“how do I get my site at the top of the Google search results?” A very popular question that I come across a lot, and something every website owner wants to achieve. Well the good news is that if you follow some pretty basic rules and tips, the search engines will smile upon both you and your site, and you will have great success. Here they are:
Tip #1 – Understand why people will want to visit
The first tip is really about understanding your audience. Yep, good old fashioned marketing! You must first understand why your customers will want to come to your site. Of course, there will be some very good reasons, and these will be your products, services and the information your website provides about them. By understanding what your customers are looking for, you are better able to explain how your company will fulfil their needs.
This seems obvious huh? In fact this is not really anything specific to search engine marketing, it is more about good marketing. And so if you understand your customers well enough, this will be reflected as clear effective communication of what value you provide to them, your customers, in your website. This is important not just because clear communication is good communication, but because from this will come your most important piece of market intelligence, the best keywords to use for your search engine marketing.
Getting your keywords right is one of the most important achievements you can make on the journey to effective search engine marketing.
Bob owns a cheese company that makes a variety of delicious cheeses. At Bob’s Cheese they have just launched their new on-line shop for premium cheeses at direct to market discounted prices. They have a brain storming session for keywords and decide that one of their key phrases for on-line search engine marketing is “delicious Gruyère on-line”.
Now their cheese may in fact be delicious, and selling it on-line is indeed a bonus, but in reality most people can’t spell Gruyère and more often than not their target audience is actually looking for “discount premium cheese”. But how do they work this out?
There is a number of ways to work out the best keywords for your site. You and (if you are fortunate enough) your marketing team, are the most qualified people to figure that out. Think about your market and how they think. Here is a sure-fire way to get some good ideas on keywords if you get stuck;
Get together a group of people who represent a good sample of your target audience. Get a broad spread of people, from computer literate to first time Googlers if you can (if they still exist). Give them a simple task. Explain a product or service (without explicitly suggesting YOURS) and get them to imagine they are looking for it online. One by one get them to bring up a search engine and then watch. See what they do and what they search on. Take note of all the words and phrases used and the success the people had with each. At the end, ask them why they searched on the words they did. You may be surprised at the terminology and phrases they search on and their explanations why, but out of this exercise you should find some patterns, and a common set of words used. These will become your keywords.
Tip #2 – Use your keywords and phrases throughout your site
This is the most common approach to search engine marketing. Search engines actually “read” your pages, and so if you use a lot of keywords in the pages that people search on then the more relevant your website will appear. The more the search engines think your site is relevant, the higher in the search results you go.
Build up a collection of well thought out and relevant keywords (as per tip #1), and be sure your website talks about them. Don’t come up with too many keyword phrases, as you will need to use them all consistently throughout the content of your website. So work out your best phrases and keywords, and incorporate them into your site. Not only will this give you better chances of search engine success, but it will generally keep your website “on message”.
If you succeed in getting visitors to your site with one particular set of keywords, but your site uses different terminology or uses the keywords out of context in the page content, the visitor who found you in the search will end up getting confused and click the back button to the Google search results. This is referred to as a “bounce”, and search engines pick up on this. The more visitors bounce back from your site with a particular set of keywords, then the search engines will rank your site lower.
Tip #3 – Use your keywords not only in the page content, but in the title and URLs of your website
This step requires you to carefully design the names of the pages in your site to reflect the subject matter they are about. Search engines give you “points” for using keywords in the content of your pages, but more weight to keywords that appear in the name (URL) and title of a page. So as an example, our cheese company has just created some new pages promoting their on-line premium cheese shop. By using their primary keywords of “discount premium cheese”, they could name the page that talks about this service something like:
This would work better than say:
which says absolutely nothing about what the page is about.
The page should have the title (that appears in the top of the visitors web browser) of “Discount premium cheese” and by using this phrase in the words on the page itself, they would score valuable points with a search engine. A search engine will understand that the page itself is something to do with “Discount premium cheese”.
To go one step further, our cheese shop could include their main keywords in the base website address itself. So instead of using the web address of:
they could register and use
So the full address to the page would become
Now not only do the keywords appear in the text of the pages, the title of the page, the name of the page itself, but they are also in the actual website address for the website.
This step may not be practical for some people as their website URL is probably part of their existing brand, and existing website. However in the case of our fictitious cheese shop, they could register a new URL of discountpremiumcheese.com and use this alongside bobscheese.com for their on-line store only, keeping bobscheese.com as their corporate website. They could then link to the new www.discountpremiumcheese.com from the home page of www.bobscheese.com and actually get rewarded for this (see tip #4 below).
This is a good tip to consider if you are starting out a new website, but with some clever thinking you could break off some of your exisitng website content under this new URL if that makes sense for what you are doing, like Bob setting up his new online shop.
Tip #4 – Get other sites to link to your site using your keywords
This is a well known approach to raising the profile of your site and raising the relevance of your website in search engines. The more links there are that point to your site, the better as far as search engines are concerned. Search engines use a technique called “spidering”, or “crawling”. This is where a little search engine software robot called a spider (on the world wide web you see) starts reading a web page. In the page it finds a link to another page or website. The search engine doing the spidering, upon finding a link then sends off another little electronic spider to follow it to find out where it goes. That spider finds more links in these pages, and sends off more spiders. The more links the spiders find, the bigger the army of spiders becomes, and while this army crawls around the web, the more it comes across links to your website from others, and each time the more “points” it gives your site. If lots of sites talk about your site, the more popular it must be, so the more relevant it becomes.
It is vitally important to have your site linked to from other sites, both for search engines and so real people can find your site, but one big mistake most people make is to not get the other sites to use keywords in the link text itself. The search engine spiders may not necessarily understand why another site links to your site. It will just find a link and think “oh here is a link, I will follow it.” But by using keywords in the link text itself, the spider can understand the link in context and understand what the link is about.
If Bob’s Cheese can get other sites to link to his site using good keywords then the search engines will associate these keywords with bob’s site. So a link like click here for premium discount cheese would give the search engine better context than just visit Bob’s Cheese. By doing this the search engine gets the idea that the link has something to do with premium discount cheese, and so associates these keywords with Bob’s site. The more sites with links like this pointing to Bob’s site the more the search engine thinks that Bob’s site is an authority on premium discount cheese.
So that’s it for now. Four simple tips to search engine success. There are, as always, plenty of other things you can do, but these four things will give you the most value. No voodoo or black magic is required to get your site up in the search engine rankings, just some sensible steps and a bit of time and effort, and you will get great results.
Lastly if you want instant traffic to your site then have a look at a paid advertising campaign using Google’s Adwords. You still need to work out your keywords and get your website content right, but Adwords will give you that instant traffic you desire… but more on this another time