From our guest author, Jim Rhodes.
Note: Although this article is a somewhat dated, it still has some very relevant and useful information to offer.
It's the hottest topic on the Net: how to get your site to the top of the list.
The Basic Principle
Everywhere you look there's somebody giving you advice, but you know what? Most of that advice is theory passed on from person to person. Not many people have tested their own theories over a long period of time to see what works and what doesn't. I have.
All the advice you're about to read is from first hand experience. I worked all this out on my own with a lot of trial and error, and as a result I have some severely successful sites to my name. You can too.
There are two types of search engine: the deep engine, like Alta Vista and Infoseek, which sends out a robot to your site and saves the info from your page itself, and then there's the standard engine (also known as "directory") which doesn't use any info from your page, only the info which you give it by way of an online submission form. The most important of all search engines is Yahoo! and it's absolutely vital to take extreme care when you submit to this one.
Building A Keyword List
Before you touch anything, you have to decide which words are best suited to the topic of your site. Think carefully because the key is to match the words your potential visitors are likely to type into a search engine. Users tend to be fairly general with their initial searches, then they narrow it down. So, if you have a pet shop the keyword 'pets' is going to be more powerful than 'dogs'.
You can choose between a short, powerful keyword list which is likely to put you high up but with only a limited number of words, or you can have a long list which will put you slightly lower, but with a broad spectrum of keywords.
- Now that you've got your list, here's what to do with it...
- Tips On Keywords And Descriptions
- Describe your Web site, not your company. The name of the game is getting Web site visitors. Once they've arrived you can talk to your heart's content about your annual turnover or whatever.
- Empathize with your users. Think what they might be searching for, which may not even be something you're actually selling but may be related to something you're selling. The user may thank you for selling them something better. The keywords are more important than the facts!
- Test your keywords. Search for each one on any search engine and then examine the top few Web sites to see if there are any other keywords you might like to add to your list.
- Plurals: always use the plurals of keywords. A user will search for 'pet' or 'pets'. Your keyword 'pets' will match in both cases.
- Common words: don't use words like 'web', 'internet', 'services' - if you think one of your words might be a common one, test it on Alta Vista. If the response is something like:
ignored 19,152,057 services
then don't use that keyword!
- Keyword phrases: your keywords don't have to be one word. Users often search for well-known phrases like 'web site promotion'. If your topic has a natural phrase like this, use the words together as one keyword phrase - in your META tag (enclose all 3 words between two commas), TITLE and even URL.
Preparing Your Page
- The first thing to do is to 'doctor' your page so that when the deep engine robots visit, they think "Hey, this is a powerful page with strong keywords, I'll list this one high!"
- There are a number of aspects of your site (some of which you may not even have considered) that you have to 'load' with keywords:
- I'm talking about <HEAD> <TITLE>The Page Title</TITLE> </HEAD> - not the first heading on the page itself.
- The first, and most powerful aspect. Keep it short, keep it interesting and put one or two (no more) of your most powerful keywords in it. Do the same for your subpages. Never put a looong sentence in your TITLE.
- Don't put too much effort into trying to have a title which is low alphabetically. If it's naturally low, then good, but it's becoming of less and less importance.
- META Tags
- Not as powerful as most people seem to think. Important, nevertheless. You can put a lot of keywords in your META tag, but don't repeat more than a couple of times otherwise you'll get penalised and sent to the bottom of the list:
- <TITLE>The Page Title>/TITLE>
- <META Name="description" Content="Something interesting. Keywords not required at all. 150 characters maximum.">
- <META Name="keywords" Content="Your keywords, the whole list repeated twice in entirety, each word separated by a comma.">
- The number of keywords isn't important, only the percentage compared to the rest of the page. I've seen pages with nothing on them but a couple of graphics, and no META tags. They had one word in the TITLE and a few words of text in the BODY. Very small pages. But they were right at the top of the list for the keywords used.
- Use it! Not many people do because they like to have a short, "cool" URL. If your site is www.johnsmith.com and it's about pets, you can still have your site as www.johnsmith.com, but you can copy the whole site to www.johnsmith.com/pets/ and submit only this URL to the search engines. Keep the main URL to put on your printed material and to tell your friends.
- Make sure your page is absolutely perfect and that you've double-checked everything before you submit. Once your page is listed it's very difficult and time-consuming to change it. Likewise, take great care over the listings you submit to the directories.
- Submit all your pages, including your sub-pages whenever possible. Yes, the robots will crawl the rest of your site if you only submit the home page, but it can take longer.
- On the standard engines, like Yahoo!, choose the most relevant categories. Then eliminate the ones that are deep in the hierarchy (ie. have long names). When you have the best two, put one in the main category box, and put the other in the 'additional categories' box. Yahoo! definitely won't let you have more than two. You'll be lucky if you can get more than one.
You're thinking you've got a long haul ahead of you... all those search engines...
- Get this one right and you'll be laughing all the way to the bank. If you've done your TITLE right, it should have the two most powerful of your keywords in it, so put the same title for your Yahoo caption. If the main heading in the BODY of your page doesn't match the title, change it so it does! The Yahoo! staff always check sites before they list them. I'm not kidding. And they're very sharp at spotting questionable tactics. Anything dodgy and you'll get a rejection message. It's the toughest of them all but also the most rewarding.
- For the description, use about ten words to avoid it getting chopped short by the staff, and include as many keywords as possible whilst still making a sensible sentence. Nobody said it was easy.
As long as you've prepared your page as described above, all you need to do is get yourself some killer software to actually make the registrations. Something that you can try out first for free, and then pay if you like it... something that's customisable for your own site... something that has the peculiarities of each engine built into it by a professional Web marketer...
You guessed it! Here it is:
If your thirst for knowledge isn't satisfied yet, check out The Art Of Business Web Site Promotion. You ain't seen nothin' yet.
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