Digital marketing, based on the utilization of Internet search engines, is a complex science that requires specialized knowledge in the field of Internet searching. Experts study how search engines evolve, their performance and behavior with particular search concepts, and their popularity at any given time. Armed with this intricate information, these specialists are able to provide advise to web owners on how to improve the performance of their web sites. Nonetheless, there are a few things that all of us can do to advance the positioning of our web sites without having to resort to the subject matter experts or without the need to write complicated code. The following eight steps, along with some familiarity of your market space, and a pinch of common sense, will allow anyone to increase the rankings of their web site on the most popular search engines.
1. Make a List of Search Concepts
The first and foremost task is to come up with a list of keywords that prospective customers are likely to use when searching for your products or services. Avoid using highly technical terms, or specialized slang, if you are trying to reach an end-customer. Keep in mind that the goal here is to not simply increase the web traffic to obtain a greater number of hits, but to impact your sales volume, improve your service, and augment your company’s visibility as well. It is therefore a good idea to concentrate on those terms that directly relate to your specific business activities. Do not forget that the majority of Internet searches are performed with at least two or three keyword phrases. If you are targeting some local markets, add the name of the city, state, or local area to your search concepts. A list of 10 to 15 search concepts will be sufficient to start with. Next, sort these concepts by their level of relevance according to your own criteria. For example, if your web site offered document scanning services in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, a potential list of concepts could be “document scanning”, “document imaging services”, “document scanning in Texas”, “electronic document conversion”, “document imaging services in DFW”, etc. Note that if your brand or company name is not known, you should not include it as part of your most relevant search concepts since it is unlikely that it will be included during a search. On the contrary, if your brand is well known, it is a good idea to include it inside the first few search concepts.
2. Select the Search Engines
The second step consists of selecting the most popular search engines where you would like to see your company listed. You should always include at least three of the primary search engines (e.g. Google, Yahoo and MSN Search), and then, if applicable, add some other engines that either specialize in your line of business, cover a geographical area, or serve a specific ethnic group (e.g. Terra for Spanish-speaking audiences).
3. Test Your Keywords
Next, ensure that your search concepts are adequate by launching queries with each one of them using your top search engines. Review the results returned in each case and verify that they indeed belong to similar companies or to competitors, perhaps. If that proves to be the case, congratulations, you have succeeded! Click on some of the results and try to locate where on the page the search concept actually appears. See if the concept is on the title of the page (the page title is the text on the top bar of the browser window, right next to the browser icon), or on the first few paragraphs, or on some section title. Go ahead and make a note of the exact location, as this will serve as a good reference to do something similar for your own web site.
4. Draft a Title for Each One of Your Web Pages
At this point, you should have finalized all your search concepts and keywords. Choose your number one search concept and use it to write a title for your home page. The ideal title should be anywhere between 6 and 10 words and ought to include the search concept, summarize the content of the page, and communicate an attractive sales proposition. Next, take the top pages for each major section (e.g. products, support, applications, company, etc.) and distribute the rest of the search concepts among them, writing a title for each page in the same manner, keeping the titles below 10 words and trying to include the search concept towards the front of the title.
Important tip: each page should have a unique title, different from all other pages. All titles should contain at least one of the search concepts plus some synonyms (e.g. if your web site is selling shoes, include in your titles terms such as “boots”, “sandals”, or “tennis shoes”.) It is typically not a good idea to simply use your company name as the page title because if someone already knows your company, they will likely know your domain as well.
5. Draft a Description for Each Page
The description of a web page is not a listing of all its contents, but two or three concise phrases that summarize what the page is trying to communicate. This description is only visible from the page’s HTML code, but many search engines do consider this text when they are classifying web pages in their results. One may think of the description as an extension of the page title, where secondary search concepts can be added (e.g. ethnic or geographical terms, additional synonyms, etc.). Each description should be unique and should include, towards the front of the text, the search concept that was used in the page title.
6. Include Keywords
Even though some years back keywords played a greater role in the positioning of web pages, it is still a good idea to include a list of keywords. Just like with the page description, the list of keywords is only visible from the page’s HTML code. Use six or seven search concepts from your list, selecting only the most relevant ones in each case, and placing the most significant ones first.
Stop now and look at some of your web pages. If your web offered “document-imaging services in the Dallas-Fort Worth area”, for example, one would expect those terms to appear several times throughout the text on your web site. If that were not the case, it would be unlikely that someone could find your web site using a combination of those terms. One must always make sure that the primary search concept selected for each page is not only included in its title, its description, and inside the keywords list, but is also used in the text of some of the paragraphs on the page itself. Additionally, the relevance of these primary search concepts can be stressed by using bold characters, or including the concept in a title or a link (e.g. instead of using “click here”, you may want to use “sign up for document imaging”.)
8. Submit Your Pages to the Search Engines
It is now time to request the search engines to revisit your web site. This time, a search engine should classify your web pages with a higher ranking for those search concepts that you selected in step one. Access the search engine’s home page and select “Add URL” or “Suggest new site” and follow their submission instructions. Finally, and here is the most difficult part, allow anywhere between 4 to 6 weeks (sometimes it could be longer, be patient!) for the search engine to process your request before testing the new results. Additional information on search engine positioning can be found here.
Even though there are more sophisticated and, at the same time, more labor-intensive methods for obtaining top rankings from search engines, the steps defined here will allow search engines to correctly index your web site, thus improving the chances for obtaining higher rankings. Obviously, there are companies that dedicate considerable resources to consistently obtain top positions, but nonetheless, you will notice that after implementing these simple steps, your positioning will be significantly improved and your web traffic will start to increase.
As a final word of advice, keep in mind that search engines favor web sites that regularly post fresh content. Try to renew the content of your pages from time to time and always follow the guidelines described above. Good luck, and remember to be patient!