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Week 11: Traffic: Improving your Rankings in Search Engines

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The Internet is a big place - how will people find your site? Under the autonomous business model, most of your site's traffic will eventually come via "clever" advertising and word of mouth, but you'll need some good listings in the various popular search engines to get you started. This article describes how to get your site listed, and how to improve your chances of being listed highly on those search engines.
Web business engineering expert Nick V. Flor is the creator of Web Business Engineering.com, a Web business content forum, and the author of Web Business Engineering: Using Offline Activities to Drive Internet Strategies (Addison-Wesley, 2001, ISBN 0-201-60468-X). Professor Flor is a regular contributor to InformIT on Web business topics.

Search engines are an inexpensive way of driving user traffic to your site. However, for search engines to work for you, you need to be ranked highly in their listings as well as have an appealing listing. This article covers some heuristics for getting your site ranked highly in search engine listings and making your search engine listing appealing to users so that they click and visit your site. But first, the "Hacker Phrase of the Week."

Hacker Phrase of the Week

"Aren't they a reactionary xenophobic enclave espousing principles of exclusion, conformity, and superficiality?"

Usage: Whenever a friend or coworker mentions a group, company, or other institution that you don't like.



Tonight I'm going bowling with Betty's in-laws.


Aren't they a reactionary xenophobic enclave espousing principles of exclusion, conformity, and superficiality?


If you did the homework assignments in the previous 10 articles, then so far you've at least done the following:

  1. Registered a domain name.
  2. Signed up with a web hosting provider.
  3. Designed your site's basic layout
  4. Added seed or bootstrap content to get your site started.
  5. Implemented autonomous content mechanisms so that your users can contribute information to your site.
  6. Placed advertisements and possibly web page commercials on your pages so that you can make money.

Pat yourself on the back! You've done a lot of work on your site and you're almost done. The last major activity you have to perform is to develop the mechanisms for driving user traffic to your site (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 Autonomous business model: user traffic component (dashed lines).

When most web developers think of driving traffic to their sites, they think of using search engines. Unfortunately, I'm going to tell you right now that if you want to drive large volumes of traffic to your site, search engines are not the way to do it. The only exception, in my experience, is getting listed in the Yahoo! directory. My students whose sites were fortunate enough to be listed in the Yahoo! directory reported an increase in user traffic by an order of magnitude! (By the way, the sample hacker phrases web site we've been using throughout this series (http://www.ProfessorF.com) is listed in the Yahoo! directory, in case you were wondering). In general, however, most search engines don't drive enough traffic to your site to make it worth your while. What you really need to do is combine search engines with memetics, which we'll cover in the next article on memetic marketing. Briefly, search engines are to your memetics as bootstrap (seed) content is to your autonomous content mechanisms. The search engines start traffic to your site and your memetics keep the traffic coming.


A lot of people think of Yahoo! as just another search engine, but it's better thought of as a directory of sites that Yahoo! staff have reviewed and decided to list. (They employ actual humans rather than bots to find new sites.) It takes longer for a new site to get listed in the Yahoo! directory—and you've got to have some good stuff to get listed at all—but many users prefer Yahoo! for research (such as shopping for a good furniture supplier) because someone else has done the preliminary elimination of dead or useless sites.

But you can't do the memetics until you have some traffic, so let's look at how to use search engines effectively in order to get some traffic going.

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