Ten Tips to the Top of the Search Engines

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Having a Web site that gets found in Google and the other engines isn’t hard to do, but it can be difficult to know where to begin. Here are ten tips to get you started:

1. Start out slowly. If possible, begin with a new site that has never been submitted to the search engines or directories. Choose a domain name that best fits your brand, and start out by optimizing just the home page. (Many SEOs recommend purchasing a keyword-rich domain name; however, I’ve been optimizing sites successfully since 1995 without using them.)

2. Learn basic HTML. A lot of search engine optimization techniques involve editing the behind-the-scenes HTML code. Your high rankings can depend on knowing which codes are necessary, and which aren’t. Minimally, you should be able to view the source code of any page and understand what it all means, as well as be able to slightly edit it as necessary.

3. Choose keyword phrases wisely. The phrases you think might be perfect for your site may not be what people are actually searching for. To find the optimal words for your site, use a research tool such as Wordtracker. Decide on two or three highly targeted phrases for each page of your site. Never shoot for general keywords such as “travel” or “vacation” as they are rarely (if ever) indicative of what your site is really about.

4. Write at least 200-250 words of visible text copy based on your chosen keywords. This is a crucial component to high rankings and a successful Web site. The search engines need to “read” keyword-rich copy on your pages so they can understand how to classify your site. Write the copy based on your keyword phrases, and not the other way around. Don’t be afraid to use your phrases as many times as it makes sense to do so. The optimal number of instances will vary by search engine, the number of words on your page, and also by how well the copy actually reads to a person. Simply sticking keyword phrases at the top of the page or only in headlines probably won’t cut it. (Purchase and read my “Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines” handbook for exact tips on how to do this.)

5. Create a killer Title tag. Title tags are critical because they’re given a lot of weight with all of the search engines. You must put your keyword phrases into this tag and not waste space with extra words. Do not use the Title tag to display only your company name, or to simply say “Home Page.” Think of this tag more as a “Title Keyword Tag” and create it accordingly. It should reflect exactly what your page is about, using the keyword phrases people might be using at a search engine to find your company.

6. Make sure your site is “link-worthy.” Other sites linking to yours is a critical component of a successful search engine optimization campaign, as all of the major search engines place a good deal of emphasis on your site’s overall link popularity. You can go out and request hundreds or thousands of links, but if your site sucks, why would anyone want to link to it? On the other hand, if your site is full of wonderful, useful information — other sites will naturally link to it without your even asking. It’s fine to trade links; just make sure you are providing your site visitors with only the highest quality of related sites. When you link to lousy sites, keep in mind what this says to your site visitors as well as to the search engines.

7. Create meaty Meta tags. Meta tags have some value, but they are not a magic bullet. Create a Meta Description tag that uses your keywords and also describes your site. The information in this tag often appears under your Title in the search engine results pages, especially if the keyword phrase that was searched upon in the engine appears in your tag. The Meta Keyword tag isn’t quite as important as the Meta Description tag. Contrary to what many people believe, what you place in the keyword tag will have very little (if any) bearing on what keywords your site is actually found under, and it’s not given any consideration whatsoever by Google. Feel free to use this tag for technical synonyms or common misspellings if you want to, but do NOT obsess over it; it definitely won’t make or break your rankings.

8. Be careful when submitting to directories such as Yahoo, DMOZ, JoeAnt, Gimpsy and the like. Having directory listings are a key component to getting your site spidered and listed by Google and the other search engines. Therefore it’s important to read each directory’s FAQ and follow it precisely. Making mistakes in the submission process could cost you dearly as directory listings are difficult to change later in the game. Be cognizant of the fact that you will be dealing with human editors, and always think about how you can make their job easier when it comes to listing your site.

9. Don’t expect quick results. Getting high rankings takes time; there’s no getting around that fact (even with paid-inclusion). Once your site is added to a search engine its rankings may start out low and then slowly work its way up the ladder. All search engines measure link popularity, and it takes time to really and truly become one of the most popular sites in your niche. Be patient and give your site time to mature.

10. Don’t constantly “tweak” your site for better results. It’s best not to make changes to your on-the-page optimization for at least three months after you optimize it. You certainly don’t need to sit on your hands or twiddle your thumbs during this period, however. You should constantly work on adding new stuff to your site to make it better and better, plus you should always be on the lookout for other sites that might be interested in making your site available to their site visitors.

If you’ve followed these tips and still can’t find your site in the engines, the first place to “tweak” would be your page copy. If you added less than 250 words of visible text on your pages, this could be your culprit. Also, double-check your keyword density, and make sure that you only targeted two or three phrases per page.

Eventually, you’ll see the fruits of your labor with many top-ten rankings in Google and the rest of the search engines!


Guest Columist Jill Whalen of High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization consultant and editor of the free weekly High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter.

She specializes in search engine optimization, SEO consultations and seminars. Jill’s handbook, “The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines” teaches business owners how and where to place relevant keyword phrases on their Web sites so that they make sense to users and gain high rankings in the major search engines.

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
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