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High Search Rankings

How To Get High Search Rankings by Al Harvey

1. Understand the basics

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 staggering.

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 same!

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 listed...or not.

To cover your bases, you need to optimize your code and content for search engines, and promote your site to get directory listings.

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 results.

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
Directory rankings
Competitor 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

Header (h1,h2,h3,h4)

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 to you.

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 traffic?

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.

Contact us today to optimize your site for high search engine rankings.


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