In the simplest terms, the search engines work like the judges in a popularity contest. Web pages (not necessarily websites) are ranked based on many things, but there are two main criteria. They are incoming links and web page optimization elements.
Incoming links are like votes in that popularity contest I mentioned earlier. The more relevant (themed) incoming text links a web page has (notice I didn't say website) using a specific search term, the more relevant Google and other search engines value the page.
Second, the web page optimization elements like HTML meta tags, copy content and copy format give your web pages the structure that search engine spiders (aka bots) can easily scan and recognize. Getting these on-page elements right will greatly increase the chances of your individual web pages being served up at or near the top of the search engine result pages.
Let's go through what these page optimization elements are and how to format them in your website. Since we are on the subject, we'll recognize "Organic Search Engine Traffic" as our targeted keyword phrase.
Are you making this organic search engine traffic mistake? That mistake is focusing all your marketing efforts on driving traffic to your home page. Your home page can't possibly contain a majority of possible keyword phrases that will rank on the first page of any search engine. For most websites, they're lucky if they can even rank for their most relevant search terms.
As of this writing, Nokia, LG and Motorola still aren't on the first page in Google for the search terms "mobile phone" or "cell phone." Get in the web design and web page optimization habit of treating every page as a possible entry point from the search engines. That means every page gets optimized as its own separate home or "landing page" for the specific piece of information (keyword phrase) you're providing.
The back pages of your site can generate a huge amount of traffic if you have them in high numbers and they're optimized properly.
Do keyword research for your content. Before you write a single word, do some relevant keyword research for your page's content. To do this, start thinking like a person who would be looking for the product, service or information that will be the subject of your web page. Then run a few possible search terms through Google, Yahoo and MSN.
This will allow you to see how competitive the organic search engine ranking is for your targeted keyword phrase.
Don't be intimidated if you see a large number of page results. Some of your pages will do well and some won't. Just spend your time and effort generating more properly optimized editorial style content pages. Be prepared to make slight adjustments to your page elements based on the keyword research.
Use a properly formatted title tag. The title tag is the most important piece of information on your web page because it's your headline and the main description tag for the page in the search engines. And if it gets indexed, the title tag is what will be prominently shown in the search engine ranking results.
Your title tag is like a valuable piece of real estate. You wouldn't put a shack on a piece of waterfront property, would you? So, why waste that space with witty or vague headlines or your website's domain name when you could use it to target a specific group of people who have a real interest in what your page is about?
The title tag makes the copywriter's job twofold. She must fashion a title tag that tells exactly what the page is about and also invoke the web surfer's curiosity and interest to attract the user to click through to the page.
Google indexes the first 67 characters (including spaces) for the title tag in its search results. Use every one of those characters if you can. The title tag for this page uses all 67 characters. If you insist on using your company or domain name, then move it to the end of the title tag text string unless it contains text that's related to the page.
The HTML H1 tag. The H1 tag is the first headline tag within the content portion of a web page. It should contain at least your main keyword phrase that best describes the content on the page. The H1 tag usually formats on web pages using a very large, bolded font. You can make the font size whatever you want, but make sure the headline of your page is wrapped in the H1 tag.
Meta description and keyword tags. The keyword tag is pretty useless these days, so don't spend too much time agonizing over it. Use the most relevant words or phrases for the page separated by commas. The meta tag, on the other hand, is important.
The meta description tag should consist of one or two properly formatted sentences or a short paragraph using your keyword phrases, allowing the search engines to test the description of the page versus the actual content on the page.
There is still a lot of debate over the optimum length of the meta description tag because no one actually knows the answer to the question, "How long should it be?" My rule of thumb: if I can't describe the contents of the page in 30 words or less, then the page probably veers off subject.
Use images with alt description tags. Images can speak thousands of words. The search engines can't see the images on web pages, so use HTML alt tags to describe what the images on your page are or what their relevance is to the page. Don't forget, search engines index and rank images too.
Social bookmarking/ Viral marketing. Social bookmarking (aka tagging) various pages of your site has two advantages. First, it creates a viral marketing effect as users add your pages to their social bookmarks. Second, it provides valuable contextual links back to your site.
Every page of the site should allow the user to bookmark that page. I use a simple and free bookmarking script. It displays a smaller version of the image below on your site.
Just go to Add This to get the button code, then and paste it into all your web pages.
Use the list below for additional web copy optimization and formatting.
- File name: When you assign a file name for your page, it should also contain some keywords relevant to the page. Keep them fairly short and exactly related to the subject of the page to avoid looking like spam. A good file name for this page would look like this: organic_search_engine_traffic.html.
- The first paragraph of text: Use your keyword text at least once in a properly formatted sentence in the first paragraph. Using it once in the first 200 words of the paragraph with bolded text is even better.
- Short paragraphs: Long blocks of text are hard to read. Web surfers will scan web pages much more than read them. Keep your paragraphs short, from three to six sentences each. Don't settle for just getting the traffic. Make it easy for the visitor to decide to stick around for a while.
- Drop capitals: Use a drop capital (large bolded font) in the first character of text on the page and bold the first letter of every paragraph.
- Sub-headings: Use them to highlight other main topics of the page and wrap them in descending order H tags, ie. H2, H3, H4.
- Internally link: Use keyword text links to other themed content pages on your website and include the page in your site map for the search engine bots.
- Use single scrolling web pages: If your subject matter is long and gets off message, write another article, call it part 2 and link it to part 1.
- Tell a friend script: Add a simple tell a friend script to every page for another viral marketing channel and link popularity.
- RSS feeds: A must for any areas of the site that are updated regularly. RSS feeds can also be added to any page of your website.
- Robots TXT: Use Index, Follow in your Robots TXT file.
These are just some of the many web page optimization guidelines you can easily follow and increase your chances of getting some of that coveted organic search engine traffic. Just keep adding optimized quality content pages to your website and give it time. It works. Now...
Let's have some fun here and see if we chose our targeted search term wisely and properly optimized this page. Bear in mind that our actual page formatting and optimization was limited to the site structure of HowToDoThings.com.
The date of this article is 6/1/08. Give it till 7/1/08 and then try a Google search of the term "Organic Search Engine Traffic" and see if we grabbed a spot on the first page in the SERP's.
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