To Prosper In The New Google
How To Prosper In The New Google
Fortunately for SEO Fast Start readers, the key strategies for
succeeding on the "new" Google are pretty much the same
as they were with the "old" Google. Unfortunately, a lot
of folks have taken short cuts – for these folks, and for
anyone else out there who isn't familiar with the "fast start"
strategy, here's a quick rundown of the important steps you need
Step 1: Keyword Research: Cover Your Bases
Search engine strategy begins with identifying the right mix of
keywords and phrases to target your audience. In spite of this,
many website owners try to shortcut this part of the process, and
focus all of their energy on a few generic search terms.
The main goal of your keyword research should be to identify all
of the possible words and phrases that your target audience will
use, including "modifiers" like brand names, localities,
Although it's only possible to target a few main keywords and phrases
on each page of your web site, the combination of search terms and
modifiers leads to far greater coverage in the search engine results.
Many website owners, who have followed an effective keyword strategy,
barely noticed Google's November 15 update. By spreading their efforts
across a larger number of searches, they may have seen declines
in a few generic search terms, but their overall traffic has not
Focusing on a handful of search terms might seem like a great strategy,
if you're able to rank well for all of them. However, when search
engines make changes, as Google has done, this kind of inflexible
strategy will fail.
Do your homework, cover your bases, and you'll have a solid foundation
for your search engine strategy. If you have a copy of SEO Fast
Start, go back and read chapter 3 ("Step 1: Keyword Strategy")
just to be sure you understand the issues. If you don't have the
time or expertise to conduct your own keyword research, SEO Research
Labs (http://www.seoresearchlabs.com) offers low-cost keyword research
services for you.
Step 2: Effective Site Structure
In order for a broad-based keyword strategy to be effective, you
need to organize your website to allow the search engines to "crawl"
or "spider" all of your pages. To understand this, let's
take a moment to review how search engine spiders crawl your site.
On the first visit, the spider will fetch a file called "robots.txt"
(see Chapter 8 of SEO Fast Start, or read the online tutorial at
http://www.clockwatchers.com/robots_main.html) to determine if crawling
Spiders find your site by following a link on another site. Assuming
you haven't made your site off limits with robots.txt, the spider
will fetch the page the other site linked to. Sometimes this is
your home page, sometimes this is another page.
When the spider reads this page, it will extract some information
about the page's content and add that to the search engine's database.
It also reads in all of the links on the page, and depending on
how important it considers your page, it may add those pages to
its list of pages to crawl.
If every page on your site has a set of links ("global navigation
links") that point to the main sections of your website, chances
are very good that those pages will be crawled next. Assuming that
each of these pages, in turn, carries links to your primary content,
it will be very easy for the spider to crawl your entire site.
The most effective structure, then, is a "top down" or
"pyramid" structure for your web site. For larger sites
(more than 10 pages), it's important to have a site map page, linked
from every page on your site. According to web usability expert
Jakob Nielsen, a site map is one of the most important features
of a well-designed website, and he's right! Your visitors will appreciate
the site map as much as the spiders, if not more.
A lot of folks would rather have fancy Flash or DHTML menus, and
they object to using text links for site navigation. Unfortunately,
search engines have a hard time following that kind of navigation
system through your site. There's no reason to worry, though. Text
navigation can be placed at the bottom of the page, and you can
keep your fancy menus. It's the best of both worlds, for you and
your site's users.
Having a clear path of text links to all of your content makes
it easy for spiders (and people) to crawl your site. Try to keep
all of your content within 2-3 clicks of the home page, even if
you need to create a site map to tie it all together. For more information
and examples, see Chapter 4 of SEO Fast Start (Step 2: Organizing
Step 3: Develop Optimized Content
Your site's structure is like a skeleton. Now that you have a good
plan for your site's structure, it's time to hang some meat on those
bones, and that means content. If you've been following the "fast
start" plan, you have clearly defined content sections for
your site, and you're ready to put it all together.
Remember all those keywords we found in step 1? All those modifiers
you told yourself you were going to use along with them? Now is
the time to use them. For every page of content, you want to use
that page's primary keywords, along with modifiers, in several places:
1. The page's <TITLE>
2. META keywords and description
3. Main heading and section headings (H1 – H6) on the page
4. Within the body copy ( <P> ), lists ( <LI> ), etc.
throughout the page.
Don't worry too much about esoteric stuff like "keyword density."
Use your keywords naturally, using different variations and modifiers
As long as you use the important keywords a few times in the visible
text of the page, and put them in a few prominent places, there's
no need to "stuff" them into any inappropriate places.
