Websites have come a long way in a short amount of time. Once considered a mere enhancement to the marketing strategies of a corporation or small business, a company website has become vital in the success of its host — to the point where, in many cases, the visibility and quality of the web site could make or break the corporate behind it. Acknowledging this, thousands of businesses, armed with search engine optimization tools, have engaged in a no-holds-barred battle to score a coveted spot on the first page of search engine results. But even with that level of competition, boosting your search engine optimization, or SEO, and increasing traffic to your website can be done by making it more compatible with search engines.
- Keep your website friendly to search engines. Before including a new site in its results, a typical search engine will first analyze the data collected by its virtual “spiders,” which scurry around the Internet policing websites. If the spiders find broken links, outdated information or a difficult-to-navigate infrastructure, the website gets a low rating and, as such, ranks poorly in search results. By making your website spider-friendly, it will earn a higher rating and rank and become more visible. Regularly check external links, removing or replacing those that are no longer valid. Make sure each page includes links to all the other pages on the site, and include a site map to make it easier for search engine spiders to explore and catalog your site’s content.
- Create a keyword strategy. Whereas many small business owners don’t even consider which keywords to use until their websites are well into production, you’ll likely end up with a better defined, more highly ranked site if you decide on your keywords or keyword phrases first then build around them. Decide what type of person you’re trying to reach and try to use words he or she would use in an online search. For example, you might prefer to refer to the service you provide as “turf equipment restoration,” but odds are most people are going to search for “lawn mower repair.” Check the effectiveness of your keywords with an online keyword tool, which will tell you how often they’ve been used in previous searches.
- Use keywords in moderation. Whereas inundating a website with a keyword phrase once guaranteed it a higher rank, today’s search engines see such oversaturation as an underhanded method of attracting visitors without providing quality content. So, while keywords are important, use them sparingly. Include your keyword or keyword phrase early in the copy and not more than once per paragraph. In other references, use synonyms, which search engines will consider matches. However, feel free to use keywords liberally in link titles and photo captions. Search engines will recognize them but won’t add them to your site’s total keyword count.
- Update your website frequently. While it’s important to attract new visitors to your website, it’s just as important to keep them coming back. This can be accomplished by featuring a regularly updated blog, a related news feature or an events calendar. Continuously updating your content will also score points with search engines, which tend to place websites that have been recently updated closer to the top of search results.
- Employ a Web logging program to learn about your site’s visitors. By learning how visitors were directed to your site, which keywords they used and their geographic locations, you can make adjustments to your keywords and content to better suit your audience.
- Spread the word through networking. Regardless of how much effort you put into making your website more visible, you can still find yourself in a Catch-22: Your site won’t attract visitors until it appears in program results, but search engines won’t notice your site until it starts attracting visitors. To get the ball rolling, submit your website to such online indexes as Yahoo Directory and Dmoz’s Open Directory Project, as well as to all suitable website rings. Invite Google to check out your website by submitting your sitemap (see link in References section). Set up social networking pages that link to your site. And finally, contact the webmasters of comparable sites so you’ll offer to exchange links and volunteer to contribute a guest blog. In addition to helping generate traffic, this sort of networking also will give program spiders more opportunities to get your site.