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Ten Tips to the Top of the Search Engines
by Jill Whalen © Copyright.

Having a Web site that gets found in Google and the other 
engines isn't hard to do, but it can be difficult to know where 
to begin. Here are ten tips to get you started:

1. Start out slowly. If possible, begin with a new site that 
has never been submitted to the search engines or directories. 
Choose a domain name that best fits your brand, and start out by 
optimizing just the home page. (Many SEOs recommend purchasing a 
keyword-rich domain name; however, I've been optimizing sites 
successfully since 1995 without using them.)

2. Learn basic HTML. A lot of search engine optimization 
techniques involve editing the behind-the-scenes HTML code. Your 
high rankings can depend on knowing which codes are necessary, 
and which aren't. Minimally, you should be able to view the 
source code of any page and understand what it all means, as 
well as be able to slightly edit it as necessary.

3. Choose keyword phrases wisely. The phrases you think might 
be perfect for your site may not be what people are actually 
searching for. To find the optimal words for your site, use a 
research tool such as Wordtracker (http://www.wordtracker.com). 
Decide on two or three highly targeted phrases for each page of 
your site. Never shoot for general keywords such as "travel" or 
"vacation" as they are rarely (if ever) indicative of what your 
site is really about.

4. Write at least 200-250 words of visible text copy based 
on your chosen keywords. This is a crucial component to high 
rankings and a successful Web site. The search engines need to 
"read" keyword-rich copy on your pages so they can understand 
how to classify your site. Write the copy based on your keyword 
phrases, and not the other way around. Don't be afraid to use 
your phrases as many times as it makes sense to do so. The 
optimal number of instances will vary by search engine, the 
number of words on your page, and also by how well the copy 
actually reads to a person. Simply sticking keyword phrases at
the top of the page or only in headlines probably won't cut it.
(Purchase and read my "Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search 
Engines" (http://www.highrankings.com/nittyhra89a) handbook for 
exact tips on how to do this.)

5. Create a killer Title tag. Title tags are critical because 
they're given a lot of weight with all of the search engines. 
You must put your keyword phrases into this tag and not waste 
space with extra words. Do not use the Title tag to display only 
your company name, or to simply say "Home Page."  Think of this 
tag more as a "Title Keyword Tag" and create it accordingly. It 
should reflect exactly what your page is about, using the keyword 
phrases people might be using at a search engine to find your 
company.

6. Make sure your site is "link-worthy." Other sites linking 
to yours is a critical component of a successful search engine 
optimization campaign, as all of the major search engines place 
a good deal of emphasis on your site's overall link popularity. 
You can go out and request hundreds or thousands of links, but 
if your site sucks, why would anyone want to link to it? On the 
other hand, if your site is full of wonderful, useful information 
-- other sites will naturally link to it without your even 
asking. It's fine to trade links; just make sure you are 
providing your site visitors with only the highest quality of 
related sites. When you link to lousy sites, keep in mind what 
this says to your site visitors as well as to the search engines.

7. Create meaty Meta tags. Meta tags have some value, but they 
are not a magic bullet. Create a Meta Description tag that uses 
your keywords and also describes your site. The information in 
this tag often appears under your Title in the search engine 
results pages, especially if the keyword phrase that was searched 
upon in the engine appears in your tag. The Meta Keyword tag 
isn't quite as important as the Meta Description tag. Contrary 
to what many people believe, what you place in the keyword tag 
will have very little (if any) bearing on what keywords your 
site is actually found under, and it's not given any 
consideration whatsoever by Google. Feel free to use this tag 
for technical synonyms or common misspellings if you want to, 
but do NOT obsess over it; it definitely won't make or break 
your rankings.

8. Be careful when submitting to directories such as Yahoo, DMOZ,
JoeAnt, Gimpsy and the like. Having directory listings are a key
component to getting your site spidered and listed by Google and 
the other search engines. Therefore it's important to read each
directory's FAQ and follow it precisely. Making mistakes in the
submission process could cost you dearly as directory listings 
are difficult to change later in the game. Be cognizant of the 
fact that you will be dealing with human editors, and always 
think about how you can make their job easier when it comes to 
listing your site.

9. Don't expect quick results. Getting high rankings takes time; 
there's no getting around that fact (even with paid-inclusion). 
Once your site is added to a search engine, its rankings may 
start out low and then slowly work its way up the ladder. All 
search engines measure link popularity, and it takes time to 
really and truly become one of the most popular sites in your 
niche. Be patient and give your site time to mature.

10. Don't constantly "tweak" your site for better results. It's
best not to make changes to your on-the-page optimization for at 
least three months after you optimize it. You certainly don't 
need to sit on your hands or twiddle your thumbs during this 
period, however. You should constantly work on adding new stuff 
to your site to make it better and better, plus you should always 
be on the lookout for other sites that might be interested in 
making your site available to their site visitors.

If you've followed these tips and still can't find your site in 
the engines, the first place to "tweak" would be your page copy. 
If you added less than 250 words of visible text on your pages, 
this could be your culprit. Also, double-check your keyword 
density, and make sure that you only targeted two or three 
phrases per page.

Eventually, you'll see the fruits of your labor with many 
top-ten rankings in Google and the rest of the search engines!

================================================================
Jill Whalen of High Rankings is an internationally recognized 
search engine optimization (http://www.highrankings.com/) 
consultant and editor of the free weekly High Rankings Advisor 
search engine marketing newsletter 
(http://www.highrankings.com/advisor.htm).

She specializes in search engine optimization, SEO consultations 
and seminars. Jill's handbook, "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for 
the Search Engines" (http://www.highrankings.com/seo-writing.htm) 
teaches business owners how and where to place relevant keyword 
phrases on their Web sites so that they make sense to users and 
gain high rankings in the major search engines.
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