Basic Search Engine Optimization For Dummies

OK, you published your site, now you just sit by the phone with a notepad as the orders pour in, right? Well, weeks go by and nothing happens. What's wrong?

Oops, you forgot to submit to search engines. No problem, you go onto Google, Yahoo, MSN, perhaps a couple more, and after some hassle with the usual red tape you get yourself submitted. Surely the orders will pour in now?

Or will they?

Let me illustrate the problem for you with an example.

Let's say you are considering buying a new home theatre system this year. You want to do a bit of research so that you don't get ripped off. How would you go about it?

Of course, you'd use a search engine. You might type in "audio visual suppliers melbourne" (assuming you live in Melbourne). Let's say the search returns 30 thousand results, ten per page.

How many pages will you look at? One, maybe two? In other words, if your business is not within the top 20 in your category, it might as well not exist. So, the big question is, how do you get into the top twenty?

The search engines use complex mathematical formulae (algorithms) to determine the ranking of sites. To make matters worse, the algorithms are different for each engine, and secret. However, in general terms the engines look at only two factors: relevance and popularity.

Relevance means simply how relevant is your website to the search the customer is conducting (ie. To the keywords they typed in). The search engines make money by selling advertising space, and their prices depend on traffic they can generate; the traffic in turn is a direct result of how relevant the search results are for people visiting the engine's site.

Relevance is influenced by:

  • How early the keywords appear on the page, are they in headings, meta tags, titles, picture names? (Keyword prominence)
  • How often are the keywords used? (Keyword frequency)
  • What's the proportion of keywords to the page's word count? (Keyword weight)
  • How close are the keywords to each other? (Proximity)

Of course, the ultimate in keyword prominence is when it appears in your domain name (remember fastweightlossdiet.net?).

Now, you probably gathered that it's next to impossible to optimise a page for more than one sequence of keywords. However, your customers might actually search for you under dozens (if not hundreds) of keywords. How can you possibly hope to capture this traffic?

Well, the solution lies in creating so-called doorway pages. Once you've done your research and you have a list of keywords your prospects are using, you need to create a separate page for each keyword, and then optimise it for this particular keyword or keyword sequence. When the prospect clicks on the doorway page's link it takes them straight to your site.

Now, once you've covered relevance, it's time to consider popularity. It is judged by two factors:

  • How many other websites (preferably related) link to yours?
  • How long does an average visitor stay on your site before getting out?

There are several strategies you can use to get other sites to link to yours. Start by linking to good-ranking sites in your category, then email them saying you just linked to them and ask politely to link back to you. Visit guestbooks of related sites and sign your entry with your URL (URL is www + your domain name) ? this automatically creates a link. Research link farms (free-for-all link areas).

To increase the time an average visitor spends on your site, there is only one effective way: having interesting and compelling content on it!

A word of caution about search engine optimisation ? as the Net grows, it takes longer and longer to wait from making changes on your site to seeing your rankings actually go up; currently 3 months seem to be the norm, and you probably need to allow a year to achieve a decent ranking in a popular category. Also, once achieved it needs to be constantly maintained, as the algorithms change all the time and your competitors don't sleep!

Search engine optimisation is a very significant time commitment that is not realistic for a majority of busy business people. Once again, the only solution is to hire someone to do it for you. Prices range from $500 to $10,000; on-going maintenance $50 - $150 per month. They depend on the number of keywords and doorway pages, and the keywords popularity (it's harder to get into the top of ten in a keyword category with millions of businesses competing, such as "weight loss", than it is for a niche category such as "natural diet recipes").

Make sure you get a guarantee on results, so that when they don't achieve the agreed ranking for you at least you get your money back.

Darius Mikolajewski is Director of Allwelt International, an Australian Internet Marketing Company, and author of books and articles about internet marketing as well as weight loss and nutrition. For more information visit http://www.allwelt.com

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