The truth about gaining web traffic

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Who to listen to about gaining Web traffic

There are millions of articles and papers that address search engine optimization, search engine submission, Web traffic and how to get more visitors to view your site. There is hardly any point in having a Website if no one is going to see it. Just because you have a Website, doesn’t mean you will have visitors. Many people know this and are trying to find help on how to increase the Web traffic to their sites.

With all the talk about search engine optimization and search engine submission from all sorts of people, who really knows? This is where research comes in. I, too, was interested in finding answers and am still learning everyday. Things change very fast on the Internet so it’s important to research on a regular basis. But why should you listen to what I have to say about gaining Web traffic over all the other millions of people? Well, for one thing I’ve done research and have listened to the experts and heard the imposters. I started researching search engine optimization and search engine submission fulltime two months ago and have recently done an intense week of marketing research. If you don’t have the time to do the research and if you can only spare the time to read a couple of articles, I recommend that you read what I have to say. But don’t stop here. I won’t be offended if you go on to read other articles to reinforce your beliefs of what is in this articleJ In fact, I recommend that you do so. It's a good idea to read at least a couple of articles from a different point of view. Do make sure that the articles you read are relatively recent and that it comes from someone with credibility.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

One needs to do the things that are required, without doing the things that are prohibited, while maintaining proper design standards as much as possible to Web pages in order to achieve search engine optimization. Confused? Allow me to explain it more clearly.

By doing things that are required, I mean there are certain words that you can use and design principles you can follow that have been proven to give a page a higher ranking. If your page is high ranked, its link will appear above others in a search result. Some techniques work for some search engines while some work for others. Let’s start with what works for all! Good titles, keyword density, good link titles and link popularity works for all.

Good titles are important

When you search for a book in the library catalog with a certain word in it, all book titles containing that word would be the result of your query. Similarly, search engines give higher ranks to page titles that closely match the search string. The page title are the words which appear between <title> and </title> in the <head> section of your current Web page. For example, if someone were to search for “first home buyer”, pages that contain these words in their title will rank higher than those that don’t. The results could return something like the following:

  • First home buyer
  • Things to know for the first home buyer
  • The first home buyer guide
  • Buying your first home
  • Owning your first home
  • Etc…

The title is what is returned from a search query followed by a short description of the page, which often is taken from the first few lines of the page or the text surrounding the matching keyword searched for. Search engines assume that the most relevant information to the word searched will be the first few lines or the text surrounding the keyword. Makes sense, yes? Much emphasis is given on the title since it’s the link (bright blue underline) that will take people directly to the page. A title for each page is definitely very important to have and it should convey some meaning and inform potential visitors what the page is about.
From a marketing perspective, the title of your page should be eye-catching in order for people to choose your page over others. Because there is emphasis on the title of every page in the search result, we naturally filter over titles first before reading their page descriptions. Sometime I don’t even bother reading page descriptions since some titles are enough to win me over. Which link would you choose?

1.growing container plants
2.growing container plants year round without an hassle

The second one is more appealing, n’est-ce que pas? Titles can be as long as 150 characters so don’t just use simple titles. It could be the difference between someone taking on your services or someone else’s. Of course, you don’t want to over do it either and stick only keywords in your title that don’t make much sense to the page in question. For instance, the other day I searched for Web designers in Vancouver, BC and one of the results had “freelance Web designer toronto developer Web design” as their title. The title sure helped this page get a high rank but it wasn’t a proper phrase and it didn’t make much sense; people may not be interested in checking its link.

Link important words

Your link, which consists of the words contained between <a> and </a> tags are examined by search engines. Words that show up as links such as “click here” or “here” convey no meaning about the page it leads to and as a result would not help page rankings. Instead of “click here to see the current weather forecast” write “check out the current weather forecast”. Again you are not limited to just a couple of words for your link so take advantage of it – but don’t over do it! You can’t go and underline your whole paragraph; it’s got to make sense and you don’t want to do things that could possibly penalize your rankings. Search engines are smarter than you think. If you think of your link as the title of the page it points to, you would agree that linking a whole paragraph would be silly and unwise to do. Plus, too much emphasis makes text harder to read.

Link popularity will score you visitors

If you don’t do anything else and can simply add the link of your Website to another site which has a very high ranking, soon you will have high rankings as well. Get your site linked from several of these high ranked sites and you will score bigger than what any search engine optimization can offer. Basically, the more people who link to you, the more important your page will appear to search engines and the higher you will rank. Knowing this, many companies are willing to pay to get listed on high ranked sites.
There are also free link exchange programs where Websites will list and link to you in their directory as long as you provide a link back to them from your site. They do have restrictions and your site must of course be a paid site in the form of www.yourdomainname.com. Examples of such sites include Designfirms.org and 1234-find-Web-designers.org. It’s a win-win situation. You will increase your ranking by having a link on their page and they will increase their ranking or stay high ranked because of all the people who link to them through their link exchange program. It’s a great marketing tactic as well because you get to promote your site to people related to your business field and check out your competition at the same time J It’s a great idea, so go and seek sites that have these programs and are related to your business or organization! Do be careful not to advertise with the wrong sites. Make sure to learn about the sites first and check out their ranking on a page rank indicator.

