Note: The following article includes dozens of links to resources and more information — much of it carefully organized on my website (and in some books) for further study, much of it entirely free. Please excuse the many links to my site. This article originally appeared in Web Marketing Today As one of our most popular articles, it was revised most recently.
How can you get more visitors to your website? What can you do to stimulate traffic? Here’s a checklist of 32 items you need to consider. Many of these you’re probably doing already; others you meant to do and forgot about; still others you’ve never heard of. Of course, a great deal has been written about this. You’ll find links to thousands of articles on site promotion in our Web Marketing Research Room (www.wilsonweb.com/research). While we’re not breaking any new ground here, we’ve tried to summarize some of the most important techniques.
Search Engine Strategies
Perhaps the most important — and inexpensive — strategy is to rank high for your preferred words on the main search engines in “organic” or “natural” searches (as opposed to paid ads). Search engines send robot “spiders” to index the content on your webpage, so let’s begin with steps to prepare your webpages for optimal indexing. They idea here is not to trick the search engines, but to leave them abundant clues as to what your webpage is about.
1. Write a Page Title. Write a descriptive title for each page of 5 to 8 words. Remove as many “filler” words from the title, such as “the,” “and,” etc. This page title will appear hyperlinked on the search engines when your page is found. Entice searchers to click on the title by making it a bit provocative. Place this at the top of the webpage between the <HEAD></HEAD> tags, in this format: <TITLE>Web Marketing Checklist -- 32 Ways to Promote Your Website</TITLE>. (It also shows on the blue bar at the top of your web browser.)
Plan to use some descriptive keywords along with your business name on your home page. If you specialize in silver bullets and that’s what people will be searching for, don’t just use your company name “Acme Ammunition, Inc.” use “Silver and Platinum Bullets — Acme Ammunition, Inc.” The words people are most likely to search on should appear first in the title (called “keyword prominence”). Remember, this title is nearly your entire identity on the search engines. The more people see that interests them in the blue hyperlinked words on the search engine, the more likely they are to click on the link.
2. Write a Description and Keyword META Tag. The description should be a sentence or two describing the content of the webpage, using the main keywords and keyphrases on this page. If you include keywords that aren’t used on the webpage, you could hurt yourself. Place the Description META Tag at the top of the webpage, between the <HEAD></HEAD> tags, in this format: Some search engines include this description below your hyperlinked title.
<META NAME="DESCRIPTION" CONTENT="Increase visitor hits, attract traffic through submitting URLs, META tags, news releases, banner ads, and reciprocal links">.
Your maximum number of characters should be about 255; just be aware that only the first 60 or so are visible on Google, though more may be indexed.
When I prepare a webpage, I write the article first, then write a description of the content in that article in a sentence or two, using each of the important keywords and keyphrases included in the article. This goes into the description META tag. Then for the keywords META tag, I strip out the common words, leaving just the meaty words and phrases. The keywords META tag is no longer used for ranking by Google, but it is currently used by Yahoo, so I’m leaving it in. Who knows when more search engines will consider it important again? Every webpage in your site should have a title, and META description tag.
3. Include Your Keywords in Header Tags H1, H2, H3. Search engines consider words that appear in the page headline and sub heads to be important to the page, so make sure your desired keywords and phrases appear in one or two header tags. Don’t expect the search engine to parse your Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) to figure out which are the headlines — it won’t. Instead, use keywords in the H1, H2, and H3 tags to provide clues to the search engine. (Note: Some designers no longer use the H1, H2 tags. That’s a mistake. Make sure your designer defines these tags in the CSS rather than creating headline tags with other names.)
4. Make Sure Your Keywords Are in the First Paragraph of Your Body Text. Search engines expect that your first paragraph will contain the important keywords for the document — where most people write an introduction to the content of the page. You don’t want to just artificially stuff keywords here, however. More is not better. Google might expect a keyword density in the entire body text area of maybe 1.5% to 2% for a word that should rank high, so don’t overdo it. Other places you might consider including keywords would be in ALT tags and perhaps COMMENT tags, though few search engines give these much if any weight.
5. Use Keywords in Hyperlinks. Search engines are looking for clues to the focus of your page. When they see words hyperlinked in your body text, they consider these potentially important, so hyperlink your important keywords and keyphrases. To emphasize it even more, the webpage you are linking to could have a page name with the keyword or keyphrase, such as blue-widget.htm – another clue for the search engine.
7. Develop Several Pages Focused on Particular Keywords. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) specialists no longer recommend using external doorway or gateway pages, since nearly duplicate webpages might get you penalized. Rather, develop several webpages on your site, each of which is focused on a different keyword or keyphrase. For example, instead of listing all your services on a single webpage, try developing a separate webpage for each. These pages will rank higher for their keywords since they contain targeted rather than general content. You can’t fully optimize all the webpages in your site, but these focused-content webpages you’ll want to spend lots of time tweaking to improve their rank.
8. Submit Your Webpage URL to Search Engines. Next, submit your homepage URL to the important Web search engines that robotically index the Web. Look for a link on the search engine for “Add Your URL.” In the US, the most used search engines are: Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL Search, and Ask.com. Some of these feed search content to the other main search engines and portal sites. For Europe and other areas you’ll want to submit to regional search engines. It’s a waste of money to pay someone to submit your site to hundreds of search engines. Avoid registering with FFA (Free For All pages) and other link farms. They don’t work well, bring you lots of spam e-mails, and could cause you to be penalized by the search engines. We’ll talk about submitting to directories under “Linking Strategies” below. If your page is already indexed by a search engine, don’t re-submit it unless you’ve made significant changes; the search engine spider will come back and revisit it soon anyway.
9. Fine-tune with Search Engine Optimization. Now fine-tune your focused-content pages (described in point 7), and perhaps your home page, by making minor adjustments to help them rank high. Software such as WebPosition(www.wilsonweb.com/afd/webposition.htm) allows you to check your current ranking and compare your
webpages against your top keyword competitors. I use it regularly. WebPosition’s Page Critic provides analysis of a search engine’s preferred statistics for each part of your webpage. You can do this yourself with WebPosition. The best set of SEO tools by far is Bruce Clay’s SEOToolSet (www.wilsonweb.com/afd/clay_seotoolset.htm). You can find links to hundreds of articles on search engine strategies in our Research Room (www.wilsonweb.com/cat/cat.cfm?page=1&subcat=mp_Search). If you want more detail, consider purchasing my inexpensive book Dr. Wilson’s Plain-Spoken Guide to Search Engine Optimization (http://www.wilsonweb.com/ebooks/seo.htm). Many small and large businesses outsource search engine positioning because of the considerable time investment it requires. If you outline your needs, I can point you the right direction to SEO firms I know and trust (www.wilsonweb.com/recommendations/seo-services.htm).
10. Promote Your Local Business on the Internet. These days many people search for local businesses on the Internet. To make sure they find you include on every page of your website the street address, zip code, phone number, and the five or 10 other local community place names your business serves. If you can, include place names in the title tag, too. When you seek links to your site (see below), a local business should get links from local businesses with place names in the communities you serve andcomplementary businesses in your industry nationwide.