Do you want to optimize your website for search engines? Search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t rocket science, but there are a lot of little things you need to know about it before you start trying to increase your search engine traffic.
Harsh Reality #1: Links are everything
There are two major aspects of SEO. The first is on-page optimization and the second is the number of sites linking to you. On-page optimization is something that every one can easily manipulate, but links on the other hand aren’t.
Search engines look at:
- The number of sites linking to yours – typically the more sites linking to your website, the better.
- The anchor text of these links – if you are trying to get ranked for “dog food” it’s more advantageous if the link that points to your website says “dog food” instead of your website name.
- How relevant are your links – if your website is about dog food then you want either dog or pet related sites to link to you.
The three things I mentioned above make up an ideal link and because it’s hard to get ideal links, search engines place more emphasis on them than anything else.
Harsh Reality #2: The basics really do matter
Who cares about meta tags, right? Well, search engines do. This is the reason why Google Webmaster Central tells you how many duplicate titles and descriptions you have on your website.
When I first started working with TechCrunch 3 or 4 years ago, I was able to double their search engine traffic within 30 days. And can you guess how I did this?
Drum roll please…
All I did was make the post title the title tag and the first sentence of each blog post the meta description.
Now don’t get me wrong, I did a lot more than that overall, but those 2 simple changes doubled their search engine traffic.
Harsh Reality #3: What works for one site doesn’t always work for others
Just like how I doubled TechCrunch’s search engine traffic as well as a few dozen more blogs using the tactic I mentioned above, I also decreased WordPress.com’s search engine traffic by half through the same tactic.
The funny part about this is that they were all running on the WordPress platform, so I thought that making that same change on WordPress.com blogs would drastically increase their traffic.
But it didn’t. So what it means is that what works on one website doesn’t necessarily work on all websites. If you want to maximize your search engine traffic you have to test things out because what worked for someone else’s website may not work for yours.
Harsh Reality #4: Writing content for search engines is bad
Why do you talk about writing content for search engines? Just think about that for a second… Do you see anything wrong with it?
That’s right, search engines don’t read your content, people do. If you write your content for search engines, don’t expect them to convert into customers. On the other hand, by writing content for people, at least you have a chance of converting them into paying customers.
Now, when you are writing your content, you shouldn’t push search engines out of the picture. You should still consider them because there is a way you can write content for both people and search engines.
- Titles – the title of your content should be attractive. This will convince people to read it.
- Keywords – if your content is on dog food you’ll naturally mention dog food and other related keywords when it makes sense. So don’t keyword stuff.
- Links – if you know of a good site that you should be linking to in your content, then link to it. Don’t just keep all of your link juice for yourself… if no one linked out search engines like Google wouldn’t work as well.
- Content – the more detailed and unique your content is, the better. Search engines don’t need another me-too article to place in their index, they need more unique information that people love.
If you follow the steps I mentioned above, you’ll be able to write content for humans and search engines. Those steps will help you create good content, which in turn will cause other websites to link to it. And as I mentioned in the Harsh Reality #1, links are the most important factor in search engine rankings.
Harsh Reality #5: Exact match domain names rank the best
If you are trying to get ranked for a specific keyword, the best domain name to own isn’t one that is brandable. It’s the one that’s keyword rich.
For example if you want to rank for homes the best domain name to own is homes.com, homes.net or homes.org. Pretty much any exact match domain will work.
If you can’t get a hold of an exact match domain name you could purchase cheaphomes.com, but that won’t help you rank for homes as much as homes.com. Instead it will work well if you were trying to rank for cheap homes.
Google has been placing a lot of emphasis on exact match domain name. For example if you Google the keyword “homes”, you’ll notice that homes.com ranks number 1 and 2 and realtor.com ranks number 3. And if you do a link check on both of the domains to see how many links each of them have: homes.com has over 1000 and realtor.com has over 3000.
In essence, realtor.com has 3 times the amount of links, but homes.com still ranks number 1. Hopefully that shows you the power of exact match domain names. And I do understand that these domain names aren’t the best for branding your business, but if your business is heavily reliant on search engine traffic you should consider purchasing the exact match domain.
Harsh Reality #6: It’s better to be safe than sorry
If you know me, then you know that I have done a lot of shady stuff to get rankings on Google. I have ranked for some of the most competitive terms out there and I mainly achieved this by using tactics that search engines look down on.
In the short run I made a killing, but eventually I got caught. So if you are thinking about buying text links or any other magic bullets that will help you get high rankings, think twice.
Do the math, search engines may be already driving you a decent amount of visitors and more importantly revenue. Yes it would be nice if you could buy text links and double that revenue, but on the other hand you could get caught and banned from engines like Google.
So the question you have to ask yourself is are you willing to risk your revenue?
Harsh Reality #7: Sometime things just take time
This is probably the worst reality of them all, which is why I saved it for last. If you want to get ranked for some second or third tier keyword, it’s possible to do so pretty quickly. But if you want to get ranked for something competitive like “poker” or “credit cards”, don’t expect that to happen right away.
Plus when you make changes to your website, don’t expect to see big traffic increases right away. Sometimes it can take a few weeks for search engines to index your new changes. Due to this, it could take weeks if not months before you see traffic increases.