Don’t Fear The Search Engines!
Step 1: Positioning (a.k.a. search term selection)
Let’s start with a quick definition: “Search terms” are the words and phrases that people type into search engines. For example, if I go to Google.com and type in “pokemon cards,” that’s a search term.
To get traffic from search engines, you need to know what people are searching for, and who you’re competing against. This sounds very basic, but it’s important. Search term selection really boils down to finding a balance between popularity, targeting, and competition.
Realtors, for example, might be tempted when they discover how many people search for “real estate,” and believe that this is a perfect set of keywords but they would be mistaken. That’s a very popular search term, but unless you sell real estate all over the world, it’s not specific enough to reach your target audience.
Some folks can come up with good, targeted search terms with nothing more than common sense, but I prefer to do my homework. The best way to do this on your own is with the Wordtracker service (http://www.wordtracker.com), which allows you to find popular search terms, and investigate the competition.
If you aren’t interested in doing it yourself, you can hire someone to do the research for you, and get a report back that tells you which search terms are the most popular, and which will be the easiest to compete for. I offer keyword reports through one of my websites (http://www.seoresearchlabs.com), and you can find any number of competing services by looking up “keyword research” on your favorite search engine.
Step 2: Optimization
“Optimizing” simply means putting the keywords you’ve selected onto your web pages in the right places, with the right formatting. That’s all it means. There’s a great deal of misinformation about this subject, so let me set the record straight: optimizing is the easiest part of this process.
How easy is it? Well, I can tell you 90% of what you need to know in just a few lines, and there’s a good chance that you’ll never need to learn the rest. Once you see what you can accomplish, though, you’ll probably want to learn more.
The first thing to understand is that you should only use 1-2 search terms to optimize each page. Once you’ve selected a page to optimize, and the search terms you’re going to use, all you have to do is put those words in the right places, and you’re done.
Where the search terms go:
1. Your page’s
2. Your “keywords” and “description” META tags
3. In a heading tag (H1, H2, or H3) near the top of the page
4. In the first paragraph of body text, and repeated 1-2 more times on the page
5. In the text of any links that point to the page
That’s 90% of optimization right there. The most important of these are #1, #3, and #4. Just try it, it works. I’ve got an entire website (www.insideoutmarketing.com) that uses no META tags at all, and it gets traffic for hundreds of search terms.
Step 3: Link Building
“Link building” simply means getting other websites to link to yours. If you aren’t already working on this, you need to start. Even if you don’t care about search engines, those links will bring in traffic on their own, and help you establish a credible reputation for your website.
Link building is important because search engines look at these links as a “vote” for your website, and they will boost your rankings accordingly when other sites link to you.
There are three simple ways to improve your site’s “link popularity,” and drive traffic at the same time:
1. Submit your site to the major directories. Yahoo charges $299 a year for commercial sites, but there are several popular directories, including dmoz.org, goguides.org, and joeant.com, that will list your site for free.
2. Trade links with related websites. You can help each other, and your visitors, by linking to other good websites.
3. Look for other sites that have resource directories, and ask them to link to you. I like to look in the Open Directory (http://www.dmoz.org) to find related sites.
That’s it! If you do these three simple things, your search engine rankings are sure to improve. Just remember that there are no shortcuts, and it’s never a good idea to try to “trick” the search engines. The honest approach is easier, and much better for you and your visitors.
I wish you success…
Dan Thies is a well-known writer and teacher on search engine marketing. He offers consulting, training, and coaching for webmasters, business owners, SEO/SEM consultants, and other marketing professionals through his company, SEO Research Labs. His next online class will be a link building clinic beginning March 22