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Michael Rielly
Michael Rielly

Improving Your Website's Search Rankings

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There are a number of ways to improve your website's rankings in the search engines.

Search engines companies like Google, Yahoo, and Bing use a variety of ways to determine the order in which a website is listed on the resulting pages. The order is often referred to as "Search Engine Result Pages" or SERPs. I worked for two Search companies in the past and I can tell you that every search engine uses a different algorithm and methodology to display these results. Concentrating too much on any one particular method (Google's, Yahoo's, etc.), may possibly result in ranking high on one and low on the other. The term for improving your positioning in these search results is called "Search Engine Optimization" or SEO.

It is very difficult to rank 1 or 2 on all the major search sites at the same time. This takes constant tweaking and manipulation of your site and a really good understanding of how the search engines crawl and collect information. Experts in SEO can make over $100K a year! But there are a few things you can do to help move your site up a bit.

Search Engine Submissions
The search engines regularly add and update websites to their index each time the crawl the web. But you can submit your website's URL to the search engines directly. Here are the links for Google and Yahoo!

Ignore outfits that offer to submit your website to hundreds of search engines. These are usually spam sites and could actually hurt your ranking.

Keyword Phrases
Rather than focusing on single words, consider adding multiple words that make up keyword phrases. If you were searching the Web for your own Santa Claus services or Christmas products, think of what phrase would you enter into Google or Yahoo? Would you look for “Santa Claus” or would you look for “Home Visits From Santa Claus”?

Also, stick to one subject per page and one keyword phrase per page. Multiple keywords or broad keyword phrases can often “muddy” the meaning of the page – hence lowering it’s ranking. Try a different perspective. Ask others to read your page(s) and suggest what they think the “meaning” of the page is. Then focus your keyword phrases around those points.

A major factor in page ranking are relevant hyperlinks. Search engines look at incoming and outgoing links on your website to determine its ranking. You can greatly improve your page rank by linking to and from other relevant websites.

The words in the links are also used to help determine the content of your page. Try to include your keywords phrases into the text that is linking to your website. Instead of saying “click here ”, you should say, “Read more about the History of Christmas”. Also think about the text that surrounds the area of the link itself.

One note of caution though… Be selective about your links. Look for websites that have similar subjects to yours with good rankings and good traffic (like ClausNet). Artificially inflating the number of links may do more harm than good. A mistake people often make is submitting their website to “link farms” where a group of websites are created for the sole purpose of adding web links. Link farms can do major damage to your page ranking and can even get you banned on the major search engines like Google and yahoo.

Page Density
You will often hear – content is king! One of the major things the search engines look for when it collects and indexes your site is the density of the “key words” on each page. In other words, how often are the keywords used in the content itself? Be sure to write your content in clear, concise, and natural phrasing. Don’t try to trick the search engine by using the keywords over and over again. Another mistake people make is making the text “invisible”. Trust me. The search engines are much smarter than that.

There are a few tools out there to check your keyword density. I think the Google Toolbar has a few of these tools built in.

Websites that use Flash graphics are cool and all, but search engines tend to skip right over it. If your home page or menus are in Flash, they might as well be invisible. If you want to use the cool Flash menus, consider adding a plain text link version of the menus to the page.

Be sure your images use the <alt> tag. Not only does it make your website more visually appealing, it also gives you another chance to place your keywords.

Page Titles
Give your pages titles! How often do you see a search result with a link called “untitled”!? Yikes! Search engines display the search results as links using the pages’ title. It is simple enough to give each page a title. Use the <title> tag to give your pages a descriptive name. If possible, use the page’s keyword phrase in the title. For example, “Contact Santa Rielly”.

There is a host of online resources and printed material available where you can learn more about HTML tags. See below for more information.

Site Design
Well organized and logically laid out websites tend to rank higher. They are also the websites that tend to become more popular. Popular websites have more traffic and websites with more traffic will rank even higher with the search engines. Design your websites with organization and intuitive navigation in mind and much of the search engine optimization will design itself.

Learn more about search engine optimization - SEO
Search Engine Guide - Small Business Guide to Search Engine Marketing
Webmaster World
W3Schools - Online Web Tutorials
Search Engine Optimization For Dummies on Amazon.com

Edited by Michael Rielly

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