I often get asked, "How do I improve my site's performance in the search engine's." or "I have a small budget, how can I compete with the larger sites." It can seem daunting when you type in your key search term and you see Google returning 200,000 results! Over the course of this article I am going to teach you some techniques that you can use to improve your sites ranking in the major search engines. These are not in any particular order but you should try and cover all of these if you want to perform well.
Good content with your keywords
Most people use the internet to gather information, so accordingly, the search engines put a premium on good content. If you want the search engines to really start appreciating your site, you need to have lots of good, and more importantly, fresh content. Update your site regularly with new articles, news stories etc. Then make sure you promote this new content. Submit these articles to other websites with a teaser that then links back to your website. If you can get "authority" sites to link to your articles this will raise your sites profile in the eyes of the search engine.
Clean up your code
This is one step that is often over looked but it is more important that many people realize. The neater your html code is, the easier it is for the spiders to crawl through your site and therefore, the more willing they are to search for your links and crawl through those pages as well. The more pages you have indexed, the more chances you have of attracting someone to your site.
How do I go about cleaning up my code I hear you ask? There are some simple things you can do to quickly improve the readability of your code.
Use .css style sheets for all formatting and as much of the page layout as possible. This step alone will half the amount of code in your pages. Most of the code in an html document is table alignment code. If you are not yet familiar then you can find some good tutorials here.
Optimize for your keywords
Site down with a sheet of paper and write down a list of 20 keyword phrases that define what your site is about. These will be the phrases that you will want your visitors to be searching for to get to your site. Once you have your list then try and integrate as many of these phrases into your website copy as possible. Make sure however that the readability of a site's content is not compromised as this will often be seen as spam. Try and use these keywords in your title's and in the first couple of paragraphs as this is the part of the page the search engine will pay the most attention to.
Unique titles for all your pages
Search engines pay a lot of attention to the content in a page's title and this should describe exactly what the page is about. As mentioned above, try and include your keywords in the page title and then give the page a heading title that matches or is very similar to the page title and include it in a <H1></H1>. If you don't like the appearance of the text within a H1 you can format the text style within your css document.
All the major search engines place a high premium on this and therefore so should you! Actively seek good links from websites in the same interest area as your site. The more important the site the better as search engines will place a higher value for a link from an "authority" site than from for a link from a less popular site. Make sure that in your link text you include your keywords rather than just the name of your site. For example, if your site is about sauce pans, put "Buy Sauce Pans" instead of "www.saucepanheaven.com".
Create search engine friendly url's
This can have a huge effect on the number of pages of your site that will be indexed. A lot of search engines steer away from indexing pages that have a lot of parameters. We've all seen them. www.somesite.com/article.php?id=32&category=2 and such things. Some search engines will stop when they see a ? and therefore it won't be able to see all the content in the site.
One way around this problem is through a method called mod_rewrite. I am not going to cover mod_rewrite in this article as it is too large a topic to cover within the scope of this article but a lot of articles can be found that teach you how do this. To summarise, it is a server side tool that converts the above url to something like www.somesite.com/article/32/2. This page can now be indexed along with every other article in the site. I would highly recommend looking into this as in my experience it has given me the best return.
If you follow these steps you'll quickly start to see your website popularity grow. Sometimes you have to go through trial and error, especially when choosing keywords but the effort you put in will be returned as the search engines start to pick up on your improvements and start directing more traffic to you. We'll be covering a lot of these topics in much greater detail in the coming articles so be sure to check back for more valuable advice.
Steve Ashton is programmer and web developer. He runs 2 popular websites http://www.webdevshed.com and http://www.programmertutorials.com.