Getting a website to rank on the first page of search listings is critical in a site’s ability to be seen. Here’s how to get maximum ranking every time.
Getting a website to rank on the first page of a search, and ideally, within the top three listings, is not just important to a retailer, it’s critical. “Very few searchers will look past the first page,” says Matt Kain, chief revenue officer at The Search Agency. “Even on the first page, the lion’s share of the clicks — something like 40 percent — goes to the No. 1 result, and the difference between positions 1 and 2 could be a significant drop-off.”
Preparing a Site for the Highest Possible Return
One expert recommends starting with a complete site and searches audit. “We look at architecture, page construction, content, link popularity, and web server configuration,” explains John McCarthy, director of SEO for digital agency WebMetro. They then prioritize areas for improvement by ROI.
Rob Garner, senior strategy director for digital agency iCrossing, says that the best time to optimize a website for search is when it’s being built, because “it can cost 10 times as much to re-engineer later.” He recommends staying away from rich media applications such as Flash and Ajax that make it difficult to rework tags after the fact.
The first step to gaining maximum search engine exposure is to ensure that all content is indexed. “Meta tags” are a description of the content that includes a title, author, keywords and an explanatory sentence, among other information. Very often, when a site comes up in a search result, it is the meta tag description that appears, so it is critical that meta tags be precise and informative, Garner says.
Kain adds that the most important thing to consider with meta tags is the title and of that, the first few words.
Also important are “alt attribute” tags. If a person visiting a webpage has images turned off, the alt attribute tag allows them to see a text description of the picture — i.e., “iPhone case, black leather, flip top”, rather than an empty box where a graphic should be. Alt tags, Kain says, as well as the directory file path for the image itself should reinforce keywords and phrases the page is relevant for.
Improving Site Rankings
Site rankings can be improved by writing detailed and descriptive content. “A site will never rank on page one for a broad category like ‘high heels’,” Garner says. A description such as ‘dark brown peek-toed pumps’ has a better chance of generating a higher ranking. Google’s Website Optimizer is helpful for testing keywords to see how they will rank.
Also, the content should look natural. Rather than repeating words, add unique content such as an editor’s product review or links to sites with related information, such as health and fitness articles next to running shoes. Search engines consider all of that content in determining rankings. In addition, graphics should be a label with the same level of detail, rather than “image1.jpg”.
McCarthy recommends ‘latent semantic indexing’, which means using other words to help define a primary keyword phrase. For example, “If I talk about shoes, the search engines don’t know what kind. If I mention stirrups and a saddle, you know I’m talking about horseshoes; Mustangs and Raybestos, you know I’m talking about brake shoes; with Nike and Puma, ’m talking about running shoes.”
Finally, pages can only be optimized for so many keywords per page. A page is not going to rank first for both “cellphone case” and “squirt guns”. Choose the one with the highest value.
After optimizing content, there are two additional strategies worth considering. The first is uploading content to Google Base. Google Base is a free database that helps search engines find content. It accepts both XML and Excel spreadsheets for one listing or thousands. Yahoo! offers a similar product.
Another key to elevating search rank is securing links from suppliers, partners and other sites, such as enthusiast groups or related events.