Sunday, September 28, 2008

How to catch a ride on a search engine

Optimizing your Web site to realize more traffic is a noble goal, but it's not easy because the various search engines don't reveal exactly how they go about ranking Web sites. And their systems can change.

Gone are the days when using meta tags were the key to high rankings. Google, fast becoming the only search engine game in town, now marks these meta tags as "negative," instead ranking individually-indexed pages. Some SEO (search engine optimization) is now done through the back door on the index pages that viewers never see.

A content strategist must be on top of things every day, assessing clicking strategies, checking out what's working by trial-and-error, etc. It's a challenging endeavor, and it's nearly a full-time job.

Without hiring a pricey firm to optimize your site (don't think SEO is automatically included with your Web design as in days gone by), there are five basic things you can do or check into right now to help things along:

1. The more your site's content is relevant or unique, the more it is optimized for pickup. Post press releases or news bits on your site and change them frequently. Pack your writings with correctly spelled keywords or phrases relevant to your industry. Offer some unique content within these articles or news posts - words or phrases that are different and therefore stand out in the competitive Web environment. Think of the obvious keywords, then add to these by coming up with related words or phrases.

2. Post articles and e-newsletters you or a staff member writes, or post others' materials, making sure you secure their permission. If you can summarize this material first and add that summary, too, that's even better. For an article you are picking up from another site, summarize it in a few lines on your site, and then add a link to the full article.

3. Add as many related links as possible within your Web content pages. This includes adding them to all your online press releases and news stories.

4. Avoid the seduction of having Flash animated headers on your site that can't be indexed on a search engine because they carry no text. Using Flash on sites today is like showing up at a 2008 school dance dressed like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. A simple, informative site is best, and positions your business as one that is diligent about keeping up with today's changing world.

5. Be sure your site is programmed with title tags that search engines can index. What's really more important than your ranking on any given search engine is how much traffic your site has and where it's coming from. Having this information through Web analytic tools your Webmaster uses (or through services you can subscribe to monthly), will give you insight into such things as the best keywords to use on your site, and what links are doing the best job of bringing people to your site. Of course, you must analyze these things, then apply this information.

Be sure to list your Web site everywhere, including on the rapidly-growing social networking sites. And any business that fails to include its Web site address on a print or broadcast ad anywhere at anytime is, well, eventually doomed.


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