There are a number of steps we’ll take to maximize your search engine ranking:
- Decide which search engines are critical for your success. Learn as much as you can about their ranking criteria and the weighting given to each criterion in their algorithm.
- Determine the keyword phrases you are going to focus on in your search engine optimization. You are looking for those keyword phrases that your target market is using in the search engines to find what you have to offer when they don’t know that your particular company exists.
- Assign those keywords to specific pages throughout your site.
- Populate the pages with the assigned keywords in the appropriate places given the ranking criteria for your targeted search engines.
- Have a link strategy and start the implementation.
- Make sure you have done what you can to maximize your miscellaneous points.
- Get yourself on Google Maps if you can. Notice that the maps appear in the search results before the organic listings!
- Manually submit your site to the major search engines.
The remainder of this chapter walks you step-by-step through this process.
Step 1. Decide Which Search Engines Are Important
To start this process, you want to decide which search engines you are going to be concerned about when taking steps necessary to rank high in their search results.
You want to select a number of the most popular search engines for your concentration. You also want to be indexed in topic-specific search engines for your industry. You can find the most popular search engines by doing your research online through sites such as Search Engine Watch (http://www.searchenginewatch.com). You can keep up with what’s happening with search engine market share by Googling “search engine market share report” and reviewing the latest reports.
As it stands at the time of this writing (Figure 2.3), the major players in the search engine industry are:
- Google Sites—63.7 percent
- Yahoo! Sites—18.3 percent
- Microsoft Sites—12.1 percent
- Ask Network—3.6 percent
- AOL Network—2.4 percent.
Step 2. Learn the Search Engine Ranking Criteria
Things have changed quite a bit from the early days. Elements that used to have significant weighting may now have very little weight. You have to remember that it is the highest total score you are looking for, so even if an element has reduced weighting, if the element has any points at all you want to incorporate that element to maximize your total score. Sometimes the top sites are within a small number of points of each other.
It is not as daunting as it might sound, because the major search engines tend to look at similar information but weight the relevancy for particular items differently in their algorithms. That having been said, here are the most important areas on a Web page that you must address when performing organic search engine optimization:
- Title tags (page titles)
- Keyword meta-tags
- Description meta-tags
- Alt tags
- Hypertext links (e.g., anchor text)
- Domain names and file names
- Body text (beginning, middle, and end of page copy)
- Between the “NOFRAMES” tag of framed Web sites.
Page titles and text-based page content are the most important of the noted placement areas. Keyword meta-tags are not as critical as they once were, but they are still applicable for some engines. Remember—it is the absolute highest score you are looking for; if there are any points available, you want to design your site to take advantage of them.
Step 3. Determine Your Most Important Keyword Phrases
Keyword phrases (hereafter referred to as keywords) are the terms and phrases that your target market uses when searching the major search engines and directories for the products and services you sell. Your keywords are used in
everything you do and are the key determining factor in how you rank in the search results among many of the major search engines.
A critical step in natural search engine optimization is to select the right keywords for your business, products, or services (including descriptive words), and your target market. Understand whom you are targeting and build your
search engine optimization efforts around your audience.
You need to choose keyword phrases that are going to bring sustainable targeted traffic consisting of potential customers—not just visitors; you are looking for targeted traffic. What you may think is the perfect keyword phrase
may not be used at all by your target market in their search queries, which is why it is so critical to research and validate your keywords.
Ideally, each page of your Web site is going to focus on a different set of keywords that are specific to the content at hand. If you were to focus on the same set of keywords on every page, then you would hit only one small portion of your market potential because you are only going to hit those same keywords over and over again—it is self-defeating.
First, you want to gather a master list of all possible keyword phrases. How do you create your master keyword list? Here are four solid techniques for generating a list of potential keyword phrases:
- Brainstorm, survey, and review promotional material.
- Review competing and industry-leading Web sites.
- Assess your Web site traffic logs.
- Use keyword suggestion and evaluation tools.
As you work your way through the list of techniques, you want to cycle back to some of the techniques because you will come across search terms that can expand the scope of your original efforts and open the door to new, more targeted phrases that you might have missed the first time around.