Reaching Page One on the Search Engines

Google™ and the other search engines give higher preference to sites that are:

  • large (have many pages of content)
  • fresh (have new content every week or month)
  • popular (have lots of incoming links from high quality sites)
  • relevant (words on the site match the search words or phrase)
  • optimized (make smart use of html code and site structure)

How can a small site with stable content compete with the big, established sites? Here are five strategies for reaching page one on the search engines.

First, have plenty of content that is useful to visitors.

Offer “free tips” or in-depth information that helps potential customers understand the quality or the context of your products or services.

Second, expand your site with new content.

Adding fresh content over time will automatically make your site bigger, as well as showing the search engines that you have something new. Press releases, reprints of published articles , and archives of e-newsletters are a great way to do this.

Third, get more incoming links.

Establish an ongoing program of getting links from other sites. The more links, the better, but the quality of the site that links to you is important. Those with a high page rank give you a stronger boost. Links from sites with a poor page rank may even hurt your ranking.

Relevance is also important. Search engines know what a site is “about”. For example, if you sell clothing, getting links from a steel manufacturer would be a waste of time.

By setting a goal of getting just one link per month, at the end of a year, you can have a dozen incoming links; at the end of four years, you can have almost fifty. Every incoming link from a high-quality site will raise your site closer to page one.

Put yourself in the shoes of a search engine looking at two sites with similar content. For one of them, thirty other sites on the Web have said: Wow, there’s something useful here, I’ll make a link to it. But the other site has no incoming links. Which of them would you put on page one of your search results?

Fourth, focus on the best keywords for your situation.

Search-engine-wise, it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small shrimp in a big ocean.

If you have a large, established site, then you are in a good position to compete for a keyword phrase like free monologues. If you have a small, new site, then you need to Think Niche, something closer to small animal boarding in central Massachusetts. Given that the Web is a huge and growing ocean, look for the ponds where you can compete effectively.

Use keyword research to find out what people are really searching for, and to discover keyword phrase niches that few other websites are exploiting.

Last but not least, make sure your site is optimized for those keywords.

Here, the term optimized has several meanings.

  • Optimized code takes full advantage of the way search engines view different html tags. For example, text that is bolded, or in a list, or in a headline, is given more weight than text inside an ordinary paragraph.
  • Optimized page structure has individual pages for each keyword phrase that people use in searches. In other words, it is far more effective to have several individual pages about apples, oranges, pears and cherries, than to have a single page about fruit.
  • Optimized keyword density means that a page about apples really uses the word apples, not round red objects where eating one a day keeps the doctor away.

For two sites that are otherwise equivalent, the optimized site will jump way above its unoptimized sibling.

Each of these strategies will help raise your site higher in the search results. While no one can guarantee that you will reach page one for any particular search phrase, using all five strategies is the best approach possible.

—November 2005, Wyn Snow


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