Got a website? Not enough visitors? Ready to rank higher on the major search engines but don't know how to do it? This article is for you -- we'll have a look at the basics of optimization for the major search engines, covering the key points for getting better rankings naturally for your site. Enough reading countless blog postings by folks simply speculating on search algorithms (I know, I've spent countless hours doing it myself, to no avail!) Statistical analysis of the major ranking factors used by the search engines has been performed -- there's no reason to do more. The factors and their weighting have remained relatively constant for years. Focus on these important points, then spend your efforts building a better, more attractive, more easily navigated, more informative website -- for once these visitors actually arrive, you'll want them to enjoy themselves while they're buying you out.
Let's start with the all important formula, the 40:40:20 ratio. Through statistical analysis of thousands of sites, these numbers appear to be fairly accurate across the major search portals: 40% of rankings are a result of 'on-page' factors, 40% a result of off-page factors (backlinks and same site links), and 20% a result of the page URL (the exact percentages vary slightly between engines). The beauty of this is data is the resultant simplicity of the approach to achieve better search results for your important keywords. Keep your eye on the ball, work diligently on each factor, and results will come. For the small business owner with a web presence (either as a primary sales channel or component to a larger advertising strategy) there is certainly always work to do. With discipline and focus, one can become efficient in their search engine ranking efforts.
First, on-page factors: Get your keywords in all the right places, with the right density, for each important page on your site. (Don't know about keyword development yet? Use seobook.com's keyword tool, and see what people are typing in to all the major engines. For example, a site owner that sells aromatherapy products might type in 'aromatherapy' or 'essential oils' -- the tool will return all the permutations of those terms. Develop pages following the 40:40:20 formula for each of the terms that you can, focusing on one or two keyword or keyword phrases per page -- more than that is self-defeating, diluting your efforts; make a new page instead.) So what are the right places and right density? Get the keyword in the title tag, the description tag and the keywords tag. DO NOT STUFF these tags, be elegant and think about your reader. Experience has shown minor variations to be insignificant in terms of rankings, and more often than not, it seems folks go overboard with their keywords. As often as you might think, "I'll add it in just one more place on the page", it might be helpful to always consider the possibility that one LESS time might improve your rankings too.
Let's look at the latest data for the 'sweet spots' for on-page ranking factors. A 10 to 20% density keyword density for the tile, 10% for both the meta keywords description is optimal. The keyword at or toward the beginning of each of these is optimal, but not necessary. What's this mean? If we use the term 'essential oils' again, an optimal title tag might be 'Pure Essential Oils and Accessories for Natural Health Professionals'. The keyword list would be ten to twenty words, comma separated, with the most important words at the beginning, and ALL words should appear in the body text of the page. The description can be (but doesn't have to) a well written, attention grabbing sentence -- it will likely be displayed in the organic search results, so you'll want it to be both SEO and customer friendly. Again, 20 or so words, keyword near or at the beginning. Keyword can appear twice, but no more than that. Body text: 1000 words or so (+/- a couple hundred), with a 2% keyword density, and the keyword (or words) appearing near the beginning, in the middle, and near the end of the page code (not just the output text). There are tons of density analyzers on the web -- pick one, focus on the body text number and ignore the rest. You'll get a lot of conflicting reports from various sites -- this can be confusing, misleading, and can can make you think you've got to go re-tweak other factors. Don't. You'll spend hours optimizing for that tool, only to find the next tool gives a different answer. Use the numbers here and move on.
Off page factors -- these include links from within your site and 'backlinks' from other websites. You MUST get backlinks to rank well, and it's probably the most challenging of all search engine optimization to do. You'll need to continuously acquire backlinks, or your rankings will stagnate, or even slowly drop. Optimally, you'll get a few links a day, with a steady increase in the total number. The two most often used routes are link exchange (asking for links from other sites, and putting their links on your site in exchange) or article distribution. There's lots of information on the web about exchanging links, read some, develop a plan and stick to it. Once you've got a system in place, you'll likely be able to hire someone to help you. Article distribution is another matter. Articles should really be quality, readable, helpful information for prospective customers. You'll get to post links within the author resource box, which serves both as an enticement for readers to visit your site, a means to give credibility to your internet business, plus search engines will also see these links and use them in their ranking algorithm. An effective linking program will utilize both these link sources. Remember, it's not the total number of links, but a consistently increasing number that has the greatest long-term results. Don't start a scheme that will give you 1000 links in one day, then none for the next month, or links that will slowly disappear -- this can do more harm than good.
Some caveats about links -- links from within your own site should be text links with the keyword in the link. So the Aromatherapy site would use 'essential oils' in all the links to their essential oils page. Off-site links should also use keywords in text links, but not always the same words. Mix it up. Here, for example, some of backlink text examples would be 'pure essential oils', 'organic essential oils', 'aromatherapy essential oil', and 'essential oils'. Further, about 30% of your links should just include the webpage address, like '[http://www.johnnysessentialoils.com]' or '[http://www.bestbathproducts.com/essentialoils.php] This helps your backlinks appear naturally created, rather than machine made search engine spider spam. A final note on backlinks, all pages that link to yours are not weighted equally. The older and more relevant the page, the more weight your link will garner. If your site is selling essential oils, links from a natural health website will likely be more beneficial than those from a poker website.
With that we'll describe the last 20%: the URL. Web pages with the keywords in the address, be it the homepage or any other page on the site, rank better. If the If you're just starting a site, getting your primary kewords in the url is useful. If not, and it makes sense to do so, use keywords in the filename like [http://www.homepage.com/essentialoilspage1.html]. Again, it appears better if the file does not have only the keywords in it, like the title and meta tags. If you already have pages without keywords in the filenames, you could create new ones and create a 301 redirect from the old ones to maintain any ranking status the 'old' pages had. Hyphens are still questionable, and are probably not needed. Short filenames and shallow directory structures appear best.
Some last remarks: A page's age means something. If you want to change a filename to include keywords in it, always employ a 301 redirect if the page has been indexed already -- do a little research to get this right. Search engine ranking change constantly, and some engines are quicker to appreciate your optimization efforts than others. Be patient -- it can take months to see results if the site is new, and sometimes weeks otherwise. Don't think you made a mistake just because nothing happened the first time a spider visited your new page. Keep working on your accumulation of backlinks; you probably have lots of pages targeting various keywords you can get links for. More optimal could mean higher quality -- the engines continually get smarter, and may be keeping track of how long visitors linger on your page versus your competitors. This leads us to the final important note -- visitors are only one part of the equation. A well-designed site, product mix and pricing, and customer service all play key roles in the health of your business.
The author spends way too much time on his laptop, doing search marketing for a number of websites. He dreams of getting away, all the while smelling the wonderful pure therapeutic essential oils emanating from his aromatherapy essential oil diffuser.