Mar 09 2009

Making your Web Pages Search Engine-Friendly

Website promotion is one of the most hotly contested topics these days. There are literally hundreds of companies who are more than happy to charge you top-dollar to "submit your site" to various search engines or "guarantee top listings" in search results. And all of these companies claim that they know the "right" way, they know the "secrets," and they’ll get you more traffic than anyone else. Don’t believe it!

Companies which promise to promote your website come in two forms: professionals and nobodies. By professionals, I’m talking about companies who are well-known and supposedly reputable. The nobodies, of course, are the people you’ve never heard of. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that not even the so-called pros can get more traffic to your site. I once paid $60 to the Submit-It service to have my site professionally submitted to numerous search engines. I came out of that experience with a hole in my pocket and no more visitors than I’d been getting in the past.

Since those days, I’ve taken it upon myself to learn more and more about search engines and listings. I’ve experimented with keywords, META tags, intervals between submissions, and even "doorway" pages. My research over the years has proved invaluable to myself and my colleagues. I’ve even been published in 2600 magazine for my knowledge of the search engines.

As the owner of more than 15 domains – and the designer of numerous websites – I can tell you flat-out that the purported "secrets" of search engine submission are nothing more than marketing ploys. There is no "secret" to getting listed, or being first in the search results – nobody, absolutely nobody can guarantee you top listings. Submission companies just want you to believe that, so that you hand your money over to them.

What does matter to the search engines is so simplistic, so basic, that the submission companies would hate me for giving this information away for free. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do! Getting yourself a favorable listing in search engines is a matter of following two easy steps when designing your pages.

Step 1: Use your TITLE Tag Properly!
Most search engines place a lot of weight on the content of your TITLE tag, but they’re not quick to say this – in fact, many engines keep their indexing routines secret to prevent abuse of the indexes themselves. Only Altavista (my favorite search engine, by the way) openly admits that the TITLE tag has a lot to do with your listing.

Your page’s title is important and you should design it properly. So many people set the title of their page to something totally unrelated to their site. I see a lot of sites where the page title is simply "Welcome!" or "Thank You For Visiting!" I also see plenty of pages where the title is "Untitled Document" or "Title Your Page Here" – the page owner hadn’t even specified a title at all. It’s unfortunate because those pages are missing out on potential search engine ranking.

Your TITLE tag should clearly represent what your site is about. If you’re building a page that talks about your company’s products, the title should thoroughly reflect that topic. "Our Products" or "Product Listings" is a bad choice for a page title – people are probably going to be searching for your company by name or by the type of product you sell. Thus, something like "CompanyABC: Premium Health and Nutrition Supplements" or "Household Cleaning Products from CompanyXYZ" are much better choices!

Also consider using keywords in your TITLE tag. For example, let’s say you’re selling refrigerators. You might want to make the title of your main page "Bob’s Refrigerators are Ice Cold. These are the best refrigerators in the business!" As you can see, this title gets right to the point about the topic of the page. It also uses your keyword: "Bob’s Refrigerators," and more specifically "refrigerators" (twice). Someone searching for "refrigerators" is more likely to find YOUR page than a page titled "Refrigerators For Sale."

Step 2: Keywords aren’t just for META tags
Over the years, META tags have been hawked as "the" way to get good listings in the search engines. Early on, this was true – when META tags were first created in the HTML specifications, search engines put a lot of weight on them. Several years ago you could literally boost yourself to the top of the search results by including repetative keywords in your META tags.

However, META tags have now become the most abused part of web pages. People routinely add META keywords to their page which have no relevance to their site’s topic. For example, many webmasters use META keywords like "pics" or "mp3" even if their site has nothing to do with those categories. They’re hoping that people who search for hot topics will stumble across their page and stop by.

It doesn’t work anymore. META tags now carry a surprisingly LOW weight in all of the popular search engines. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself: create an empty web page and fill the META keywords tag with some hot topics. Submit it to the search engines and then run a search on those words a few days later. I promise that your page won’t show up anywhere near the top of the results… If it shows up at all!

What’s important now is the overall content of your page. Search engines have algorithms (methods) for determining what your web pages are really about. These algorithms are closely-guarded secrets, for obvious reasons. However, they all focus on one thing these days: the REAL content in your web page. If you create a web page about "The CompanyABC Business Opportunity" but include META keywords like "free pics" and "download music," your site’s not going to be indexed under the topics you defined in your keywords. In fact, it might be rejected altogether!

Not only should you make sure that your META keywords tag appropriately reflects the content of your page, you should ensure that the text content of your page contains a good distribution of your keywords. Mention your company name often (and evenly) throughout your site. Consider the following two paragraphs about MegaCompany:

Paragraph 1: "MegaCompany is the best company around. Imagine working at home and being your own boss! Your potential for earnings is unlimited. You can sell as much as you want or as little as you want. The amount of money you make depends on how much effort you put into your business."

Paragraph 2: "MegaCompany is the best company around. Imagine working at home and being your own boss – MegaCompany makes it possible! Your potential for earnings with MegaCompany are unlimited. MegaCompany allows you to sell as much as you want or as little as you want. The amount of money you make with MegaCompany depends on how much effort you put into your MegaCompany business."

The second paragraph is going to get you MUCH better rankings when someone performs a search for MegaCompany. As you can see, the keyword (MegaCompany) is used more often in the second paragraph. It’s also evenly distributed. Don’t try bunching up your keywords at the end of the page, that doesn’t work and may prevent you from being listed at all. You should concentrate on using keywords as part of your site’s content, and spreading them evenly throughout your text.

As you can see, these two steps are pretty simple. It’s all a matter of incorporating them into the design of your page – or redesigning your pages to fit, if your site is already live and submitted. You might not end up #1 in the search results, but I guarantee that if you follow these two steps you’ll achieve better overall rankings.

Above all else, avoid common spammer tactics like grouping keywords at the bottom of your page, or trying to "hide" keywords by making the text the same color as your page’s background. Search engines look for these methods and will often disqualify your page if they encounter what they think is spam.

By: Shaun Cummiskey


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