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Ten Tips for Optimizing a Web Page for Search Engines

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Wondering what it takes to get a web page to appear in the top listing of search results in Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and Ask? Other than paying for those top “blue” spots, how do you get the search engines to decide who goes where in the unpaid listings they return? Certain very simple things can either inhibit a page from ranking or propel it to the top of the listings. Find out what these things are by taking a walk in the world of web page optimization as Li Evans shares ten tips to laying a foundation for optimizing the pages of your site.
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With the growing popularity of search engines into the global culture, increasingly webmasters and marketers alike ask the question, "How do I get my site to appear in the search engines?" The following ten tips will help you optimize your site—that means laying down a strong foundation for getting the pages of your web site to start making it into the search engine rankings.

Why optimize? Because you want to make sure you're in control...that you're telling the search engines exactly what the site's pages are about. You want to give the search engines all the clues they need to discover that your page is truly relevant for the keywords and phrases you're targeting.

1. Do Your Keyword Research

How can you optimize a web page without first doing some research into the keywords or key phrases that you would like to be searched for and found? Unless you do the research, it's just like throwing strands of spaghetti against the wall and waiting for something to stick. Keyword research is fundamental to your optimization—whether you have one page or thousands, you should have an idea of what words you want to optimize for.

Having a clear understanding of your goals when it comes to the keywords you select is also imperative. Ask yourself, "Who is it that I want to find my pages?" If you go too broad in your keyword selection, you could find yourself in a highly competitive market. Go too narrow, and you miss the opportunity to cast that wider net for traffic and rankings. Marketers must strike a careful balance when optimizing the pages of a web site.

Unless you're a household name or your product or service has received a lot of recent buzz, optimizing for your company's name or branded items is something you want to avoid. Searchers tend to search on words and phrases that have nothing to with your company's name, but rather on general terms that describe services, products, or types of information.

Let's take a look at a made-up example: the Oasis Camels site. Oasis Camels is located in a suburb just outside Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and offers camel rides for parties and events. If someone just looked at the company's name, they might wonder, "Do they raise camels?" or "Do they offer camel rides?"

People around the Cherry Hill area likely don't even realize that Oasis Camels exists; so do you think they'll be searching on "Oasis Camels"? Probably not, unless maybe the company gets a splash on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer, showing the mayor riding one of the camels. So for our example company, the keyword research should focus around "camel rides," "camel ride operators," and "camel rides for parties." It should also hone in geographically on New Jersey and the southeastern Pennsylvania region.

Now, you're probably wondering how to get that research done, right? There are several free tools that can assist you in your research. Just keep in mind that these tools have definite limits. Free tools such as Yahoo's free keyword tool tend to give only the prior month's data on the number of searches performed on a keyword. The issue with that is seasonality. If you sell Halloween costumes and you're researching in March, your information will be highly skewed. Paid services include Trellian's KeywordDiscovery, Wordtracker, and Hitwise. Each offers a varying degree of features.

Keyword research is the basis of all optimization. It's important to understand what keywords will work for your business—keywords that will not just drive traffic but will drive quality traffic.

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