The way you set up your site makes a very big difference.
Done correctly, you can attract web spiders to index most or all of your pages. Done poorly and you can lose out on a lot of potential traffic. It’s time to put all the background information from our earlier articles on search spiders and keyword selection to use in your site.
The spider process and site architecture
Search engines index pages depending on how a site is built and the value it provides to certain audiences or visitors. Search engine spiders crawl the Web and include web pages they find relevant within their search engine index.
According to some industry watchers, search engines actually index only about 20% of most websites’ content. If that estimate is true, then:
- You want your website to be above average in terms of indexing and;
- You need internal links from those pages that the spiders are picking up to other important pages within your site.
There are a number of site building decisions that can impact your success with search engines. Let’s take a look at several important areas.
Your domain name is your first opportunity to make a good impression and invite people to look at your site. If at all possible, your domain name should be short, should not include hyphens or numbers, should be a .com (rather than a .net or .biz) or country specific (for example, .co.uk)and should describe your business in terms of keywords. (Read our article on domain names to learn more about this subject.) By the way, since Google gives more worthiness points to domain names that have been around longer, because spammers buy domain names for short periods then abandon them, be sure to purchase your domain name for a multi-year period. It’s not terribly expensive and makes your site look like it’s here for the long run.
Your home page is typically the landing page for most viewers. This means that your home page needs to do a lot of heavy lifting to attract your viewers to move deeper into your site. Your home page should contain links to all of the other major areas of your site. Even if you operate an ecommerce site, don’t fall into the trap of making your homepage into your store. Remember that when users get to your store, you want to convert them to buyers. You may need to use one strategy to get a high page ranking for your home page and a different strategy to create conversions.
You should have the standard links to about us, contact and site map in place on the home page and every page then expand on those links with a clear picture of your site’s offerings. For example, if you sell management software, you may want to have home page links to client case studies, products, technical specs, resources, blog and so on. Your resources link might have a drop down menu with choices such as technical articles and industry news.
It’s important that your site presents as attractive, professional and appealing to viewers. Although spiders can’t ‘see’ your pages’ appearance, other website managers can and you’ll be less likely to attract high quality links if your site doesn’t present well. Additionally search engines are increasing storing data on your visitors’ usage of your site: the more visitors use your site, the higher your site’s perceived usefulness, the higher your rankings.
Most people optimise their homepages for the more general keywords and keyword clusters. For example, if you sell garden plants, you will probably be using keywords and clusters such as garden, plants, gardening, greenhouse and cultivate. However, these words are so general that while they may bring traffic to your site, they’re far less likely to convert to a sale. These words are often referred to as the ‘head’ words of a search. The words that tend to create conversion are most often the ‘tail’ words, those words that narrow a search down to a much more specific product. If you optimise your home page using ‘head’ words, you can draw viewers to conversion pages by links that contain ‘tail’ words such as water plants or even more narrow, pond lilies.
Blogs are a great way to add quality content quickly. Each blog looks like a new page to the spider. Therefore, by actively blogging, your site will be identified as having a good supply of fresh content as the spiders pass by and sample your site over time.
Fill your site with interesting content, make it appealing to look at and build sensible navigation paths to all of the information.
Next we will look more closely at the first step in attracting search engines, your domain name. Read our article Choose Your Domain Name Wisely; It’s the Threshold of Your Marketplace for the scoop.