|Lets deal with the WHY is it important question first, then you’ll WANT to know what it is.Relevant Content = Higher Search Engine Rank
Everyone wants to be ranked high on search engines. Well, search engines like Google and MSN and Yahoo have to know your website is legitimate. The more legitimate they think your site is according to their secret criteria the higher they rank you. There are several ways they do that. They shake up the specifics all the time but the overall methods are as follows:
What is relevant and what is not.
If you are a car accessory business then topics like mechanics, hood scoots, lift kits, tires, wheels, car customization, etc are relevant to you. Porn, baby toys, and hopscotch are not relevant to you. Your content and your links have to be relevant to the overall theme of your site.
Relevance is very important for your site. If a search engine’s logic thinks that you’re trying to manipulate your ranking by putting content on your site that doesn’t really belong there you will get flagged for review as a possible violation of TOS. That can get you either temp or permanently banned from the search engine.
What is content?
Text, photos and links are all content.
Text can be anything from a daily/weekly blog talking about trends in your business, sales copy about products and services you offer, informative articles/tutorials you’ve written, a FAQ that your website patrons might find helpful, etc. In fact, the page you’re reading right now is content. It’s relevant to this site and contains a lot of words that are associated with the overall theme of this site, designing websites. This page is helping to get us ranked in search engines right now.
Think about it like this. You go to a website to read the site and look at the pictures. That’s the content. You came to this website to learn about having a website made or maybe even making it yourself. If this site just had one we page with a line of text saying “we make websites” and a phone number you would be pretty unhappy. So would the search engines. If you want to get ranked well then you need content on your site that your clients would like to read.
Photos are good, but there’s a trick here. Photos need to have descriptive names. Search engines can’t look at your photo and tell if it’s a photo of a new trendy wheel or a picture of a baby rattle. The only thing the search engine can go on is the name of the photo. If you’re using a photo gallery tool make sure you have descriptions and captions for all of your photos.
Links to industry leader or vendors you deal with can help your search engine ranking a lot. If you can contact your vendors and have them link to you that would be outstanding. They are probably well ranked in their fields and them linking to you will boost your rankings. Regardless of whether they link to you, you should link to them. When the search engine scans your site and sees that you are linking to other legitimate sites with content relevant to your own you get bumped up in ranking. Link to as many industry leaders as you can for your field. Linking to news articles or even copying/pasting articles from other sites and putting them on your own site (with a link citing source) will help ranking.
Can you write my content for me?
Well, yes, we could. You probably don’t want us to though.
We once did a website for a dentist. We sat down and planned out his site. We helped him think through the process from a client’s point of view. What kind of information would one of his patients like to see on his website? What would they be looking for? We planned out about 10 sections of the site based on those conversations.
About a week later the website shell was up with dummy pages in place for each of the sections we talked about. He loved the site. It looked slick and professional, but then he asked me about the pages we talked about. There were placeholder pages up for billing policies, patient referrals, pricing, insurance, etc but no text on those pages. He asked me when we were going to get the text in place for those pages.
We had told him all along during the process that he or someone on his staff would be responsible for writing the content of the site and he always nodded and agreed, but it didn’t dawn on us that he didn’t really understand what he was agreeing to.
At that point we asked him if he knew the first thing about how to build a website, set it up on a server, install and configure a database, choose appropriate colors and design custom graphics, etc. He responded back (laughing, he had a good sense of humor and was a great guy to work with) that he didn’t know anything at all about that stuff. That was why he was paying us!
So we explained that we are website professionals, not dentists (thankfully, who wants to have your hands in someone’s mouth all day?). We could not possibly write anything decent about how he conducted his business without a very lengthy interview. We told him we would be happy to sit down and interview him or his staff about those topics but it would be infinitely better if he or someone in his office would draft up what they think clients might need to know about each of those topics and send it over to us for review. We could edit and help them work out any additional content from that in a back-and-forth process until they were happy with the content.
We can help with content and give you ideas, but ultimately you are the expert for your field of business. Having us write your content is akin to asking an car mechanic questions about plumbing. You can do it, but if you want a good answer to your plumbing question it’s not the best practice.
Content is king but it has to be good content and for it to be good, it needs to come from the expert. That is you, the client. Nobody knows more about your business than you do.
Meta Descriptions, Page Titles and Bears, oh my!
All html pages contain meta description and page titles. These can easily be seen by viewing the source of the html in a web browser. They’re not readily visible to web page viewers though. They are important because they are used as secret keyword tags to let search engines know what keywords are relevant to your content. Obviously these can be manipulated by using key words that don’t directly pertain to your content (are not relevant). The porn industry in particular pioneered using misleading key words and titles to fool search engines. Amazing that pornography played such a role in the evolution of the internet. Who would have thought?