For more information on the "fast start" optimization
formula, read my online articles archive (http://www.insideoutmarketing.com/index.php?p=sections&sid=7)
or review Chapter 5 (Step 3: Optimizing Individual Web Pages) of
SEO Fast Start.
If you have mapped out a lot of content in your site plan, the
task of writing it all can be daunting. So much so, in fact, that
some folks never start, and try to get by with cheap tricks like
machine-generated "doorway pages." Don't fall for these
"quick fixes." The risk exceeds the potential reward,
and it's not that hard to develop content.
If you're working on it alone like I do, it's a lot easier to break
the work up into sections, and just keep at it. If you have decided
to create 10 sections, with 10 pages in each, take it one section
at a time. Create 1-2 pages a day, and keep it up.
Spending 2-3 months building a really useful and content-rich website
is well worth the effort. Don't stop adding fresh content –
even a page a week over the course of a year will represent a big
improvement for your site's users. The more content you have, the
more opportunities search engine users will have to find your site.
Step 4: Linking Strategy
So you've got a beautiful, useful, content-rich website, perfectly
targeting your desired visitor with the search terms he/she is going
to use. Every page is a shining example of optimized content, it's
all linked together perfectly... you're done, right? Wrong!
If you stop after step 3, you're going to be very disappointed.
Search engines aren't terribly impressed with a website that nobody
else has linked to. Unless you take the time to promote your website
and build up incoming links, you'll never achieve the results you
If you want to succeed in the "new" Google, you need
relevant links from relevant web sites. You want as many links as
you can get, from pages that link to sites like yours. So, how do
you find them?
First, submit to all of the relevant directories you can find.
Major directories like the Open Directory, of course, but also smaller
directories like GoGuides, Skaffe, Gimpsy, WebSavvy, etc. Look for
any "vertical" or "industry" directories by
visiting the "Search Engine Guide" (www.searchengineguide.com)
and browsing their directory of directories.
Next, it's time to get linked into the community of related web
sites. For all of the main search terms you're targeting, take a
look at the top ranked pages on Google. I like to work with the
first 20-30 top ranked sites, assuming that they're all really relevant.
Visit each one – if they have a links page, or link to related
sites, ask them for a link to your site. Next, look at who is linking
to them, and try to get links from the same places.
Try to control the link placement as much as you can. A link on
a big "resources" page is nice, as long as you're listed
with similar sites. Links on higher-traffic pages, articles, reviews,
etc. can often bring in significant traffic on their own. Find pages
that link to sites like yours, and ask for links.
In many cases, the most appropriate page for another site to link
to will be your home page, but this isn't always true. While you're
working on links, look for opportunities to establish links into
your "internal" content pages.
I get a lot of links into my Inside Out Marketing site, from webmaster
resource sites. These folks will happily link directly to a resource
like my article on "spam-proofing your website," because
that's of interest to their visitors. These links boost the "PageRank"
for all the pages on my site, they make it easier for all search
engines to find my internal pages, and they make it a lot easier
for folks to find those internal pages.
For more information on linking strategy, grab the free "Linking
Matters" report (www.linkingmatters.com), visit sites like
"Linking 101" (www.linking101.com), and read through Chapter
6 of SEO Fast Start (Step 4: Linking and Off-The-Page Factors).
Step 5: Don't Stop When You Hit The Top!
A lot of folks make a very critical error, when they start seeing
good search engine rankings and the nice increase in traffic that
good rankings can bring. They get busy with their new visitors,
then they stop. They stop working on content, they stop working
on links, and they eventually stop seeing good rankings.
Then, they start complaining about Google, or Inktomi, or whatever
search engine dropped them first. They'll shout to the rafters that
the search results have gone to heck in a hand basket, that the
search engines are persecuting them, etc. etc.
My advice to you is simple – don't stop when you hit the
top. Keep forging new relationships, keep building links, keep adding
content, and keep your web site up to date. Your competition isn't
going to stop trying to beat you, and that includes the folks who
are still ahead of you.
The effects of your efforts usually show up in the search engines
a couple months later. Some folks give up after a few weeks, because
they haven't seen instant results. If you stop working on your site's
search engine rankings, by the time you notice a problem, you'll
be a couple months (or more) behind.
If you're going to make a commitment to a search engine strategy
for your website, and make the substantial investments it takes
(both time and money), then stick with your commitment and execute
your strategy. Don't give up too early, and don't stop when you
hit the top.
About the Author
Dan Thies is the owner
of SEO Research Labs (http://www.seoresearchlabs.com), providing
keyword research services to webmasters, web designers, and search
engine marketing (SEM) consultants.