Marketing Your Site to Search Engines Successfully
Knowing your audience and what they look for is Marketing 101, and in Web optimization that means knowing what search engines want to see. Maximizing your site's Web copy is the first step to catching the eye of any search engine - and keeping purchasers' eyes glued to your site once they visit.
Industrial companies design, fabricate, manufacture and otherwise create all the components integral to building the larger, finished product. Optimizing your Web site is essentially the same process. By breaking down the steps into easily managed components, the process is easy to understand. There are two basic Web site optimization components: textual and technical. The latter is the boogie man for most marketing professionals and involves "vanilla" HTML, enabling caching, avoiding cloaking, etc. Most small to midsized industrial companies recognize the importance of these techniques but have a hard time rationalizing the cost associated with this form of optimization.
But textual changes to your site are easier than you think and can make a world of difference. If you know how to spell and have an hour or so each week, you can increase your site's visibility tenfold!
First things first: raising your hand for a search engine to find your site. Most engines let you register for their search bots to crawl your site. These bots are programs that scour the Web for new sites and visit known sites to ensure links are still valid. Once a site is found, the bots index anywhere from one page to 60 percent of the site, allowing a site to be included in search results. The depth to which they search and how they index each page is random. So registering helps increase the efficiency of the indexing.
Carefully crafting Web copy will put you closer to the top of relevant search results. Since the only page of your site guaranteed to be indexed is the home page, focus the majority of your efforts here. All search bots work differently (and are proprietary), but they all take stock of keywords. It's important to consider how you want your site to be indexed and what terms you wish to be linked with. If your company makes wing nuts, telephones, transistors, MEMs, track balls and solder paste, then the home page should list each of these products. Weave synonyms and abbreviations throughout the page, too. A search for phone, cordless, wireless, mobile, fax or cellular won't include your site unless these words are listed on the pages indexed by the search bot.
Is geography an important search criteria for your company? If you serve only New England, for example, list the states, their abbreviations, New England and East Coast in the text of your pages. Avoid grouping synonyms and abbreviations together as bots could consider this repetition and penalize your site.
Not only is the text on your pages important, but the names of each page become a factor. Simple, static URLs and file names are much easier and more likely to be indexed. Adding a few simple technical tricks is another relatively painless way to draw a search engine's interest. Hidden in the code behind the scenes are "title" tags. These title tags, not the actual Web addresses, are read by the bots and should be named meaningfully and with geographic detailing, too (e.g. transistors, Massachusetts, MA). These tags are what search engines publish as the titles of the links on your site.
Graphic-heavy sites may appeal to the user, but they are dead space to search bots, in essence taking away real estate that can be used to further index your site. Though it's important to be heavily indexed under the proper terms, you don't want to ruin the look and feel once people land on your site.
Having a designer add Alt Text, which is text that sits behind a graphic, will let you use that space for indexing. If, for example, the fictitious Specialty Products has graphics of its latest telephone, the Alt Text should read telephone, phone, cordless, wireless, mobile, fax, cellular or any other synonyms. Repetition could be penalized by bots, so use the most well-known name of a product behind the first graphic, a synonym for the next and so on.
Site maps are just as handy for indexing as they are for the lost site visitor. If a search bot lands on the site map, it will follow the links throughout the site, indexing as it goes. Simple, clear wording improves the chance of a bot indexing more of your site. Also, every page of your site should loop back to another page, eliminating dead ends that may cause a bot to end its indexing and jump to another site.
Indexing is an ongoing process by search bots, and full indexing can take up to a month, so give the bot every chance to do as much indexing as it can during each visit.
Another characteristic search bots look at is how connected a site is by referencing how many sites link to a particular site and vice versa. Bots are smart enough to determine how relevant links are to each other, so having irrelevant links on your site may work against you. How bots do this is not important - knowing how to react to this fact is. Links should be added for more information about a subject or linking to relevant articles on a subject or to affiliated associations or partner companies.
Building linking relationships with relevant, well-known sites is a great way to draw more attention from bots while offering site visitors a useful resource. The more credible links to and from your site, the more hands in the air you raise for in-depth indexing.
Sites that require a user to register or log in are a giant roadblock for crawlers. Search bots are programmed to crawl a site, not interact with it, and are unable to register to enter. Since they can't get in, they leave (and won't tell anyone about your site). For example, a quick Google search for Iraq turns up exactly one non-advertising link to the Wall Street Journal, since the Journal's content is blind to Google. Why? The Journal's sign-in page keeps bots out and hides content from search engine queries.
Search engines are fast becoming the largest gatekeepers to purchasing professionals, and companies need to market their wares accordingly. Being mindful of Web copy and a few simple technical tricks will help draw search engines as well as additional leads and sales to your site.