Selling & Marketing: Sell more by improving your Web search ranking
Location is crucial for a brick and mortar business, and location is just as important on the Web. But where is “location” in cyberspace? Shoppers use search engines to find the site that meets their needs. Your “location” on the Internet is your ranking in the search engine results. The smartest e-commerce businesses make sure their sites are right at the top of the results list.
How do they get there? Well, you can pay for a sponsored link, which appears at the top of the list. But where’s the challenge in that? Search engines are smarter than they were five years ago. Back then you could fool them by adding frequently searched words to your site, a technique abused by developers who got paid by the click.
Now the best search engines read your page and index the words in their databases. But what is the best search engine? It’s the search engine that gives you the most useful information. Currently, the top two search engines are Google and Yahoo. They display your search words in bold as they appear in the context of the text on the page, even though the link sometimes drops you into the middle of a site rather than the home page.
In the past, search results would display the site description that could be embedded, unseen, in the page. But search engine developers found that Web users wanted the immediate feedback of seeing their search words right in the page text. This makes text very important.
A few years ago, designers favored fancy splash opening pages with lots of images and music, but no real text. Today, those pages don’t even show up in many search engines. Web developers are getting calls with people saying, “My site is beautiful, but no one can find it in a search. Help!” So the first technique for search engine optimization is creating an inviting, detailed description of your company and products right on the home page. Write a few paragraphs. Don’t be stingy.
Do some research
There is a clever way to keep your Flash splash page and still be found by the search engines. Create a gateway page designed specifically for search engine requirements. This will have lots of text with all the best keywords. This entry page will have links to all the pages in your Website so your visitor can quickly get to pages with photos and shopping. But this text-heavy page can be “orphaned” by the site links so once visitors are in the main site, they can’t get back to a page designed specifically for a major search engine.
Another technique would be to carry keyword text throughout your site so every page makes its special emphasis clear. Think about how your keywords and sentences will show up in the search results, and write your sentences so customers feel invited to visit your page. Make sure visitors who arrive in the middle of your site can easily find their way back to the home page and online shopping cart.
One of the best ways to get a handle on how to do this is to search Google and Yahoo for keywords associated with your product or service to see where you place in the list. Check out your competitors’ sites to see what they did to get better placement. Upgrade your site using everything you can learn from your competition.
Links and other techniques
Good placement takes more than good text. Search engines succeed when they deliver useful information fast. They found that the most popular sites are the ones that people are looking for. To determine what most people are looking for, search engines now use a mathematical calculation to rate popularity.
Get other sites to link to yours. If lots of people think you are worth linking to, you will place higher in the search results. Because my company wants all of our clients to be popular, we link many of them to each other to create one big happy — and popular — family.
There are also some technical ways to improve search results that don’t show on the page. One is to use text “alt tags” to describe images. You sometimes see them as little flags that pop up when you hover over a photo. They are designed to help people who don’t load the images to speed downloads. Another technique is to use “meta tags,” which are embedded in the coding of the page. You can’t see them, but they can be important. Examples are keywords, which should include common misspellings of your products and services. It’s important to have a descriptive page title to optimize search placement. And it pays to include a meta description, which is printed out in some search results.
The Web is barely 10 years old and evolving fast. It’s hard to stay on top of search engine optimization when your focus is running your business. It’s even harder to keep up to date with the security requirements of keeping your data safe. That’s why many businesses with growing e-commerce make it a practice to have their pages updated regularly. They keep their text fresh and search-engine optimized. It’s another way to stay ahead of the competition — and outrank them in the listings. You can improve your location on the Internet without having to pack up your merchandise.