How to Beat the Search Engines
By: Aaron Richards
Internet Marketing Pro
September 25, 2007
If You Can’t Beat’em, Join’em
Realistically, most of us aren’t tech-savvy enough to trick the search engines into ranking our sites highly. So the best way to improve search engine performance is to give’em what they want – websites that are relevant and important to their searchers. Below is a list of fundamental techniques that will increase your search engine traffic, as long as you make the commitment to execute these suggestions on a weekly basis.
If your website only consists of a few pages, it’s not going to get much traffic from search engines. It’s a simple correlation; the more content a website possesses, the more opportunities it has to rank for the ever-expanding universe of keywords that searchers are using each day. The opposite also holds true – sites with very little content have less chance of matching a searcher’s query and thus receive reduced search engine referrals.
There are many ways to add useful content to a site, and some can repurpose existing information to save you time. Here are a couple examples:
- Press Releases: If you make periodic announcements about your business, be sure to post a copy on the website. This adds instant content without much effort.
- E-mail Newsletters: Don’t just send this valuable content to readers, keep an archive of newsletters on your site that is accessible to everyone. This will boost the return on investment you’ve made in these high-value communications.
Another fun and more informal method for creating content is to start a blog. With a blog, you can post announcements, cover industry news, or simply make observations about your industry. Day-by-day, post-by-post, you will be generating content that the search engines will find, leading to more visitors. I hate to use the word guarantee (but I will) – if you add a blog to your site and stay active, I guarantee you will get more traffic. And you don’t need a bunch of web hosting expertise to set one up – refer to Myth #5 of our 10 Web Hosting Myths article.
Be an Expert
Now that you have some content, it’s time to convince the search engines that your information is more important in order to outrank your competitors. Although there is a lot we don’t know about the search engine algorithms that determine rankings, we do know that the engines give more ranking strength to sites that are considered experts or “authorities.”
So how do search engines determine who is the bigger expert without even knowing you? Primarily through the quantity, relevance and quality of the websites linking to your site. Essentially, links are viewed as votes for being an expert in a particular topic, so the more votes you have, the higher your rankings.
How do you get more links?
One method utilizes the blog suggestion from the previous section. In addition to staying active with your blog each week, reach out to other bloggers in your field of interest by posting useful comments on their blogs. If the comments are genuine and demonstrate expertise, they will link back to you and help build your reputation and authority. By increasing content and the perception of being an expert, you will be on the way to higher rankings and more traffic.
There are far more link-building methods than just the example given above, in fact, far too many to discuss within one article. If you really want to increase your arsenal of link building tactics (a very worthwhile investment) there is a ton of useful link building articles at Search Engine Land.
A recent survey found that local search is outpacing general search, and that 82% of consumers using local search take an offline action such as visiting a store. These are compelling reasons to make sure that your site appears in local searches. Here are some simple steps that will improve your local visibility in the rankings:
- Include your complete address in the footer of every website page in addition to the contact page.
- Reference your location periodically in the main content of different pages. There will be plenty of opportunities to mention your state and town.
- Get links from other local websites by offering a complimentary service or discount. For instance, if you own an ice cream shop, ask to place a coupon link on the local pizza parlor’s website—this makes everybody happy.
- Get a link from the local newspaper website. Ask them to do a story on your business and include a link in the article. How about some free ice cream for the writer!
- Get listed in national directories that provide local listings like Local.com and Google Places – they are free.
Local search is an emerging trend that is growing quickly. Take a little time each week to establish your website in the most important market, your own neighborhood.
Let’s face it, if you own an online bookstore, it’s unlikely to naturally rank in the top 10 for the search phrase “online books” due to the strength of the competition. But this doesn’t mean search engine marketing holds no promise. For instance, here’s a local business in Denver, Colorado that ranks #7 for the search term “mystery books” (at the time this article was written):
By understanding your niche and developing focused content and authority, you can still achieve rankings that deliver meaningful traffic, regardless of budget.
For those keywords like “online books,” where you may never crack the top 10 rankings naturally, try buying some paid search ads at a low budget level to gain visibility for these terms. Then determine if this is a worthwhile investment. Programs like Google Adwords make it easy to start running a basic campaign in under an hour. Sign-up for more tips via our e-mail program below and you will receive a future article that discusses how to cost-effectively use paid search to gain more qualified traffic and increase sales, sign-ups or any other website goal.
Track or Go Home
There is very little point in taking any of the steps mentioned above unless you are going to track some basic website metrics. A simple metric to start is measuring visitors; then move on to more important measures such as phone calls, newsletter sign-ups and orders. Also periodically measure rankings and the number of links from other websites in order to determine the effectiveness of your link building efforts. All of this can be achieved with free tools like the ones below:
- Google Analytics: Measure visitors, orders and more
- Yahoo Link Harvester: Find out who is linking to your site
- SEO Digger: Get a quick overview of your rankings
By measuring progress, you’ll not only learn which methods are more effective, allowing better time allocation, but it will inspire you to maintain a consistent marketing effort.