Designing Sites For Search Engines & Directories
Designing sites for search engines and directories
In terms of layout, many web sites are not designed for optimum search engine and directory visibility. People or companies seem so centered on their corporate or personal images, products, and services that they neglect to design their web sites with search engines and directories in mind.
Search engines and directories vary in the way they rank your web site in a search query. Some search engines place primary emphasis on the text within your title tags. Some search engines place emphasis on the main ideas presented in all of your text on a single web page. Some directories emphasize the text you submitted in their “Description” field. How and where you place your text, both in the copy your visitors see and within the HTML tags your visitors do not see, will affect your ranking.
- Keyword selection
- Keyword placement
- Keyword frequency
- Link and architecture
- Site statistics
Of primary importance is selecting the best keywords for your industry and the keywords you believe your potential customers will use to find you. Selecting the right keywords requires research.
Look at your company’s printed materials. What words do you use over and over? When you speak to new and current customers on the phone, what questions do they frequently ask and what words do they use? Ask your current customers how they would find you on the Internet. Then go to the major search engines and directories. Type in the keywords you want to use. Study the source code of the web sites that appeared in the top 20. Look at how your competitors ranked in a search query. Adjust your keyword selection accordingly.
Of equal importance is keyword placement on individual pages. The text in your title tag is one the most important elements for ranking well in search engines. The text in your titles should be descriptive, using the words and lingo in your industry, and should accurately reflect the contents of each web page.
For optimum search engine positions, your keywords need to appear at the top of your web pages. Thus, before you design your web page, ask yourself if you (or your web designer) have strategically placed your keywords within your title tags, meta-tags, headings, graphic images, and the first paragraph within your body tag. If not, you might need to rethink your site design.
What is important to both the search engines and your target audience is keyword frequency and keyword prominence. Designing and coding your site with keywords in the right locations and the right frequency is an art form. Keywords need to appear frequently on your web pages, but if they appear too frequently, your site will be penalized for word stacking (also known as “spamming the index”) or could be removed permanently from the index.
Also, some search engines ignore meta-tags. Thus, if you have included your keywords in your meta-tags but have not placed them elsewhere, you have missed a huge target audience, namely AOL users. Sites with frames have problems being indexed well because there is little opportunity otherwise to include additional text with keywords.
Very, very few web sites can get in the Top 10 of all the major search engines (AltaVista, FAST Search, HotBot, Google, Lycos, Teoma) without spamming. We cannot emphasize this enough: if you hire anyone (a submission service, an individual, an online promotion service, etc.) to do the services we just described, they need to have both HTML and design experience, online marketing, and excellent copywriting skills. You do not want your web site to be permanently banned from a search engine or directory due to ignorance or lack of experience. Furthermore, submission services usually do just that: submit. Many do not perform keyword research, the HTML coding, and copywriting necessary to get a site optimally placed within the search engines. Ask a lot of questions before handing over any money.
Placing keywords throughout your web pages is useless as a search engine marketing strategy if the search engine spiders are unable to record the text on your web pages. Therefore, always have a link architecture on your site that the search engine spiders can follow. Oftentimes, this means having two forms of navigation on your site: one that your target audience prefers, and one for the search engines.
For the first few months after you have your web site submitted to the major search engines and directories, you should see a jump in traffic. If you look at your site reports with your visitor statistics, which should do frequently, you will see when the search engines spider and index your site.
Hopefully, because you have been thoughtful enough to give potential customers a reason to return to your site again and again, people will bookmark your site, and your web statistics will show an increase in a “No Referrer” category under referral URLs. Your site reports should show you where your potential customers are coming from (i.e. which search engine or directory they used to find you) and which keywords they used to find you.
After your site has listed in the search engines and directories for a few months, review your site statistics and determine where the majority of your traffic comes from. Then focus your advertising efforts on those directories and search engines. You get better sales from targeted marketing than from spreading your net too wide.
One client did exactly what we recommended, from keyword selection to monitoring site statistics. They found most of their sites referral traffic came from Yahoo queries. They bought banner space from Yahoo for two months. Whenever two of their keywords were typed in a search query, their banner would appear. Their traffic increased over 500%, and their sales reached five figures per month.
Lastly, the saying “Content is King” still rings true. You can increase traffic to your web site, but if (1) people do not like what they see, (2) you do not offer potential customers what they want to buy, or (3) you do not give customers incentive to stay and/or bookmark your site, they will click off of your web site as quickly as they clicked on to it.