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Articles - Getting Site Ranked

Optimizing your website for search engines may seem like a long and complicated process at first - and in some ways it is - but there are a number of simple steps you can take that will greatly improve your site's search engine ranking.

  1. Identify the Best Keywords

    Before you can modify your site to emphasize certain keywords, you need to figure out what your best keywords are. There are several methods for doing this:

    • Search Engine Frequency

      The terms most searched for, if relevant, are usually a good starting place. Experiment a bit with the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. Find out what the most-searched keywords are (in our case, "web design" is the clear leader, with sub-terms "firm" and "company").

    • What Your Competition Is Using

      Visit your competition and see what keywords they're using in the titles of their sites. This will tell you a lot about how they're building their customer base, and perhaps change your mind about which of the top keywords to choose (or not choose, if you're attempting to carve out a separate niche).

    • Location Qualfiers

      Sometimes so many thousands of sites are competing for the same niche that you have little or no chance of making it into the top pages of the search engine results. If your business is at least partly geographical, however, you can add your location and increase your relevancy for the customers most likely to buy from you. In our case, for instance, we have done work all around the US for other companies, but would like to build some local business in our hometown.

  2. Update Your Domain

    If your website has already been established for some time and built up traffic, updating your domain name may not be an option, but if your site is new, it may not be too late to move to a more relevant domain. See our article on choosing a domain name. If you do change domains, make sure to set up a redirect from the old domain to the new domain - don't just point both to the same website hosting. This will ensure that your website ranking isn't weakened by being split between two domains.

  3. Update Your Page Names

    Rather than abbreviating (gpr.php) or numbering your page names, choose page names that represent the content inside them. Pages that have been running for a while may have some amount of traffic and search engine ranking built up, however, so be careful to set up a redirect from the old location to the new location.

    • Setting Up Redirects

      There are a several ways you can redirect - meta refresh (having the page forward you), and mod rewrite (having the server invisibly mirror the old page at the new location), for instance. The problem is that the first method is used by spammers and frowned upon by search engines, and the second splits your ranking between two locations, effectively keeping either one from doing well. A much better method is a 301 redirect. Create a file called .htaccess in your text editor, add this line to it, and put the .htaccess file in the main directory of your FTP:

      Redirect 301 /oldpage.html http://www.mydomain.com/new-relevant-page.html

      If an .htaccess file already exists, just add the redirect to the top. That's all there is to it!

  4. Update Your Page Titles

    This is perhaps the easiest thing you can do to improve search engine ranking. If your site name is based off your best keywords, make sure that the site name appears in every page title. Follow that with the title of your page, then perhaps a small selection of important keywords. For instance:

    <title>Fenton Web Design Firm - Driving Directions - Design, Art, Hosting, SEO</title>

    Keep in mind that Google only displays a bit under 70 characters for page title in its search engine results, so try to keep anything important to searchers under that limit. There's also a limited amount of display area in browsing history and bookmark lists.

  5. Update Your Page Content

    Updating page content can be a good deal more difficult, because search engines are capable of picking up a lot of things besides big blocks of text, and because you have to keep in mind the negative impact of too many unrelated words as well as the positive impact of your favorite keywords.

    • Page Text

      Raw page text is obviously one of the most important factors in whether your content ranks well or not. Try to lace it with extra keywords, eliminate unusual words or sections that are totally unrelated to your site's primary topic. This is especially important for your homepage.

    • Links / Image Map Alts

      Links are important both for their text and for the sites they point to. Always use link text that represents the destination (Fenton Web Design Firm) rather than just the common click here. Link to relevant pages on relevant sites. Add more links to pages on your own site, if possible. When using image maps, add alt text:

      <area shape="rect" coords="0,25,50,100" href="getting-site-ranked.php" alt="Getting Site Ranked">

    • Image Alts

      Search engines pick these up too. Try to make them relevant - for instance "Fenton Web Design Firm" rather than "Logo" or worse yet, nothing.

      <img src="fentonwebdesign.jpg" width="200" height="35" alt="Fenton Web Design Firm">

  6. Add Meta Tags

    Meta tags are added between the <head> tags at the top of your page, and supply additional information to search engines spidering your site. There are only two you really need to worry about here:

    • Meta Description

      The meta description tag provides a brief description of your site, and is displayed below the page title in search engine results as long as it's considered to be fairly relevant. It's definitely worth setting on your homepage, and perhaps customizing for other key pages if you have time. Google displays a bit over 150 characters of meta description.

      <meta name="description" content="How to optimize your site for search engines in a few simple steps. Keywords, domain names, page names, page titles, links, image alts, meta tags, more.">

    • Meta Keywords

      The meta keywords tag supplies search engines with a list of keywords you think your site should be listed under. Very useful in the past, but the tag has been so abused that major search engines apparently now just ignore it for ranking purposes. Perhaps still worth putting on your homepage just in case, however.

      <meta name="keywords" content="web design, website design, web page design, web design firm, web design company, web graphic design, web databases, web programming, search engine optimization">

  7. Set Up a Sitemap

    If search engines can't find some of your pages, they aren't going to count them in the ranking equation. Some sites have Flash or Java menus that block search engine navigation, and a sitemap must be set up for these sites to allow search engines to reroute around the menus. One way is to set up a sitemap page that links to all the menu pages, then link that somewhere off your homepage. Another is to generate an XML sitemap, place it in the main folder of your website, and submit it to Google Webmaster Tools, Bing Toolbox, etc. The second method will build ranking faster, but the first is probably more thorough in that it will fix the problem in other search engines as well. Doing both is a possibility.

  8. Get Links From Other Sites

    Having other sites link to you is very important for building site ranking, especially relevant sites and/or links with important keywords. There are several primary ways to get links:

    • Free Content

      Putting out at least a small amount of free content is always a good idea. If useful, people will link to it, then the links will both drive traffic to your site and build search engine ranking (especially if you can get them to link using keywords valuable to you, see above).

    • Website Directories

      There are thousands of website directories on the Internet, many of them probably relevant to your site. Search in Google, Bing/Yahoo, etc. for your favorite keywords, and submit your site to any directory that comes up in the top few pages of search results.

    • Link Trades

      If there are other sites related to your particular niche that aren't directly competing with you, it's often a good idea to contact them and see if you can get some link trades going. Try to get links from their homepage, not their links page, since the links page of most sites has very little search engine value and therefore won't boost your ranking. A good way to find sites to request trades from is again to search using your keywords and see what comes up - these are the sites that will build your relevancy.

  9. Advertise on Google, Etc.

    Google claims that AdWords doesn't increase site rankings, but from our experience it seems that it does - some sites we've managed have jumped a couple ranks just spending a few dollars per day on keyword phrases (the more specific the phrase, the less it usually costs). If ranking is important to you, it may be useful to try advertising for a few weeks and see if it helps. Do everything else on the list above first, however, as it will be easier to tell if there's a noticeable effect.

Fenton Web Design Firm is expert at analyzing websites and using the steps above - as well as others - to improve search engine optimization. If you feel after reading this article that you could use our help increasing your website ranking, we're always only a call or email away.

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Getting Site Ranked - Fenton Web Design Firm

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