If you want to drive more free search engine traffic to your web site, then obtaining high rankings in Google, MSN, Yahoo and other search engines should be an important part of your Internet marketing strategy.
There are no real tricks behind a successful search engine optimization (SEO) campaign, but there are specific methods and techniques that dramatically improve your opportunities for favorable rankings. It really comes down to giving search engines what they want. This requires a thorough understanding of how search engines operate and what they are really looking for. Once you’ve gained the necessary knowledge, the best SEO program is one that applies this knowledge to your Web server, the chosen architecture for your Web site, the coding techniques used to develop your Web pages and the general philosophy that you apply to your Web page content and designs.
What do search engines want?
More than anything else, search engines are looking for informational content. After all, users will not stay loyal to any one search engine for long unless they believe that the selections they see on search engine results pages lead them to what they are looking for. If your web site consists of simple pages with brief descriptions of your products or services, your web pages are likely doomed to remain in search engine limbo. Search engine limbo consists of the vast number of Web pages whose rankings in the search engines are so low that users rarely find them.
There is a psychological barrier that becomes evident when search engine users are studied. Most people rarely look past the first three pages of search results, or the first 30 site listings. Serious searchers may look at up to the first ten pages, or the first one hundred results. This means that a web page gets pretty good exposure when it shows up in the top 30 positions for a given search phrase. A page will still get significant exposure if it is in positions 40 to 100 for a given search phrase. After that, the number of users that will see a Web page link drops off dramatically. Unquestionably, the primary positions everyone seeks are in the top 10, or the first page of search results.
If I improve my content, will I get top rankings?
Theoretically, your rankings should improve with information-rich content, but there are many other factors that affect your rankings. Only a few years ago, almost anyone could make simple changes to title tags and meta tags on their web pages and improve their rankings. Today, simple changes usually produce only minimal changes in your rankings. While content is a very important factor, the best content in the world won’t give you the results you desire if there are barriers that prevent search engine algorithms from doing their job or prevent them from properly evaluating your site. Search engine optimization seeks to identify and remove these barriers.
Over the past few years the level of competition for search engine rankings has grown enormously. The total number of Web pages and documents available on the Internet is a constantly growing number. Google has managed to index more than 3.3 billion web pages and documents. The good news is that your web pages do not compete with all of these pages and documents; a web page only has to compete with pages containing similar content. The bad news is that there can be anywhere from thousands to millions of web pages on the Internet with content similar to yours, and the level of competition for a keyword or phrase does affect your chances for achieving top positions.
But I’ve got great content and my competitors’ pages still rank higher than mine!
There may be something structurally wrong with your web pages or your web site architecture. If your web site is not designed to be “search engine friendly”, search engine spiders may abandon the indexing of your site, or they may be penalizing your pages because the design is confusing, or they cannot properly index your pages due to a technical issue. Search engine spiders are automated algorithms that do not waste a lot of time searching a site. Due to their automated nature, spiders are programmed to abandon a site when they get confused or cannot easily move from page to page.
But my design looks great
What a site looks like has little to do with how easy it is for a search engine algorithm to index a site. A search engine algorithm never actually sees your web pages or your wonderful visual design; it only reviews the HTML code that defines your pages.
My site was created by a professional web site designer
You shouldn’t feel like your site is the only one with problems that prevent it from achieving top rankings. The overwhelming majority of Web sites have problems inherent in their design, or important elements that are missing, that keep the pages in search engine limbo.
At a minimum, your web pages should contain the following:
- A theme concentrating on 1 to 3 keyword phrases per page, with keyword-focused, information-rich content. The more focused your content is, the more your chances improve for favorable rankings.
- A significant amount of content. Generally, 250 to 500 words is a good target to seek, but don’t just stuff words into your pages just to meet a goal, or you may end up boring your audience. Your audience should be your first concern.
- Descriptive HTML title tags that include keywords in the left-most positions.
- Clean HTML code. Use a validator to make sure your code is crystal clear and understandable to any spider that visits.
Things to avoid:
- The use of HTML frames for the design. This design method tends to easily confuse search engine spiders.
- Broken hyperlinks. Do a thorough link check on your site. Broken links can cause a spider to abandon the indexing of site.
- Duplicate content. Do not set up multiple pages with the same content, or duplicate sites with the same content. These may be identified as “mirror sites” and will likely be penalized.
- Dirty tricks or search engine spamming. A few years ago, one could create doorway pages, hide non-visible keywords on a page (keyword stuffing) and use other tricks to fool search engines. Today, search engine algorithms are much smarter, and can easily identify most tricks. If you get caught, your site will be penalized.
There are numerous issues beyond these that may prevent your page rankings from “being all that they can be”. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you find that you fail to raise your rank positions. Is there something in your site design or page design that keeps your site in search engine limbo? The only way to know for certain is by having your site evaluated by someone who has the technical knowledge and skills to identify and either show you how to correct these underlying problems, or correct the problems for you.