17 July 2013, by A. Cedilla
Search engines have become so ubiquitous that Google isn’t just a noun, it’s a verb too, one that means ‘to search’. You can look it up.
You look things up, you use a search engine, whether it’s a localized desktop search program just for your computer, or one of your favorites, bookmarked on your smartphone. I mean, when you need to look something up, what do you do? For the always-connected, asking a friend could come a bit after using a search engine.
For people with an online business presence, search engines matter in more than just the obvious way. Search engines are the fastest way people can find your website. Play your cards right, you can use them to bring a significant volume of traffic to your business.
And your most important card is the design of your website, which can influence how search engines index it.
Rankings definitely affect the number of visitors to any website. How many times have you looked beyond the first two or three (if that) pages of search results? To be seen, to make it to that moment of first interest and get the searcher to click the link to your website, you have to make it to the top ten or twenty results to get eyeballed.
Your site design should be search-engine friendly. In a nutshell: to get the biggest bang for your time and labor, settle on the particular search engines that are vital to your success — and learn the hell out of their criteria for ranking, plus identifying the weights given to the criteria they use in their algorithms. When you get an understanding of how the system works, you can use it to tailor your advantages.
Then you have to settle on the best possible keywords used by your target market in the aforementioned search engines to find what you have to offer.
After that, it’s a matter of using those those keywords in specific pages throughout your site, then using them again on your other pages with selected assigned keywords used appropriately within the text to meet the criteria for your chosen search engines.
See, search engines use bots (automated applications — imagine tiny ro-bots) to run simple, repetitive tasks like crawling the web (which is where the terms spiders, web-crawlers and spiderbots come from) and indexing the information they find for faster data retrieval and easier searches for their search engine’s users.
All search engines use their bots to trawl the internet for pages, which they index using parameters specific to each search engine. The bots read the data on each page of your site and then follow the links, and going back to those parameters, you need to understand that they are different for every search engine.
Different criteria to rank webpages, different algorithms and formulas, different weights assigned to each criteria…that’s why you have to pick your engines and know how they work. It’s not just trying to ‘game the system’, because search engine also compete among themselves.
They’re all duking it out for market share, same as you. The bigger the name, the more popular the brand, the more the company grows in value. To get to the top a search engine has to provide better results than its competitors. That’s why they keep tweaking their algorithms and driving so many business owners and SEO engineers up the wall, and that’s why you have to keep up with all these changes.
You don’t need to panic, though. Search engines all have the same pool to play in (the Internet), but assign different weights to the relevant criteria in their algorithms. When you’re tweaking or designing your site for search engine optimization though, you need to focus on the most vital areas:
- Page titles or title tags – These are the most immediate points of interests for bots, so they should be descriptive and accurate.
- Body text (beginning, middle, and end of page copy; headers) – this proves that the results of the search is accurate, because content indicates if the search is successful or not.
- Alt tags – the alternative text that will take a page element’s place if it can’t be rendered appropriately, ex. a description in place of a picture.
- Description meta-tags and keywords meta-tags
- Hypertext links (e.g., anchor text – what shows instead of the actual URL)
- Domain names and file names
Since Google is pretty much the dominant search engine in the market today, it’s advantageous to study how it works: Google uses the Open Directory database and its internal index for its primary search listings, and Google’s ranking formula for its main search function looks for the keywords in the visible body text , headers tags, title tags, hypertext links, and Alt tags, and it gives a much greater relevance to the link popularity — with bonus points for quality of links and relevancy of text around the links.
As mentioned in previous articles, a vital step in SEO is picking the right keywords for your niche, business, products and services, and your target market. Understanding your target population and building your SEO strategy to work with your intended audience is a heavy factor for success. Thinking up the best keywords for your niche would be easier with the following tip.
Think about your target niche:
- What is the goal of your website? Do you want to share information (be a resource), sell things (a store), give lessons (be an authority on something)? What words or phrases would your target audience use to look for your site?
- Would your URL tell them immediately what your site is about?
- How can you describe your services and products so your target market will recognize them immediately?
- How can you link descriptive words to show the benefits of and details about your offerings?
Location counts as well when you’re marketing on-line. In an international market, even spelling can be noted. For example, in the UK, Canada and US markets, the inclusion of the letter ‘u’ can affect traffic, in terms of people looking for printers (‘colour’ or ‘color’?) If you’re a local hotel, bed and breakfast, or traveler’s motel catering to tourists, including your location is just good sense (e.g London back-packer’s retreat, Paris day-tours for family’s, etc.)
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