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Ten Steps To Higher Search Engine Positioning

Last modified: October 20, 2004, 6:04 PM
Contributed By: Dave Davies

Ten Steps To Higher Search Engine Positioning


    

There is perhaps no more level playing field in business than the Internet. It is this fact that has created millionaires from paupers. The amount of money that can be made depends of course on your industry and your products and/or services but to be sure, if it can be sold at all, it can be sold online.

While there are many methods out there for building a profitable website, from banner ads to email campaigns, by far the most cost effective over time has proven repeatedly to be search engine positioning. That major advantage search engine positioning has over other methods of producing revenue online is that once high rankings are attained and provided that the tactics used were ethical and that continued efforts are made to keep them, they can essentially hold and provide targeted traffic indefinitely. Your site will rise and your site may sometimes fall in the rankings but a solid and complete optimization of your site will insure that through algorithm changes you may fluctuate but you will not disappear.

I have been ranking websites highly on the Internet for quite a few years now and there are some essential rules that, if followed, will insure that over time your website does well and holds solid and profitable positions on the major search engines.

Here are the 10 steps to higher search engine positioning:

Step One - Choosing Keywords
You first must choose your keywords. This is perhaps the most important step of the process as incorrectly targeting phrases can result in traffic that is not interested in your product. There are three tools that I use virtually every day to help pick the most appropriate keywords:

1. Overture's Search Term Suggestion Tool
(http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/)
2. WordTracker
(www.wordtracker.com)
3. A Brain

The last in the list is the most important. Look through the potential keyword phrases and think, "Who would be searching using that phrase?" If the answer is, "a student looking for information" then chances are it won't result in a sale. If the answer is "Someone who is looking specifically for a product I offer," then obviously this is a prime candidate as a targeted keyword phrase.

Step Two - Site Content
Even before I optimize websites I like to get a good deal of new content down in order to insure that I know exactly where I'm going and exactly what I need to do to get there. Creating some of the new content before starting the optimization process can be doubly helpful in that it can reveal potential additions to your website that you may not have considered (a forum or blog for example). If you already have a site, perhaps simply sit on your back deck, sip on a coffee and image what you would do if your whole site was lost and you had to start again (other than launch into a very colorful discussion with your hosting company).

Step Three - Site Structure
A solid site structure is very important. Creating a site that is easily spidered by the search engines yet attractive to visitors can be a daunting and yet entirely rewarding endeavor. To adequately structure your website you must "think like a spider" which is not as difficult as it may sound. A search engine spider reads your web page like you would read a book. It starts at the top left, reads across, and then moves down.

Priority must be given then, to what you place near the top of your page.

Step Four - Optimization
Once you have your keyword targets, your content created and your site structure established you must now move on to the most obvious step, the optimization of your content.

As noted above, a spider places importance on what it reads highest on the page and so beginning with a sentence that includes your targeted phrase only makes sense. That said, stuffing in keywords in hopes that it will add weight to your page generally doesn't work. The term "keyword density" refers to the percentage of your content that is made up of your targeted keywords. There are optimum densities according to many reputable SEO's though exactly what they are is debata ble. Estimates seem to range anywhere from 4 or 5% to 10 to 12% (quite a gap isn't it).

Personally, when it comes to keyword density I prescribe to one rule: put your keywords in the content as much as you can while keeping it comfortably readable to a human visitor.
Some do it first, I do it last, regardless of when you do it you must choose your heading. At the beginning of your content you have the opportunity to use the tag to specify the heading of your content. This tag is given extra weight and is also an indicator to the search engine of where your actual content starts. Make sure to use your keywords in the heading but don't shy away from also adding additional words (though not too many).

Step Five - Internal Linking

To insure that your website gets fully indexed you have to make sure that the spiders have an easy path through your website. Text links make the best choice as the anchor text (the actual words used to link to a specific page) add relevancy to that page for the words used to link to it. For example, if I ran a website on acne and had a treatments page I could link to it with an image, with text reading "Click for more information on how to treat this skin condition" or simply "Acne Treatments". When a search engine spider hits an image it has no idea what the image is and, while it will follow the link, it will not give any weight to the page it hits. If you use text that does not contain the keywords you are targeting you are essentially supplying the engine with the same lack of relevancy as with an image, but if you use the phrase "Acne Treatments" to link to your acne treatments page you are attaching relevancy to that page for those keywords.

There are two main ways to insure that your site gets well spidered AND that the relevancy is added. The first is to place text links on the bottom of your homepage to your main internal pages (not EVERY page, that just looks odd). The second is to create a sitemap to all your internal pages and link to it from your homepage. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages but that's a whole article unto itself.