SEO tips for driving more traffic to your web site
In a nutshell, SEO is the process of tweaking your site so that search engines will like it more. The more search engines like it – and when we say search engines, we really mean Google – the higher your site will appear on the search engine results page (SERP).
What difference does that make?
1) Most searchers won’t look past the first page of results. In fact, only 20% of users read past the fifth listing
2) A site that is listed #1 in natural search will typically receive 500% more traffic than a site that’s listed tenth
3) Only 20% of users click on paid search listings
Clearly, making it to the top of the SERPs is critical to the success of your site. But if all your competitors are trying to do the same thing, what SEO steps can you take to improve your placement?
The first step is understanding how search engines work.
Basically, search engines do three things:
1) They follow links
2) They index content
3) They measure popularity
For an SEO program to succeed, it will need to address all three of these activities. The first two are part of a process called On-Page Optimization. The third falls into the category of Link Building.
SEO Tip #1: Identify the right keywords and phrases.
Suppose you gave a party and nobody came? Creating a web site using keywords and phrases that only a few people search for will have the same result. Your site won’t get enough traffic.
So your first step is to find relevant keywords that:
1) Are popular
2) Have some monetary value
3) Are not virtually impossible to rank for
There are several websites you can use for keyword research. I like the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. It can give you a rough idea of the relative popularity, value, and availability of keywords and phrases. And it’s free.
The first thing you’ll notice is that search terms that essentially represent the same thing can have dramatically different search volume.
Here are some related terms with their exact monthly search volumes:
- Paris hotels 3,350,000
- Hotels in Paris 201,000
- Paris lodging 27,100
- Accommodation in Paris 14,800
- Paris accommodations 5,400
- Places to stay in Paris 2,400
- Lodging in Paris 880
Once you get this information from the keyword tool, it’s helpful to use the Google Traffic Estimator to compare their relative value.
By now, it’s pretty clear that “Lodging in Paris” is not the way to go. But before you start optimizing your site for “Paris hotels,” you might want to find out what others in your industry are doing.
Take a peak under your competitor’s hood.
There are a couple of ways to find out what keywords your competitors are using. The quickest is just to take a look at the source code for their pages. Just use the “view” pull down menu of your browser and select page source or view source.
Below is the source code for Tripadvisor’s Paris Hotels page. About midway down, you’ll see the list of keywords for that page. There are some we didn’t think of, so you may want to investigate those further.
If you want to dig deeper, you can use a site like Spyfu.com to compare two or more competitors at once.
Figure out who’s already ranking for the keywords you want.
A simple Google search will show you who ranks best for each of the keywords you’re considering. You can get scientific about it and add an SEO plug-in that will provide you with additional information about the site’s page rank, links, age, etc.
Or, you can just trust your gut and admit that you’re probably not going to beat Tripadvisor for “Paris hotels.”
“Accommodation is Paris” looks much better, especially since only one of the top four results contains that exact phrase in the title.
Now that you’ve found a relevant keyword or phrase that is popular, has some value, and is not overly competitive, you’ve completed the first step of SEO.
SEO Tip #2: Optimize your pages.
Once you have identified the correct keywords to use, it’s time to tweak your pages so Google will index your site for those terms.
The first, and most important component, is the title of your page. Be sure to include your keyword in the title. And since it’s the first thing Google reads, if possible make the keyword the start of your title.
Look at how all these top-ranking sites have “Paris hotels” at the start of their page title. Many businesses put their company name first, which is a mistake.
Top ranking sites' titles.
Next, write the meta description for your page using the keyword again, if possible. This is the copy that appears on the search results listing under the title. Think of this as the opportunity to convince searchers to click on your link.
It’s important that the HTML tags for your headlines, subheads, and images also be optimized. If you find code intimidating, get your web guy to make sure it’s correct.
Make sure your keywords appear frequently in your body copy, but don’t use them so often that the copy is awkward to read. Include the other keywords that turned up in your research. Even if you can’t rank for them, they’ll make your page more relevant and more readable.
Since Google ranks pages and not sites, you’ll need to go through this process for every page of your site.
And remember that longtail keywords or several-word phrases may not generate as much traffic, but the traffic is easier to convert. For example, someone who searches for “shoes” is probably just looking, while someone who searches for “brown leather oxford shoes” is probably ready to buy.
Good internal linking is also essential.
With all the emphasis on external links, some people don’t realize how much links within your site can help your ranking. And besides, it’s pretty easy to do.
The right internal links will help the Google bots find – and index -- all of your pages, they will likely increase the number of keywords you can rank for, and they will improve usability.
Go through your site, page by page, and look for sections where a reader could benefit from content on another page. Then add a text link that contains the keyword you want that page to rank for. Don’t use “click here.” Instead use phrases like “you may also be interested in information about Paris apartments.”
SEO Tip #3: Get other sites to link to your site.
You may not known this, but the term “PageRank” is named for Google co-founder, Larry Page, who recognized that some academic articles carried more weight that others.
Page wanted to figure out a way to evaluate the relative importance of web pages, so an algorithm was developed in order to accomplish this.
We won’t bore you with the details. But in Google’s eyes, the more sites that link to yours, the better. The more important those sites are, the better. And the more relevant they are, the better.
You’ve probably heard it said that “content is king.” Not so much. You could have the most brilliant content in the world. But unless other sites tell Google that it’s brilliant – by linking to it – you’ll never get any traction.
On the other hand, if your content is bad, no one will link to it. So good content is a must-have.
Link building is a tough, and often thankless, job. But it’s absolutely essential to the success of your web site.
If you cheat, Google will find out, and they will punish you. So don’t buy links, trade links with sites that aren’t relevant, or otherwise try to game the system. Any unnatural increase in the number of links your site receives will seem suspicious to Google.
Here are ten solid strategies for getting other sites to link to yours:
1) Create content that others will want to link to. Product reviews and comparisons, buying guides, tools like calculators and checklists, and informed opinion all get linked to often
2) Use “linkbait” in the form of proven winners like how to guides, humor, controversy, news, and top ten lists
3) Make it easy to link back to your site by providing code or widgets
4) Use social bookmarking to encourage friends to bookmark your site
5) Ask relevant sites to link back to yours. For ideas, look at who’s already linking to you and who’s linking to your competitors
6) Portals and directories will often include your link. To find ones that are related to your site, do Google searches for + directory, + Add URL, + submit site, and + add listing
7) Exchange links with related sites, but bear in mind that Google doesn’t value reciprocal links as much one-way, inbound links
8) Submit your site to DMOZ
9) Write a good press release and email it to journalists who cover your field. Or pay to have an online press release service like prweb.com distribute it
10) Answer questions in online forum that let you link back to your site
If you do all those things, you should be able to direct some valuable links to your site.
Now that you know the basics of Search Engine Optimization, I hope you’ll be able to use these tips to improve your PageRank and drive more traffic to your site.