Simple but fundamental steps to make your website more search engine friendly and enhance its traffic and visibility.
Updated 2016 – This post was originally written in 2010 and has been revised / updated in 2016
Already knew about how search engines work, here are some simple but fundamental ways to make your site more visible with better ranking and more visibility.
If your site has ranked well in the past, but gradually or suddenly lost its ranking, then check out this post Search Ranking Dropped – Why & How to Be Visible Again.
First thing first, get your website indexed by major search engines
- The good news: If you have a new website, you can and should submit it to major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo!. After submission, just wait for some time for their spiders to crawl and index your sites to search databases. If you’re using Google and Bing webmasters tools, you’ll see the indexing status in your account.
- The bad news: Web spiders have the capability to crawl and index all pages within your website, and depending on the complexity of your site architecture/layout, they may miss some or many pages of your site, or sometimes your entire site. If they’ve missed your site or many of your pages, check to see if there’re any security problems or security restrictions that prevent search to index your site. You should also check and submit/resubmit your site map inside Google & Bing webmasters tools to make sure you’ve included all the URLs.
- Even more bad news: Your site may get read and indexed by search engines, but it may not appear in search results – not visible at all. This happens to the majority of websites, especially new ones that haven’t yet had time to establish its presence and authority in the field.
The fundamental idea about how to increase your site traffic and make it more visible is to provide both your readers and search engines what they want.
Readers and spiders
Although readers and (search engine) spiders are fundamentally different – humans and machines, they have something in common while searching online: they both prefer websites with good and quality content, easy to navigate and easy to find more content. Thus, regardless of all the tips and tricks you know about SEO (search engine optimization) here and elsewhere, if you don’t have good content, your site will be unlikely visible. The tips mentioned below will serve as the guideline and best practices helping you making your content stronger and better in the eye of search engines.
Search engines and text content
Search engines basically compare the TEXT [search terms, keywords, key terms] that users put in the search box against their database and give out search results. Thus, text content of your site is where you need to work on to increase your web traffic significantly. Plus, it is completely within your control, so it’s where you can start first and should spend most time on.
Notes: search engines can’t read text that’s embedded on an image because that type of text is not text – you can’t drag and select it. Text inside Flash can now be read and indexed to a certain extent but very poorly compared to html text.
Add more content and optimize your content for search engines
- Add more content – You should try to add more content, including articles, blog posts, social media posts, videos etc., on an ongoing basis. Content was, is, and will still be king to get your site ranked better. Readers and search engines alike want more useful and more fresh content. Stale or little is not good.
- Domain name – Domain name that contains keyword is better than the ones without. However, don’t get too hung up on the name because nowadays, it’s very hard, if not impossible, to find a good and available domain name.
- File name – File name that has keywords may do better than the ones with only abbreviations. For example, increase-web-traffic.html would be technically and theoretically better than iwt.html. File names cover names for your webpage files (html, php, aspx, jsp…) , document files (pdf, doc, xls, ppt…), image files, video files…. In brief, whatever you put on the web and want them to be well-indexed and appear in search, name them properly with keywords and key terms; don’t use abbreviations unless needed to.
- Page title: Page title that has keywords weighs a whole lot more in search engines because the title is supposed to let readers know what your page and your site is about. Therefore, search engines always search for keywords in the title and largely decide whether to display your site in search results. Page title stands between the <TITILE></TITILE> tag. Of all the meta tags, the title tag is the most important. The meta description and meta keywords should be there as best practices but don’t bring much values.
- Body/main text content:
- Font style/size: Just like in print, bold, italic, and large heading text with tags <H1></H1>, <H2></H2> differentiate important content from the rest. Your readers notice that, and thus search engines will notice that, too, so use font style properly when you can. You should have one <H1></H1>, a couple of <H2></H2> and <H3></H3> etc. depending on the hierarchy of your content. Some may argue we should have more <H1>, and that’s ok, too, but again, it depends on your content hierarchy. You can have more than one <H1> but the number of <H1> shouldn’t be more than the number of <H2> or <H3>.
- Keywords / Key terms: Research to see what keywords people will likely use to search for information, products or services like your sites, then use those keywords through out your content. There are lots of tools to do this. Google has one, too, here Google Keyword Planner
- Keyword density: Keyword density = how many times a certain keyword appear/repeat on the page. Keyword/key terms include the terms itself and its synonyms, even abbreviations. Although it’s important to use the targeted keywords repeatedly, don’t overdo it as you may be seen as spamming keywords, and that’s not a good.
- Links/Link Anchor Text:
Outbound links: links from your page to other web pages. Many are not aware or forget that relevant outbound links will help your site, too. Putting relevant and quality outbound links on your pages is like citing additional references/resources on your research paper. It helps increase the credibility and resourcefulness of your site, and search engines like that.
Inbound links: links from other web pages to your page. The keywords used in the link text are also important. If other sites link to my site using keywords like SEO or online marketing, it’s good; however, if they use random words like SEC or online gaming, then it’s not good and even bad because my site may be interpreted by Google as a site about online gaming instead of about online marketing.
Having a lot of relevant inbound links means many people find your page/site useful or interesting on certain topics, and search engines will use this as an important factor to rank your site. Remember, relevancy is also very important.
Internal links: links from within your site among your pages. Internal links help your readers and search engines get more information on the related topic. It’s a good practice to have your pages, especially the ones at a deeper level, picked up and indexed by search engines. And remember to build your links by using your keywords in the link text, as explained above.
- Page meta information: Although META TAGS such as <meta name=”description” content=”” /> and <meta name=”keywords” content=”” /> weigh less and less compared to years ago, they’re also part of the text content that should be optimized with relevant keywords and content.
Search engines and localization