Google and other engines have since wised up. Meta words are not nearly as important as they once were. Engines now examine the content of the whole page overall, not just the meta words and titles. Make sure the key words you use are not only relevant to your business but relevant to the specific page you use.
Titles are also very important. You and put keywords in titles, but more importantly the title of a page is often what users see when they pull your page/site up in a search engine. Having a well thought out page title is therefore very important.
Joomla and other content management systems: If you’re using a CMS like Joomla it will often manage your keywords for you somewhat, especially with optional addons. In the overall site configuration you can set up global keywords, but each content page can also have customized keywords. You can access this by editing the page content and clicking on the Meta tab in Joomla. Consistently using relevant meta data will improve your search rankings.
Things NOT to do:
Search engines are getting smarter and smarter by the day. They’re notoriously clever at sniffing out people who are trying to manipulate their rankings. Search engine ranking is a VERY competitive business and something the search engine administrators are very touchy about. If you can manipulate your own rankings outside of their rules then their search engines are going to start returning results that are not relevant to searches their customers are running.
The quality of their service will drop and the engines will lose business. For those reasons they maintain strict rules about trying to manipulate your rank in their listings. If you violate their rules or otherwise try to manipulate your rankings in a way they see as “shady” they can and WILL drop your rank or even temporarily ban you from the listings. Repeat offenders regularly get permanently banned.
Nobody wants to see a great website they’ve poured time and money into get banned. For those reasons we strongly discourage customers from any practices that might be considered manipulation by search engine admins. The safest way to improve your rank is to use the techniques we listed above.
Paying a SEO (search engine optimization) company that’s legitimate can help improve your rank. This is an art form in and of itself and is often quit expensive. If you have the money to spend on a good SEO expert then it might not be a bad idea but you need to make sure that the techniques they use to get your ranking improved is well within the acceptable guidelines of the search engines you care about, otherwise they are very likely to get your entire site permanently banned.
Content is king. Get relevant content on your site and get links set up to and from other sites and regularly update your site and your rankings will improve.
Paid internet advertising.
Probably the most legitimate form of paid internet advertising that is easily tracked for effectiveness is Google Adwords. These are the “sponsored” links that appear on the right side of a Google page when you search for something.
This, again, is an art form in itself. You need an expert in Adwords to set up a paid campaign for you. If the campaign is not set up correctly you’re basically throwing money away. This can also get very spendy very quickly. We have an internet marketing partner who can very easily rack up a $800 Google Adwords bill in 2-3 days.
To find a good Adwords company to use go to Google and search for “Adwords” and look at the sponsored links on the right. The ones that are at the top of the list on the right probably know how to get the job done because they’re already listing their own ads well, otherwise they wouldn’t have been at the top of the list.
There are also several books on the market that can teach you to use the system yourself, but be prepared to invest a lot of time and money into learning. It’s not a system that’s easily mastered.
Again, Content is King. If you have relevant content and a lot of it your un-paid rankings will rise on their own.
How can I get listed/ranked NOW?!
Right now? Right this very minute? You can’t. That’s the short of it.
You can submit your site using this address: http://www.google.com/addurl/
However, we would not submit a site for review until you have a decent amount of content in place (minimum 5-6 pages of typed text). If your site is reviewed/indexed by google and you have very little content your ranking will be very low. All things being equal, it’s easier to gain google rank if you start off well and improve than it is if you start off ranked really low and have to climb up the ladder from there.
It typically takes clients we ’ve worked with about a month to even start showing up on searches. When we set up any website we always take the time to the site up with the legitimate tricks we know that will help them get ranked more effectively and consistently. That’s not always the fast method, but it is the safe one.
Can you link to me?
One thing we CAN and will do for clients is to link to their site from our design portfolio page. This will generally help your rankings considerably because our site is well ranked with Google. Typically, after a few months when you search for something looking for your site in Google we will outrank the clients because our site is much more established, has plenty of relevant content and is updated regularly. Clients who don’t spend the time to develop content wont get favorably ranked.
Some clients get upset with this and ask us to remove the link to them which we happiIy do. They will then drop in rank drastically and naturally get more upset. At that point they usually realize that a high ranking search result for them through our site is better than not showing up at all. We’re happy to do that for our clients so long as they understand that until their site is well established and has a significant amount of content we will probably out-rank them when they search on their business keywords. Rank through another legitimate website that links to you is certainly better than no rank at all.