Search Engine Ranking... Oh, the Mystery!

Rankings, Rankings, Rankings!

How do you get your website ranked well by the search engines? Well, it isn't as hard as you think, but it may not be as simple either. It takes patience and an ongoing commitment to making search-engine ranking a long-term investment in your website. You will need to give it time and energy ? it isn't a quick fix.

One caveat before I dive into this: If you are a company that is working on attracting local customers, there are many other incredibly effective offline marketing tools to DRIVE people to your website. So, what if you really want to work on search-engine ranking for your site?

Keep these points in mind:

1. Search engines often change their ranking formula.

2. Each search engine has its own algorithm (formula) to determine site ranking.

3. META tag keywords are not a magic bullet to improve your ranking.

4. Search engines can take many months to index new information, so patience?patience.

5. Be cautious with graphics-rich websites if search-engine ranking is important.

How Do Search Engines Work?

Let's start at the beginning. When you type a query into a search engine, what happens? Some people think that each time a search is entered into a search engine like Google, that the program hunts through the entire Internet to produce the answer. This is NOT what occurs.

Let's say I type in the words "dog obedience" into Yahoo. Yahoo then takes these keywords and searches through its own unique database of indexed websites to find matches. To add to and update their databases, search engines have programs called "spiders" that crawl through pages on the Internet looking for pages and sites to index. However, they do NOT locate sites on their own. They find sites if someone has purposely entered a website into a search engine's "Add URL" form. They are also able to find a website if another site in its database has links to it.

When a search engine finds a site, it considers the text on the website to be the number one thing to extract. It places data its database categorized by information it perceives as being important. So, if you have a company that has free articles teaching people how to train their dogs, but you don't have the word "obedience" listed anywhere, your site may not be listed in the above sample search.

So then, after all of this ? how do you get a high-ranking search engine?

Your Keys to Search Engine Ranking

You must think of search engine optimization as a long-term investment in your website. It is an ongoing marketing effort that takes persistence. As you begin to implement optimization techniques, remember it can take several months before you see the results, so be patient. Here are some tips to help you improve your website rankings in the future.

1. Plan Your Content: Before you develop your site, make a list of all the possible search words and phrases you think a potential customer would use to locate your website. A research tool such as WordTracker can help you in this process. Write compelling, professional marketing content for your site that is rich with these search words and phrases, especially on your home page. Make pages about 250 words. Tip: Hire a professional web copywriter to write your site content.

2. Meta Keyword Tags Are Overrated: Contrary to what many people believe, your META keyword tags in your HTML code have very little bearing on the words a search engine uses to reference your site. What does this mean for your site? Make sure your web pages have easy-to-understand paragraphs that describe your site and contain many of your important search words. These search words should match your META keyword tags, otherwise, the spiders tend to disregard the keyword tags.

3. Title Tags Are Vital: Most search engines give a lot of weight to your title tags. These are also the phrases that appear at the top of each web page. So, take the time to create juicy and precise title tags. Use words and phrases that people would be likely to use in their search for your business. Reflect what is actually on the specific web page.

4. Meta Description Tags: This is the area where you write HTML content to describe each of your web pages. Although it is not a major factor in search engine ranking, it IS what is displayed in the search results. People searching will use this description to make a decision to visit your site or not. Use this area for marketing purposes to entice people to click on your link.

5. Design a Site That Search Engines Like: Websites that have graphic Splash pages or are designed in Flash are not as friendly to SE indexing. For the most part, search engines do not index graphics. They read text (but not graphic text). Use small amounts of Flash animation and graphics in appropriate places, along with great HTML content. Along with these graphics, use text for your image ALT tags. If you have a graphic-based navigation system, make sure you have a site map that the spider can use to find all of your site page links.

6. Create a Compelling Site: If you haven't created a website with gripping content that speaks to your visitors in plain, easy-to-understand language, you won't get good long-term search-engine visibility. Nor, will visitors ever want to come back. Make your site so good that people will want to link to it. They will want to provide their viewers with your copious amounts of useful information. You can also go to sites that offer complimentary services or products and e-mail their webmaster to ask them to add a link to your site. This will enhance your link popularity, something search engines tend to consider important.

7. Submit your URL to the Directories: Read each search engine's FAQs and follow it exactly. Mistakes in the submission process can make things extremely difficult to change down the road. Keep your website description short and sweet. Be sure to include keywords, but don't use a lot of sales jargon.

8. Balance Your Online Marketing Approach: You will get the best results if you create a website that is content rich, popular with viewers, has a credible reputation, and is programmed using a smart approach to Meta tags.

Search engine spiders can be extremely slow to index new information, so be patient! It may take months to see your changes affect your search engine ranking. Remember, a website is a dynamic marketing tool that you are building over time. Treat it well, give it a little love and attention, and your long-term rewards will be well worth your efforts!

Wendy Maynard, your friendly marketing maven, is the owner of Kinesis. Kinesis specializes in marketing, graphic and website design, and business writing. Visit http://www.kinesisinc.com/resources/article s.html for more articles and free marketing wisdom.

You can visit Wendy's marketing blog, Kinetic Ideas at: http://www.wendy.kinesisinc.com

Want to harness the power of kinetic marketing? Sign up for Kinesis Quickies, a free bi-monthly marketing e-newsletter: http://www.news.kinesisinc.com

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