Introduction to Search Engines
With surveys showing that approximately 85% of internet users find websites via search engines, ensuring your site is well ranked should be an integral part of your online marketing strategy. Search engine promotion is cost effective and results in your website receiving visitors who are already looking for what it has to offer.
So how can you make sure that your website is receiving its fair share of search engine referred traffic? Before you even begin submitting to search engines you need to prepare your site for submission and take some steps to ensure it will perform well once submitted.
Preparing Your Site for Submission
The first step in preparing your site for a successful search engine promotion campaign is to identify which key phrases to optimise your website for.
1. Identify Key Phrases
Try to think like your users and decide on key phrases they would type into a search engine when looking for your product or service. You should try to limit key phrases to around five to seven per page that you intend to optimise. Key phrase selection is extremely important, number one rankings won't increase your traffic if nobody searches for the terms you are ranking under. There are online tools to help you determine which key phrases are being used by searchers, such as the one on Overture.
You can also find out which search terms your own website's visitors have been using to find your site, through your traffic statistics. If you can see that you are getting traffic from one search engine for a key phrase that you are not showing up under on another, then you can work on improving your ranking under that key phrase. Additionally, if you find that you have a number one position for a key phrase that brings you no traffic, you can replace the phrase for another in the optimisation of your pages.
2. Optimise for Key Phrases
Once you have defined the key phrases the next step is to optimise your website. You can optimise as many or as few pages on your website as you like.
Basic optimisation means including effective <title>, <meta description> and <meta keyword> tags in your pages. Not all search engines look at the meta tags on websites, but most place high importance on the title.
These tags should include your key phrases. Different search engines have different rules on how many characters they allow in each tag, a reasonable limit is around five to seven words in the title, and 250 characters in the keyword and description tags. Although you can use up to 1000+ characters in your keyword tag on some search engines, it is better to focus on the keywords that are most important to your website instead of cramming every possible related word in.
When optimising your <title> and <meta description> remember that the title and sometimes the description will make up the listing on search engines that web users see, and so should entice searchers to click through to your website and be grammatically correct.
It is also important to include your key phrases in the HTML text of your page. This may mean rewriting your pages to ensure that they appear. Using phrases in your meta tags that do not appear in the page itself is of little benefit and may even work against you.
Another important way to optimise your website is through "link popularity". This refers to how many links your website has pointing back to it, from directories and other websites. By setting up a links page on your website now, you can then contact other website owners and arrange a reciprocal link agreement.
The more links that point to your website, the higher it will be ranked on search engines that take this into account. Google is probably the most well known of search engines that use link popularity in its algorithm (ranking criteria). Links should be from websites that are relevant (but non competitive) in content. You may find your website receiving substantial traffic from these links, in addition to increasing your link popularity, giving a double benefit for your efforts.
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