February 26, 2008
News & Opinion: 5 Steps to Optimizing Your Website
- Select your keywords. Use tools such as the Overture Search Term Suggestion Tool, Google's Search Term Suggestion Tool, and Word tracker to determine which related keywords or key phrases it would be best to optimize your site for. Once you have a list of potential keywords, go to Google and type in those keywords. Then see how many incoming links the top few sites have. You can determine this number by typing in "link:http://www.competitordomain.com." Take a look at whether the first few sites have the targeted keyword in the domain name or in the title, or whether they appear often on their page. Use this information to estimate what it would take to get your site above the current sites in the rankings.
- Ensure that your site has those keywords on it. Make sure that the keywords you are targeting are on your home page at least five times. Having a 5 percent to 15 percent keyword density for your targeted search term on your home page is optimal. Also ensure that your title tag and image alt tags contain your targeted keyword. Add your targeted term to an H1 header tag for added prominence.
- Build good-quality content on your site. I call this phase the "content campaign." Either write articles yourself for the site or go through the search engines to find related content. If you find an article on another site that you'd like to publish on your site, send an e-mail to the author, site owner, and/or publisher to request permission to syndicate the article on your site. Present it as a win/win quid pro quo in which you receive good-quality content and the author/publisher receives free exposure and a link to his or her Web site in the byline of the article. I'd suggest having at least 25 quality articles on your site before going forward. Optimize your home page for the two or three most competitive target terms. Optimize your in-site pages for the more unique and less competitive terms. You can also outsource the creation of this content to copywriters, using a service such as elance.com, for about $30 per 400-word article.
- Build links to your Web site. Without incoming links to your site, it will never have a chance at being at the top of the search engines for competitive terms. Use the research you did earlier on the number of links the sites at the top of the listings have or your targeted keywords to set a goal for how many related incoming links you want to build to your own site. To obtain links, go through the search engines and find related Web sites, then contact the owners of those sites and offer to exchange links. Add their links to your Web site and e-mail them to let them know that you've linked to their sites and would appreciate a reciprocal link. I'd suggest contacting them first via e-mail and then via phone if necessary. In your initial e-mail to site owners, include the URL and description of your site, as well as the location of where their links are and which sites of theirs you are referring to. I'd suggest creating a resources section on your site and placing your link partners in the appropriate category within. You can also build links naturally through press releases or by having great content, a useful tool, a viral video, or an interesting blog. If you have more money than time, you can also purchase relevant links from quality Web sites through a service called LinkExperts or purchase reviews with links from sites such as PayPerPost, ReviewMe, and Blogvertise. Ensure that whatever links you build to your Web site have your target key phrase in the anchor text, the words that are clickable and underlined. Finally, text links are much more valuable than image links, as the search engines can follow text links and associate the link text with your Web site, but they cannot do this for image links.
- Continue building your site's reputation. Once you have built a few related incoming links, the search engines will find and index your site. If your site is new, it can take up to nine months for Google to allow it to show up for competitive search terms. During this time, continue building good-quality related content and work to build as many incoming links from related Web sites as you can.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.