So you have a website and want it to rank well in Google, Yahoo and MSN search results (along with all the other, lesser-known search engines). You'd think that having a quality site dedicated to a specific topic would be enough, but that isn't always the case. The major search engines use automated "spiders" to crawl through millions of webpages a day to determine what each site (and page) is about. Each search engine uses its own algorithm to determine which sites and pages are the most relevant for each search a user types in.
These algorithms are constantly being updated and are always kept a secret from the public. Nobody knows the exact formula for showing up #1 in a search result and if you found it, it would likely change a few months later. Nevertheless, there are a few things that will always be important in the world of search engines and implementing these few tips will help you optimize your site in every search engine.
- Quality, Dynamic, Original Content. The first thing to remember when trying to optimize your website for search engines is the goal of the search engines themselves: to provide users with the most relevant, pertinent information for their search. Since search engines want to provide their users with the most useful webpages surrounding the topics that the users are searching for, they are looking for content that is unique, updated regularly and of high quality.
If you only have a few sentences of general information on a certain topic, you're going to lose rankings (as you should) to sites with a lot of specific, original content that is pertinent to the user's search.
If you have a small site, take the time to write out a few in-depth articles about some of the basics surrounding your site's topic(s). If you have a large site with a variety of topics, consider hiring some freelance writers to do some research and write a detailed article about each topic.
Take the time to make each article original and different. If you simply replace a few words in each article but leave the majority of the content the same, the search engines will notice.
Note: Ensure that your content is not plagiarized from another site. The search engines can detect this and will look unfavorably on your site.
- Linking. Search engines were built based on the concept of references and linking. Think of writing a research paper-you have to include your sources in a footnote or a bibliography. Search engines operate on the premise that the more people reference a single source, the more important that source must be. This has translated to links, so the more often people link to your site, the more relevant and useful it must be. And, the better the site that is linking to you, the more weight and importance that link holds.
The quality of your links is also a major factor in your site's search engine rankings. If you can create a quality site and convince other, related quality sites to link to you, you'll be well on your way to excelling in the search engine optimization game.
- Keywords. Keywords used to be extremely important a year or so ago. While they're still a factor, search engines focus more on original, quality content than on repeating keyword phrases that appear throughout your webpage. With this said, the search engines do still need to decipher what your website or webpage is about, so using key phrases and terms where is makes sense in an article is always a good idea.
Don't saturate your site with 60 different ways to say the same thing, but be strategic about your keyword choice, frequency and placement and you'll be rewarded with a higher search engine ranking for those keywords and key phrases.
- Meta Tags and URLs. It's still important to place your most highly trafficked keyword or keyword phrase in the URL and Meta Tag of each webpage. The search engines will certainly crawl this and compare it with the content of the page to determine when and where your site should appear in its results.
- Deep Linking. While it is important to get quality links to the homepage of your site, it is equally important to get links to the internal pages of your website as well. An internal page might be easier to get an inbound link to. Maybe it's more relevant than the homepage of your site because it's more specific about or focused on a particular topic.
Your homepage is obviously affiliated with each internal page on your site, so the better your internal pages do, the better your homepage will do. Don't forget that the search engines index your internal pages too, which means that you may get a lot of traffic from a specific internal page having a high search engine ranking even if the rest of your site doesn't. Depending on your site, the majority of your users may never even see your homepage.
Remember that there's no secret formula for showing up at the top of search engine results, but utilizing the basics of search engine optimization can help. There's no substitute for a great site with original, useful content, but there are ways to make any site perform better.