Create a Search Engine Friendly Website

searchWe all hear how important it is to be “found” on the Web. This requires that you use strategies to make your site be noticed to the search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. While  search engines differ somewhat in the way they look for information, there are a few general rules that will work for all.

First, remember that “content is king.” No matter how excellent your design, or what keywords you have chosen, or really much of anything else on this list, your site will remain virtually invisible without high quality text content.  Your site should be informative, containing text that is useful to your intended audience, and that is updated regularly!

What are keywords?

Let’s clarify what is meant by keywords, since they are so important. Basically, keywords are a small set of words that summarize the contents of  a document, whether it is a web site, blog or article. Keywords are what your target audience types into a search box to (hopefully) find your site.

Here is an example. Suppose you are in the business of selling apples from your orchard in upstate New York. You want to attract more business, maybe even sell online.  Are you going to optimize your site for searches on “apples”? If you do, then your site may appear, but it will probably be on page 10 or so in the search results. Research shows that 92% of search users click on links on page 1 of search results.  That means that only 8% go beyond the first page to find what they are looking for! (Chitika)

The Long Tail

The trick to improving your standing in search results is to use a 3-5 word keyword phrase that, through your research, you have learned your target audience uses to find products or services like yours.  Such phrases are known as “long tail” keywords.  Not too generic, which will bury you in search results, and not too specific, which reduces the likelihood that they will be used in a search.

So, for your apple business, you learned years ago that people love Honeycrisp apples, and you planted a few acres of those, along with several other varieties. Your long tail phrase might be “Honeycrisp apples”.  Or better, since you want to attract customers who might be close enough to drive to your orchard, “New York Honeycrisp Apples”. (Try this phrase in Google!)

Now for the hard work

Use any of the tools available for keyword research. (one example) Once you have determined what words and phrases best describe your site’s content, you can proceed to use them effectively in your text content, site description, page titles, text headings, and in the filenames and tags for your images.

And, you need to create back links to your site. The search engines pay close attention to this. Here are some ideas:

  1. Submit guest posts to blogs, and use your keywords as a link to your site or a page on your site. Seek out blogs that are relevant to the content of your site.
  2. Find high-quality forums where there is a discussion of topics relevant to what your site offers, and post valuable information, with a link to your site. Look for forums with plenty of traffic. and, if possible, do a posting that is a bit controversial, or at lest worthy of responses, so that your link will repeat.
  3. Use social media like Facebook and Twitter.  (Note: A 2012 study by Branded3 asserts that there is a correlation between Twitter shares of your url and your Google page rankings!)
  4. Submit articles to StumbleUpon (More information here)
  5. Find quality websites and blogs with good following and ask to be featured.
  6. Consider creating a short, viral video to post to youtube, if you’re really ambitious.

There are many more ways to create links to your site, and Google is always there to help! Yes, it’s hard work. It’s really all about sales!

How about those emails I get telling me they can increase traffic to my site?

The competition for search traffic is as fierce as it gets. There are no shortcuts, and anyone who promises you increased website traffic had better be ready to give you specifics and prices. Beware of so-called “Black Hat” SEO providers. They use link farms, low-quality blogs and, in worst cases, site hacks to gain temporary SEO advantage. You always get what you pay for in this arena.