicative of what your site is really
4. Design and categorize your site architecture and navigation
based on your keyword research. Your research may uncover
undiscovered areas of interest or ways of categorizing your
products/services that you may wish to add to your site. For
instance, let's say your site sells toys. There are numerous
ways you could categorize and lay out your site so that people
will find the toys they're looking for. Are people looking
for toys to fit their child's stage of development? (Look
for keyword phrases such as "preschool toys.") Or
are they more likely to be seeking specific brands of toys?
Most likely, your keyword research will show you that people
are looking for toys in many different ways. Your job is to
make sure that your site's navigation showcases the various
ways of searching. Make sure you have links to specific-brand
pages as well as specific age ranges, specific types of toys,
5. Program your site to be "crawler-friendly."
The search engines can't fill out forms, can't search your
graphics and Flash. This doesn't mean that you can't use these
things on your site; you most certainly can! However, you
do need to provide alternate means of navigating your site
as necessary. If you have only a drop-down sequence of menus
to choose a category or a brand of something, the search engine
crawlers will never find those resulting pages. You'll need
to make sure that you always have some form of HTML links
in the main navigation on every page which link to the top-level
pages of your site. From those pages, you'll need to have
further HTML links to the individual product/service pages.
(Please note that HTML links do NOT have to be text-only links.
There's nothing wrong with graphical image navigation that
is wrapped in standard <a href> tags, as the search
engines can follow image links just fine.)
6. Label your internal text links and clickable image alt
attributes (aka alt tags) as clearly and descriptively as
possible. Your site visitors and the search engines look at
the clickable portion of your links (aka the anchor text)
to help them understand what they're going to find once they
click through. Don't make them guess what's at the other end
with links that say "click here" or other non-descriptive
words. Be as descriptive as possible with every text and graphical
link on your site. The cool thing about writing your anchor
text and alt attributes to be descriptive is that you can
almost always describe the page you're pointing to by using
its main keyword phrase.
7. Write compelling copy for the key pages of your site based
on your chosen keyword phrases and your target market's needs,
and make sure it's copy that the search engines can "see."
This is a crucial component to having a successful website.
The search engines need to read keyword-rich copy on your
pages so they can understand how to classify your site. This
copy shouldn't be buried in graphics or hidden in Flash. Write
your copy based on your most relevant keyword phrases while
also making an emotional connection with your site visitor.
(This is where that target audience analysis comes in handy!)
Understand that there is no magical number of words per page
or number of times to use your phrases in your copy. The important
thing is to use your keyword phrases only when and where it
makes sense to do so for the real people reading your pages.
Simply sticking keyword phrases at the top of the page for
no apparent reason isn't going to cut it, and it just looks
silly. (Purchase and read our Copywriting
Combo for exact tips on how to implement this correctly.)
8. Incorporate your keyword phrases into each page's unique
Title tag. Title tags are critical because they're given a
lot of weight with every search engine. Whatever keyword phrases
you've written your copy around should also be used in your
Title tag. Remember that the information that you place in
this tag is what will show up as the clickable link to your
site at the search engines. Make sure that it accurately reflects
the content of the page it's on, while also using the keyword
phrases people might be using at a search engine to find your
9. Make sure your site is "link-worthy." Other
sites linking to yours is a critical component of a successful
search engine optimization campaign, as all of the major search
engines place a good deal of emphasis on your site's overall
link popularity. You can go out and request hundreds or thousands
of links, but if your site stinks, why would anyone want to
link to it? On the other hand, if your site is full of wonderful,
useful information, other sites will naturally link to it
without your even asking. It's fine to trade links; just make
sure you are providing your site visitors with only the highest
quality of related sites. When you link to lousy sites, keep
in mind what this says to your site visitors as well as to
the search engines.
10. Don't be married to any one keyword phrase or worried
too much about rankings. If you've done the above 9 things
correctly, you will start to see an increase in targeted search
engine visitors to your site fairly quickly. Forget about
where you rank for any specific keyword phrase and instead
measure your results in increased traffic, sales, and conversions.
(You can sign up for a free trial of ClickTracks,
which easily tracks and measures those things that truly matter.)
It certainly won't hurt to add new content to your site if
it will really make your site more useful, but don't simply
add a load of fluff just for the sake of adding something.
It really is okay to have a business site that is just a business
site and not a diatribe on the history of your products. Neither
your site visitors nor the engines really give a hoot!
Copyright 2005 by Jill Whalen.
All rights reserved Used by permission.