How Promoting an Online Business Works

Improving Your Search Ranking

  • For search engines that use spiders to crawl Web pages, you can improve your ranking with them (often called "optimizing your site for search engines") by making sure the keywords under which you want to be found are located near the tops of your pages. Remember, the spiders are trying to find out what your site is about. If they only see a word mentioned once near the bottom of the page, they're not going to think it's very important. Be careful not to overstuff (spam) your pages with the keywords that don't relate to your business, however, as search engines are getting smarter every day.
  • You also need to look closely at your page titles. Every page in your site has a title that shows up at the top of the browser screen. This title can help your ranking quite a bit, but many companies use the space for their company name or some marketing slogan. That's fine if your company name is a household word but doesn't match your Web address, meaning people can't just type your company name between "www" and ".com" and skip the search engine all together. In this case, having your company name in the title of your page is ideal, because people will be typing that name into search engines. But if your company is not well-known enough to bank on that kind of search, use the title area to list the keywords and phrases that describe the page. Even "professionals" blow that one sometimes, and it's a very simple way to improve your ranking.
  • Use meta tags to put your keywords right where the spiders are going to look. Meta tags are coded lists of your keywords and company or business descriptions that do not show up on your pages when viewed with a browser, but are visible within the HTML code of the page for the crawling spiders to see. For example, you would set up your meta tags like this:

<meta name="description" content="PUT YOUR COMPANY DESCRIPTION HERE">

<meta name="keywords" content="PUT YOUR KEY WORDS HERE">

  • There are also some other meta tags you can use to tell the spider what type of document it is, how often you want the spider to revisit, and how your content should be classified (i.e. consumer, business, etc.). This code is then placed right below the <title> of your page, which falls directly below the <html> and <head> of the page. You can also include a meta tag for your page title to help reinforce it. Your page should look like this: <html> <head> <title>INSERT YOUR PAGE TITLE HERE</title> <meta http-equiv="title" content="PUT YOUR TITLE HERE"> <meta name="resource-type" content="PUT YOUR DOCUMENT TYPE HERE"> <meta name="revisit-after" content="PUT YOUR PREFERRED VISIT INTERVAL HERE"> <meta name="classification" content="PUT YOUR PRODUCT CLASSIFICATION HERE"> <meta name="description" content="PUT YOUR COMPANY DESCRIPTION HERE"> <meta name="keywords" content="PUT YOUR KEY WORDS HERE">
  • Create separate pages for each keyword or phrase under which you would like to be found.
  • Watch out for sites recommending that you create "doorway" pages (pages that are basically just wall-to-wall keywords that are meant for the spiders only). Some search engines are dropping sites that their spiders flag as having too many doorway pages. Instead, create the separate pages mentioned above for each of your keywords or phrases and make sure you use the keywords within the title, meta tags, and the "legitimate" content of the page as much as possible.
  • The more outside links you have pointing to your site the higher your ranking will be with some search engines, such as Google. This is seen as an indicator of your site's value and popularity, thus the higher ranking.
  • Be very selective about your keywords. Be your customer. Think of the most likely keywords and phrases that your customers will be looking for, and use them in your titles and meta tags. Also think about excess words you might be putting in that simply get in the spider's way. For example, you don't need to use "Services: Lawn Mowing" -- just use "Lawn Mowing" as your page title. Check out the Google Press Center to see lists of the most frequently searched keywords on Google for 2002.
  • Be careful when writing your meta tag descriptions. For many search engines, including Inktomi and its affiliates, this is the text they use as the summary for your page when it comes up during a search. Having an incoherent string of search words, or a general blurb pulled from your home page that doesn't really get to the meat of your business, won't encourage anyone to click on your link.
  • Create a "crawler" page. To make sure spiders do find all of your pages, you can create a page of links to all of your URLs specifically for the spiders. This page should have no actual text to be viewed, just the links to every page in your site. It should be connected to your home page or one of your top-level pages so the spider can find it easily.
  • Do you use a database and dynamically generate product pages? If so, it makes your life easier, but the spiders can't find those pages! Because the search strings require answers to questions, the spiders get stuck and leave. They can't provide the information the query string needs. The "?" and "&" characters throw them off. This means the directory-based search engines (which aren't true "search engines") are the only places those URLs will show up. However, there is a way to rewrite your dynamic URLs in a way that the searching spiders can understand. See Clickz Today: Solutions for Dynamic Page Registration to learn how this is done.
  • Submit your site. Many directories now charge fees to review and list your site. If they decide not to list it, for whatever reason -- the directory-based sites use live people who make their own decisions about your site -- you won't get your money back, so don't even try. Submitting your site to traditional search engines like Inktomi or Google can still be done for free if you do it yourself. Many fee-based submission services get questionable results, but there are a few good ones, like Submit It!. They will register your site with hundreds of search engines and directories and keep your links active for a year for a small fee, or you can use their lists and do it yourself.
  • Here are a few more coding techniques that will improve your site's ranking:
  • Add some "comment" tags within your code that include your keywords. Use your keywords in the "alt tags" for all of your images and links. Make your file names consistent with your keywords. Create a site map and link it to all of your pages (this will operate similarly to the "crawler" page).

Check out How Web Pages Work for a detailed look at all of these coding techniques.