What is keyword density?

As its name suggests, keyword density refers to the ratio of the keyword (the word being searched for) that appears on a page against the total number of words on that page. Your keyword density needs to be high but cannot be too high for your page to be ranked high. A page containing 100 words with 10 keywords showing up will rank higher than if there were only 5 keywords. Make sure some of the keywords show up in your headings (<h1><h2>…tags) since words in headings are weighed more important than normal words. Search engines do penalize sites with excessive keywords since in most situations the page would not make sense and is diagnosed as spamming the index.

SEO techniques which don’t work for all search engines

Google, the most used search engine, looks at the alt attribute on image tags. This is a good reason to get in the habit of including the alt attribute in all your image tags. The alt attribute provides a textual replacement for those who can’t see, including those who have images turned off or those who can’t download images. Again, the message in your alt attribute should be informative and chosen carefully.

Many search engines look at meta tags, in particular those with descriptions and keywords. Google doesn’t look at keywords but here’s what you got to do for those that do. Select, by copying and then pasting important words from every page into your meta keywords tag. If someone were looking for your page, what words would they have to search for to find it? Keep that in mind when writing your pages and use the important words as your keywords in your meta tag. For example, <meta name=”keywords” content=”men and women dress shoes,genuine honey leather,made in brazil,all sizes and widths”>. Do not list keywords that do not appear in the actual content of the page or your page will be penalized. Don’t put spaces after your commas because some search engines can’t interpret that.

Some people use the meta robots tag to tell search engines to index the current page and follow the links on the page. This is not necessary since by default, this is what search engines do. A lesson I have learned is to not take articles too seriously without consulting other references that are up to date. There are still many articles which are years out of date and are still being indexed by search engines so be careful of what you read. Meta tags used to be more important in the past, although still used today by some search engines. Nowadays, most search engines use the actual content of the page itself to find keywords and page descriptions.

Do these no-nos and you will be penalized

If you are penalized, search engines may give your page a rank of zero or worst, ban your site from their directory. Not a good thing at all so here’s a list of no-nos to avoid. Remember search engines are smart!

  • extremely small text or hidden text such as extra keywords written in white on a white background.
  • excessive keywords on a single page
  • keywords in your meta tag which have no relevance to your page
  • mirror site (sites that resemble other sites but have a different domain name)
  • doorway or redirect pages (pages full of keywords and phrases, only visible to search engines)

Proper Web design standards

If you design your site with proper Web design standards in mind, it will help your page ranking. For instance, including an alt attribute with your images is good design. By following standards, you in turn attract more visitors by having an accessible, consistent, easy to learn, cross-platform compatible, functional Website where information is easy to find, visitors can be in control and few problems are encountered.

Search engine submission

Is search engine submission necessary? From my opinion, it really is not. Crawl based search engines like Google send their robots out to look for new pages on a regular basis. If you have a link somewhere else that has already been indexed, it’s only a matter of time (a month or more) before search engines finds you. However, if you are in a hurry to be indexed, you can be indexed sooner at the cost of a fee. Submissions to directory based or human based search engines are more necessary since they depend on people for listings. However, because many search engines work off each other, if Google has found you, many others will eventually too. If you have other important Websites linking to your site, submissions to directory based search engines aren’t necessary. In fact, links are so important that it could take only a couple of days for them to find you if you were linked off a high ranked site.

There are so many companies that charge for search engine submission but they are a waste of your money. Some of them claim to do the impossible, which is that they will submit your site to more search engines than there exists! I read an article by Chris Richardson dated August 2004 that submission services may violate the search engine terms of services agreement which could even result in getting your site banned. I wouldn’t take the risk. If you really want to, although you don’t have to, you can manually submit your URL to the five most used and most important search engines: Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL and AskJeeves. These search engines account for 92.5% of users, says Danny Sullivan writing for comScore Media Metrix in July 2004. Because search engine robots update their directories on a regular basis, it’s not necessary to resubmit your URL.

Web traffic analysis

Studying your server’s Web traffic logs will help you find problem areas in your Website and help you plan future developments. Perhaps these questions are of interest to you:

  • How many unique visitors do I get?
  • How long do they stay?
  • What pages do they look at?
  • Where do they come from?

To be able to answer these sorts of questions, you must analyze your server logs, which contain every request that has been made to your server. To make your lives easier, there are many server log translation tools available. Search for them and you will see. Like they say, if it can’t be measured, it can’t be managed.

Don’t forget marketing research

Gaining Web traffic is not just done through search engine optimization, search engine submission and Web traffic analysis. The more people who know about your business or organization and have your URL, the more visitors you will have. Advertising, promoting through paid listings, special talks, newsletters, articles, networking and referrals are just a few other ways of letting people know about your Web presence. Marketing is an important step that is often forgotten or neglected. Like I have been saying a lot these days, being smart is not enough; you need to take action to be successful.


Publication Date: Tuesday 18th January, 2005
Author: Susan Villecroze View profile

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