If you sell watches online, how will
the online watch shoppers find your site? The highest percentage
will go to Google, Yahoo, MSN and AOL and type "watch"
or “watches” into the empty search field.
What happens next is amazing. The search engines and directories
will return hundreds of thousands of website listings and
addresses from their databases. The volume of results is usually
That’s OK, because most people only visit sites listed on
pages one, two and (maybe) three.
So where do these hundreds of thousands of listings come from?
1) Search engines (like Google) feed their databases automatically
by sending "robots, crawlers and spiders" across
the Internet to find and index sites with code and content
that seems appropriate for certain keywords. They do this
without actually thinking about it because they're incapable
of thinking. They behave predictably for a while -- you can
"optimize" things for them -- and then everything
changes all over again and they go about their businessin
some new and often puzzling way. It's like your busy bird
feeder suddenly becomes a dud, and the seed's exactly the
2) Directories (like Yahoo) use human editors to review site
descriptions submitted by website owners. They build massive
databases of content the old-fashioned way. You write copy
to describe your website, key it into an online form (look
for the ADD URL link on the main or contact page of the directory),
and fire it off across cyberspace to the human recipient at
the other end. They deliberate for a while and then you're
To cover your bases, you need to optimize your code and content
for search engines, and promote your site to get directory
So where do you start?
2. See where you rank now
You can buy software that tells you
where you rank right now on various search engines. You can
use websites that provide similar functionality online.
You will soon find that different solutions give you different
You will also find that your rankings change frequently.
Tracking your search engine status should involve the use
of several tools and should be undertaken over a period of
time. Otherwise you could be looking at "blips on the
radar screen" and little more.
Your current rankings should include:
Where you rank today for your own name
Where you rank today for keywords
Search engine rankings
Once you know where you rank today you can set targets and
build a plan to achieve them.
3. Optimize code & content
You can do this yourself or have experts
handle it for you.
On-page optimization is usually undertaken for improved rankings
with search engines, not human-built directories.
It involves writing html tags with keywords and phrases in
such a way that robots, crawlers and
This should be done for every page of your site. Because the
content changes on every page, you have an opportunity to
use different keywords and phrases in the code if that makes
sense. This is sometimes done to attract different segments
of your market to different pages of your site.
4. Exchange links & listings
The more quality directories that list
you, the better. The same goes for sites linking reciprocally
Search for online communities and portals. Find out how to
get listed there. E-mail websites and offer to link to them
if they link to you. This often works for businesses selling
similar products and services to different target audiences.
For example, someone else’s online business in another city
may be receiving lots of requests for the same service in
your city. Exchange links!
Good SEO firms are armed with online relationships they can
leverage to promote your site.
For a fee, they can usually jump-start reciprocal linking
and directory listing programs for your site, building immediate
traffic and boosting your rankings.
You might hear Web pros talk about how many “votes” your site
is getting. This is just stupid talk for how many other sites
are linking to it. And there are good and bad ways to set
up your own internal links to score points in this area.
Keep in mind it is important to link to and from websites
that, themselves, rank well and have good popularity numbers.
5. Track and tune performance
A new Ferrari ships with its engine optimized
for the road.
But ask Michael Schumacher if his F1 Ferraris go the distance
without a pit stop – or if he parks his car after winning one
race, airlifts it to the next stop on the circuit and then just
jumps in and fires it up again. "No," he'll tell you.
Your website, like an F1 race car, will perform well for a while,
but won’t win the race without pit stop maintenance.
With Search Engine Optimization, it’s a good idea to track "this
month/last month" performance, monitor old and new rivals,
see whether your link exchange program is gaining or losing
momentum and determine the correlation between your Web traffic
and your business objectives. Are your sales growing with your
The performance trends are what you’re after. With this kind
of information, you can easily see progress, precisely determine
Return On Investment and back-up your decision to ramp up funding
for maximum performance.
Al Harvey runs BangOn Creative, delivers BangOnSEO
solutions and writes about online marketing for a range
of e-newsletters and magazines.
us today to optimize your site for high search engine rankings.
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