What is the purpose of having a website if nobody can find you? You may have spent a lot of time, money and effort on the website’s design but never even considered how important search engine optimization (SEO) can be in ensuring that your articles rank highly in the search engine results. In your mind, you had imagined there would be hundreds of people looking at your website and sharing your links on various social networking sites which intended to increase your share of the market – but if your website is quiet, and you’re wondering ‘where is everybody?’ If you have written and launched your website and people aren’t finding you, you may as well as not have spent your time or money building your website. The strategies below won’t bring you traffic overnight but over time you will start to understand how the search engines work and how to attract the people you expected to come to your website when you first launched.
How do people find your website?
So how do people track down your website among the hundreds of millions that are out there? Some people may find your website via a search engine result, a directory (a website which lists similar content type sites as yours) or even through a link being posted on someone else’s social media profile, for example; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. Given that, generally most people stop looking at search engine results after the first 10 or 20 results – how do you get rank in those results? Here are a few general tips that may help you:
- build/create a fast loading website with perfect (i.e. unbroken) navigation that has high quality original written content
- ensure your web developer lists your website with the major search engines
- review and update content on your website regularly
- write simple and easy-to-understand English content
- follow the simple rule of each web page having a distinct keyword focused message and goal
How search engines rank web pages
When search engines index and evaluate a web page they send out automated search engine robots to help determine what your website is all about.
They use various algorithms and formulas (which change quite often) to help define and clarify the site topic, quality of content and when the content was last updated. So when someone goes looking for something on the web they type their search query into the search engine and the search engine goes looking for websites which best represent those words or phrases. Some examples of basic principles used by search engines in sifting through website content are:
- link popularity
- when the content was last updated
Is your website relevant?
For a search engine to determine a websites’ relevance in relation to the original query typed in by the searcher some search engines perform a count of the number of times the word or phrase has been written on the web page. Some search engines use this raw number as a criterion for relevance – for example, the more frequently a word or phrase is used then the more points the web page gets for relevance to the original query.
However, other search engines use percentages when determining relevance. For instance: does the query word/phrase amount to one or 10% of the total number of words on the web page.
Each search engine has its own algorithm to determine its own benchmark for identifying how relevant a web page is against the search query. Each web page could be ranked high by some search engines and low by others as they all have their own unique way of deciding how they will rank for relevance.
How prominent is the search query on the site?
Search engines may also add points for how prominent the keyword or phrase appears on the site. So for a keyword or phrase to be prominent on a web page, a search engine will look at whether they can find it in the page title, meta description, heading, subheadings and on-page body text – all considered to be prominent positions within the site. Additionally if the keyword or phrase occurs at the beginning of one of these places – like the first word/s in the title – this can also help to achieve a high ranked score or even if the word placement of the words is close together.
Search engines also consider and evaluate links from other websites, which have related content to your own. These few factors can boost or help enhance your websites’ popularity and prominence:
- are the links coming from popular websites?
- are there a number of links?
- do the links contain relevant keywords?
Have a look at the top ten competitors for your website and consider negotiating a reciprocal link agreement. It might seem a little crazy to go to your competitors, but then again it might be a good idea to share the traffic so that everyone benefits.
As people are in search click mode for approximately 75% of their time online then clearly you should give them what they are looking for and consider how search engines will find your website out of all the others out there. Consider how librarians and academics use keywords to categorize and define their search for their subject matter in books or articles or looking for white papers. Web authors need to do the same thing and understand how readers think and use these keywords appropriately, which in turn helps search engines rank and find your website.
How old is your content?
People tend to trust websites that are updated frequently. Search engines generally favor web pages which are regularly updated and use this as a way to rank pages accordingly. The longer a website languishes without changes or fresh factual content the lower it slips down the search engine result rankings. Would you trust a website whose most recent news item is months or even a few years old? If there is no recent sign of life, we tend to doubt the value and authenticity of the entire site.
Why search engine optimization is important
Readability, credibility, findability, relevance, and popularity are all important factors when determining which content is search engine friendly. What use is your content if nobody can find your content and deliver the most accurate results to the searcher. Search engine optimization is the art of designing or modifying web pages to help them rank better in the search results so that you can draw more visitors to your website.