Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ways to Better Search Engine Rankings

Understanding exactly what it takes to attain a top ranking page (or pages) can sometimes seem like a somewhat difficult task. Regardless of your experience in search engine promotion, we've all, at one time or another, sat in front of the computer frustrated and ready to call it quits.

Sound familiar? It should. It's actually fairly normal. That is why I have put together a list of the top 10 things you can do to help assure that you will find your site's pages sitting proudly at the top of the results.

With all that being said, let's jump right in ok?

1. Do your keyword research. Yes, I know this is harped on constantly (heck I do a lot of harping myself), but it is the single most important aspect of search engine optimization. If you don't know how your targeted visitors search for your product or service, then you are shooting in the dark. Don't just assume you know how they are going to try and find you. Use a service like WordTracker.com to develop a good and comprehensive list of keywords. Visit your competition and look at the terms they use in the keywords tag and throughout their pages. Spend a good bit of time on this because it will payoff big down the road. Once you have your list, rank the phrases in order of importance starting with your most important keyword phrase.

2. Now that you have your keywords list. It is time to start getting the text for your pages ready. When doing so, you will want each of your pages to focus on one of the keyword phrases from your list. Your homepage should focus on your most important phrase and each subsequent subpage should focus on another keyword phrase. Ideally, you should never focus on more than one or two keyword phrases per page. Trying to focus on more than this will dilute the theme of the page and could have a negative effect on your rankings. You will here a lot of talk about keyword density. While this is important, don't spend every waking hour trying to hit the perfect density. With so many other things such as link popularity, themes, etc. being taken into account, hitting the exact density is becoming less and less important. A good rule of thumb is to shoot for a density between 3% and 5%.

3. Now let's talk title tags. The title tag is one of the most important elements of your page. The engines put more weight on the title tag than any other single element of your page. Your title tag should ALWAYS contain the keyword phrase you have chosen to target for that page. Keep the tag short, no more than about 6 words generally, but make it appealing. The goal here is make the title appealing to visitors but also short enough that you don't take away from the importance of your keyword phrase.

4. Try to keep your pages as simple as possible. Things such as frames, excessive javascript, flash, too many graphics or image maps can have a negative affect on your search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is that the simpler the page, the better it will generally rank. Even tables, when used too much can break up the flow of the text on a page and hurt your chances at a top ranking.

5. Good solid content is always important. While you will occasionally see top ranking sites with very little content, you will have a much better time getting and keeping a top ranking with good content. This not only gives the engines more to index, but it gives your visitors something to read and absorb.

6. Think big. What does this mean? Quite simply, it means that a site of 30 or more pages has, at least, 6 times the chances to get a top ranking as a site of 5 pages. The more pages your site has with good, solid, quality content, the more keyword phrases you can target and the more chances you have of attaining a top ranking.

7. Create a good system of internal linking. You should be able to get to just about any page on your site within no more than 3 clicks. Consider creating a site map with links to all of the pages within your site. This will assist the engines in properly indexing your site. When creating your internal links try to use the actual keyword phrase that you will be targeting on the page you are linking to as the link text. Many engines look at the visible text of a hyperlink as a description of the target page. If the visible text matches the focus of that page, it will help to give that page a boost in the rankings.

8. Work hard to build your sites external link popularity. This can be a long and arduous task, but it is crucial to your success. All of the top engines use link popularity quite heavily when ranking sites. It is important to note that it is not only the quantity of links that is important but also the quality of those links. One link from a site such as Yahoo is worth as much or more than 100 links from unknown sites. Also remember, it is also important that you link to other sites. When linking to other sites, or attempting to get them to link to you, always shoot for sites that are of a similar theme as your site.

9. Monitor your rankings in the search engines and make adjustments accordingly. This is best accomplished through a program like WebPosition Gold, Top Dog, or other similar programs. If you see your position starting to slide, look at the sites that have overtaken you and see if you can determine a pattern. This will tell you what you need to do to regain your position. Always check your internet security lavels .

10. Whew! We've covered a lot. Now that your at this step keep at it. If you don't get a top ranking right off the bat don't get discouraged. Heck, how did your first attempt at an omelette turn out? Give yourself some time to get accustomed to this new field. Keep tracking your progress, analyzing the competition, and making adjustments, and in no time at all, you will find yourself sitting comfortably on that elusive first page.

Good Luck and Happy Optimizing!

Thanks to John Buchanan (author of the book The Insider's Guide to Dominating The Search Engines, and publisher of "The Search Engine Bulletin", a FREE monthly newsletter. Visit his site for more information or to sign up for his newsletter).

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