The natural or organic listings in the main body of the search results are both popular with searchers and free for your company. The bad news is that you have no direct control over when you will appear or where you will come in the pecking order. To try to get to the top, optimize on a limited set of keywords, selected as described in the previous section. In competitive markets, it’s better to do well on a keyword that only a moderate number of people search on, than to do badly on a keyword that is more popular.
Remember that the search engines have spent billions tuning their algorithms to try and find the most relevant sites for each keyword. So the general advice is to try to make your site relevant – that way you are working with them rather than against them.
Make sure you include the major search providers listed below. Don’t worry about the hundreds of others, and don’t believe any pitch that emphasizes them. Having said that, there might be a small number of specialist directories that are particularly relevant to your category. The key search engines in priority order are: Google, Yahoo! (web sites and directory), Bing (microsoft), Ask, Open Directory (dmoz.org)
Google trusts domains more as the length of time that they have been registered increases. So it may be worth doing some research and seeing if you can purchase an existing domain which is relevant to your market segment. If you can’t, get some pages loaded up on your domain ahead of launch and then register them with Google. This way you will get a faster start when you are finally ready to go. Google also takes into account whether any keywords occur as part of your domain name when ranking your site. So take that into account.
Google prefers a large site with many pages to a small site with few pages. Try to get plenty of content on your site but make sure that it is useful and duplication is minimized.
Google considers that sites where the content changes all the time are higher quality. So make sure that you put the effort into making that true for you.
Google ranks fast sites higher. There are two parts to making your site fast: the quality of your hosting and the total size of all of the content on each web page. You can usually considerably reduce the size of your content by making sure that you don’t overdo the number and size of images and experimenting with using images of different types - jpegs, gifs or png files. You should also consider use of gzip compression on your site. You site provider should be able to provide details.
One of the most important things from Google’s point of view is the number and quality of links to your site, particularly if the link contains your keywords. It regards these as votes of confidence in you. As a result, some kind of program to develop reciprocal links with other sites will be essential if your optimization strategy is to succeed. Another good way to build up a network of links is to position yourself as a special resource in your field. Maybe you can supply poems to go with your flowers, or information on the derivation of names? This type of material can act as “link bait” – something that naturally attracts links from other sites. Make sure that you are listed in any directories that are relevant to your industry. Many of these can be free.
If you have any news to announce that could be of interest, then write a press release and distribute it to the online sites that take these. Any that run your release will provide a link back to your site, and that will boost your search engine rankings.
There’s a whole section on social networking but it is worth noting that Google is increasingly including real time feeds from social networks to try and keep results as up to date as possible.
Google’s Webmaster Tools at http://www.google.com/webmasters/ is a great first step. Paid for and free tools that you can use to check your position in search engines include http://www.webceo.com/, http://www.marketsamurai.com/, a plug in for the Firefox web browser called http://tools.seobook.com/firefox/rank-checker/ and free tool http://speedyseo.com/seo-tool.
It’s impossible to make every page rank for every keyword. The way to solve this is to optimize different pages for different sets of keywords.
Different search engines take different things into account when deciding their priorities. Google attaches particular importance to page title – the text that appears in the top of the browser when you view the page. In the HTML code, it is the text between the
Google analyses how many times the keywords appear on the page; where it appears (near the top is better than near the bottom); and whether occurrences of the keywords are spread out over the page, or concentrated in one place. Work your keywords naturally several times throughout the text of the page, starting from the top. If your page is based on a table, this will mean placing them near the top of the left-hand column.
Keywords should appear in heading tags – the h1 tag – and in the URL, the image names, image Alt tags, internal link names and file names. Add a Meta Description tag (as shown in an earlier tip), but don’t worry about Meta Keyword tags unless you know you will be targeting a search engine that uses them. Most don’t. Good E-Commerce packages will optimize your site automatically with no need to edit HTML.
Don’t try to conceal keywords, for example by putting them in small or white text or in the same color as the background. And don’t ‘spam’ by repeating keywords mindlessly. You may be blacklisted irrevocably by the search engines for using this kind of trick. In fact, any one set of keywords should never exceed 5% of the total text. Avoid automated submission tools and “Link farms”. Often taking part in this activity can result in your site getting demoted in the search engines.
If you operate in a market where there is a lot of traffic through search engines and a lot of competition, consider concentrating your effort on smaller search engines. You may get better results for the same expenditure, and the overall market volume means that there are still good pickings, even from the smallest engines.
However smart you are with your marketing, you can always improve. To monitor performance, use a free tool like Google Analytics. Studying what works is vital to getting the best from these activities. Understanding how search engines work in your space is not trivial, but isn’t beyond most of us. Time spent on learning and action will pay off directly in sales.
There are many specialists that offer search engine optimization (SEO) who can help to improve your rankings, but there are also many cowboys with big charges and poor delivery. Avoid the scam where a supplier offers you “guaranteed top rankings” or the certainty of being on page one of Google. No-one can guarantee top rankings except for keywords that aren’t important and will generate hardly any traffic. So that’s what you will get. The advice in this section and the previous one should help you make a good start if you optimize your site for yourself. Alternatively, if you use a third party, it will help you keep tabs on them and make sure they are advising you well.