Improving Search Engine Visibility
Everybody uses search engines to find what they’re looking for. If your website hasn’t been properly indexed by the search engines, you’ll be missing out on valuable opportunities to connect users to your site. As a website owner, it’s important to understand how search engines process search queries and how to ensure your site is search engine friendly.
You can’t simply create a website and then expect search engines to find it. More work must be done to connect the search engines to your site. Whether you’re planning a new website or have had one for years, this article will help you understand how to:
- make your website search engine friendly
- improve your search engine ranking
- attract visitors who are genuinely interested in your products and services
Some Search Engine Terminology
Keywords are significant words or phrases on a web page that describe the page’s content. Keywords also refer to the words or phrases used in a search engine query.
Organic search engine listings, or natural listings, refer to the search results produced by search engines and specifically exclude paid placement and paid inclusion listings.
Page authority is a metric developed by Moz that predicts how well a specific page will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). Getting external links from high-authority websites will boost your page authority.
Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to techniques used in maximizing the visibility of a website so that it does well in organic search engine listings.
Search engine results pages (SERPs) are the web page listings returned by search engines in response to a keyword query. Each listing typically includes the title tag (the title of the web page), URL, and meta description (a concise summary of the page content):
A Five Step Approach
Step 1: Ensure your website design is search engine friendly.
Search engines use sophisticated algorithms to produce search results. A well-designed site allows the search engines to easily crawl and index your site. There are some widely recognized guidelines that should be considered when designing a website.
Search engines like:
- Logically structured sites. Search engines do a better job of indexing sites that are designed with a clear hierarchy. An added benefit is that users will find it easier to navigate your site.
- Information-rich sites. Provide high-quality content on your website and update it frequently. A website that contains useful information will attract more visitors and entice other sites to link to it.
- Fast sites. Google factors page load time into the search algorithm it uses to rank web pages. Fast sites receive higher rankings.
- Site maps. A site map provides the overall layout of your website at a glance and is helpful to both your visitors and your search engine visibility.
- Descriptive and accurate title tags. Search engines rely heavily on page titles and consider words at the beginning of the title to be more important than subsequent words.
- Descriptive and accurate meta descriptions. A good description accurately reflects each web page’s content and contains keywords.
Search engines don’t like:
- Flash websites. Crawlers experience problems indexing Flash sites because they are constructed with graphics rather than text. Major browsers have either stopped supporting Flash sites or have announced their intention to do so.
- PDF files. A PDF file is not as search engine friendly as a web page coded with HTML. However, this shortcoming can be minimized by embedding metadata within the PDF file and placing descriptive text links to PDF pages in your site’s HTML pages.
- Images that display important content or links. Crawlers do not recognize text contained in images.
Refer to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines for more suggestions on creating a search engine friendly site.
Step 2: Find the right keywords for individual web pages.
Try to think of keywords that targeted searchers would use to find your website. These keywords should be incorporated into your meta tags and—more importantly—your copy. But don’t use identical keywords on each page. Instead, choose keywords for each page that best describe its content.
It’s best to use two- to four-word keyword phrases that are commonly used by web searchers, but that are selective enough so that you are not competing with millions of other pages for the search engine’s attention. Very specific, well-chosen keywords will generate targeted traffic from searchers who are genuinely interested in what your site has to offer.
If a competitor’s website attracts many visitors and has a high search engine ranking, it probably means they have chosen good keywords. For that reason, it makes sense (and is perfectly ethical) to examine the keywords used on your competitors’ websites.
Keywords should be placed in your title tags, meta descriptions, headings, and body text. Keywords that appear in title tags, headings, and the first part of your body text are generally considered more relevant by search engines.
Step 3: Optimize your web pages for these keywords.
Search engine optimization takes into account how search engine algorithms work and the keywords that people use when performing searches. The combination of keywords and website content must show search engines that your website is relevant to a specific topic.
SEO primarily involves examining a site’s coding and structure, placing keywords in the right places, and addressing problems that could prevent search engines from fully indexing a site. It is a complex and time-consuming process that is beyond the scope of this article, but is nonetheless crucial if you want to achieve high search engine rankings. SEO efforts typically require several weeks or even months to yield appreciable results.
Step 4: Obtain links from related websites.
Inbound links from related websites are essential to achieve high search engine visibility. “Link popularity” refers to the number and quality of inbound links that point to a particular website and, as far as search engines are concerned, can literally make or break the site. If another website considers your website important enough to link to, the search engines consider your site important as well.
A “quality link” is simply a link from a related website that complements the contents of your site. It is important to have an ongoing link-building campaign in place in order to build high-quality inbound links from related sites. Inbound links help the search engine crawlers find your site and provide improved visibility in SERPs.
An effective link-building campaign involves:
- identifying complementary websites (that do not directly compete with your website) by performing searches on your keywords,
- contacting their webmasters by telephone or email to request a one-way or reciprocal link, and
- documenting your searches, contact information, and results.
Websites that link to your competitors are often websites that are related to your site, so you may want to request that they link to your website as well.
Search engines don’t like artificially created links. They want natural links from sites that share the same subject matter as your site. Your search engine visibility will benefit if you focus on building links that are useful to your visitors and your business. This link-building approach will help search engines connect targeted searchers to your website.
Outbound links can also benefit your website. They add value to your site because they provide additional resources to your site’s visitors and allow you to build business and linking relationships with other sites. You should link to another website if it would be of interest to your site’s visitors or offers something related to your site.
Step 5: Use social media.
Although social media interaction won’t directly impact the search engine visibility of your website, it does offer some indirect benefits:
- Content that is shared and promoted on social media increases the likelihood of other websites linking to your site, and these links can boost your page authority.
- A strong social media presence can boost your brand awareness and reputation.
Improving your website’s search engine visibility requires a committed, long-term approach. Patience is required because it can take weeks or even months before your efforts are rewarded. Keep in mind that your perseverance will eventually result in improved search engine visibility and, as a result, increased targeted traffic.