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Six Tactics To Improve Your Search Engine Results

To increase website traffic, you need to employ two corresponding, yet very different methods to help your site land top rankings in the major search engines, SEO and SEM. Don’t become confused by the two terms or use them interchangeably:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO), is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the “natural” or unpaid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results using design, coding and content.
  • Search engine marketing (SEM), is a form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages through the use of paid placement, contextual advertising and paid inclusion, effectively buying your way to the top.

Here are six tactics using SEO and SEM that can help increase your website traffic.

Tactic #1: Create SEO-friendly URLs. Use keywords that are relevant to your firm, industry, location and the content on a particular Web page as the page URL. For example, yourdomain.com/pennsylvania-construction.html. Don’t overdo it, though. Excessively long URLs look like spam sites. A tip:Use hyphens in URLs, not underscores. Hyphens are treated as a “space,” while underscores are not.

Tactic #2: Keywords, Meta tags and page titles are important. Search engines rank sites based on the relevancy of the content on the site’s pages. Research your keywords (related to your product or service) because using the wrong set of terms can cause a site to rank poorly and attract browsers instead of qualified prospects.

It is vital that in the HTML code, you include a meta tag page title and page description. The page title is the single most important on-page SEO factor. Effective SEO requires that the page title be unique, descriptive and contain at least one keyword relevant to the content on the page. Using a meta tag page title such as “Homepage” says nothing about your firm or the content your website is providing.

Likewise, the page description should be descriptive of the content on the particular page. The meta description tag won’t boost your page ranking, but it will often appear as text below your search listing, so it should include the relevant keywords and be written to persuade searchers to click on your listing.

Keywords are important but they are not as important as meta tags. Virtually no major search engine today considers the keyword a meta tag, but relevant keywords are still extremely valuable within the content on your Web page. What keywords are most important for your site? Tip: Look at the source code of your competitors and industry associations to determine what keywords they are using. Don’t forget to utilize Google’s free AdWords Keyword Tool.

Tactic #3: Develop keyword-rich site content. Populate your site with content that isn’t just a sales pitch — but is also a useful resource that helps boost your rankings on search engines.

Search engines use software call “robots” or “bots” to “spider” through each of your pages. If they see page titles and keywords that include marketing, advertising and public relations, yet your text doesn’t mention these words, then the search engine assumes your site is not “relevant” and will generally rank it lower.

Writing smart, compelling promotional text for the Web isn’t easy. (Simply copying and pasting text from your print brochures onto your site generally doesn’t work.) Remember bots may scour your website, but real humans are the only eyes that can make a difference in the effectiveness of your website. Write for readers, not just for SEO. If you can’t do it internally, hire a pro. It will be money well spent. The single most important item on any Web page is a powerful “call to action” and only compelling content can initiate a response.

Speaking of keywords, use them as anchor text when linking internally. Anchor text tells spiders what the linked page is about. Links that say “click here” do nothing for your search engine visibility.

Tactic #4: Run away from too-good-to-be-true offers. Don’t fall prey to SEO or SEM firms that promise to put your site at the top of the all the major search engine ranks. Often, these firms use unscrupulous tactics that may even work for a short period. But rest assured that the major search engines will notice websites that are trying to game the system. The result can be a serious downgrade to your ranking that could hurt you for a long time.

SEO isn’t a one-time event and it isn’t easy. It requires a lot of research, trial and error and continuous attention to statistics and reports. Results can take months to see. This is especially true the smaller your business is and the newer you are to online marketing.

Tactic #5: Buy your way to the top with SEM. Don’t have the time or patience to wait for a natural listing? Pay-Per-Click programs (like Google AdWords) allow companies to open accounts and bid on commonly searched-for keywords. The more you are willing to spend each time a potential visitor sees your listing based on your chosen keyword, the higher you rise in the ranking. That, in turn, means more potential visitors see your ad. This could get expensive in a hurry — especially for some keywords.

Here are a few key points to remember:

  • Your account is only debited when a consumer clicks on your listing after using a keyword you bid on.
  • These programs allow you to put a cap on how much you spend a month so it is easy to manage your budget.
  • You want to bid on the rightkeywords — the ones that drive buyers, not browsers, to your site. Base your bid price on the ROI of that keyword.

Tip: Both Google and Yahoo! have free tools that let you see how many people, per month, are searching for specific keywords and phrases. Take the time to check them out. You might find you can come in at the #1 ranked spot (or at least on the first page of the search engine results) for under $1. Bidding typically requires at least a $.10 per click starting amount for any keyword.

For example, let’s say you want to use Google AdWords and bid on a certain keyword that describes your company’s industry. A bid of about $1.60 per click would rank you in about the #5 spot, which would place you in the middle of the first page in most search engine results (#1 would be closer to $4 per click). Remember that most people only view the first page results and sometimes the second. If your listing shows up further down the list than #20, the people searching are either very determined or they have a lot of time on their hands.

How often your listing is clicked on depends on the title and ad copy you write for the listing. Realistically, your click-through rate will average less than 10 percent and probably less than 1 percent. But even at 1 percent, if you can convert every click-through into a sale, the $4 rate is a steal. Imagine, $4 times 50 clicks equals $200 in advertising. Only $200 for 50 new accounts! Sounds wonderful, but is the landing page compelling enough to guarantee a sale? How many sales must you make to get a profitable return on your $200? Perhaps this example demonstrates that buying your way to the top isn’t as easy as it seems. It also takes a well thought out, well written and engaging website.

Tactic #6: Monitor and track your site’s performance with statistical and reporting tools. If you take the time to do all of the above, then you should monitor:

  • How many visitors your website receives each day, week and month.
  • How many hits your site gets.
  • Which pages are most popular.
  • Which pages visitors are directed to from your various links the most often.
  • How long visitors stay.
  • Which keywords visitors used to reach your site.