Elance Blog

5 Easy Ways To Improve Your Search Rankings

Search engine optimization continues to be one of the most crucial methods of generating direct traffic and increasing your websites monetization. However, SEO isn't something you can just pick up and master overnight — it's probably best to leave it up to the search engine pros. However, there are quick and easy ways to improve your search ranking from dead last to back in the pack. Alex McArthur, Vice President of Search Strategies at OrangeSoda, outlines five tried and true ways of pulling in more Web traffic.

Getting your website listed in Google, Yahoo and MSN isn’t a mystical process that should be left to the geeks, techies or the pimple-faced kid down the street. For most small business owners, getting ranked simply comes down to ensuring you’ve done the basics. While this isn’t intended to be the end all, be all of Search Engine Optimization, we find that you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck with the following 5 things:

1. Make sure your ‘Title’ tags are related to the content of the site.
Huh, title tag? What’s that? Well in a nutshell, your title tag is a line of HTML code that specifies the title of an individual webpage. If you look in the upper left hand corner of your browser and in the first line of an individual search result, you’ll see the product of a title tag. Specifically, a title tag in HTML looks like this:

<title> San Jose Plumbing | Clean Plumbers, Inc </title>



Most search experts agree that having correct title tags is one of the top three factors that determine where a search engine will rank you. Where many people fail with their title tags is they use the same text for every page on their and they fail to properly describe the page with their title tags. Imagine going to a book store and picking a book up off the shelf with the title “True Spy Stories of the Cold War”. However, to your surprise, inside the book is a steamy romance. You, the reader, would want your money back. So spend a minute and look at the title tags of every page on your site and see if you have accurately described the page with your title tags. A good title tag will include the keyword you are trying to rank that page for, and don’t forget to add your company’s name as I’ve done in the example above. Be aware — brevity is a virtue; Google and the rest will truncate your title tags after 65 characters including spaces.

2. Your Meta Description Tags Count Too! If your title tags are the cover of your book, your meta description tags are the back cover telling your reader what’s inside. If you were to look at the search results of any query, the text underneath the link but above the URL of a search result comes from what is in your meta description. (If you don’t have anything in the meta description, the search engines will typically pull a couple lines of text from the page and place it in the results.) To find your meta description tag pop open your site’s code and search for the following:

<META NAME="Description" CONTENT="Describe your site with Keyword Rich Text Here.">



As I indicated in the example above, you should write a couple sentences that describe your site and/or your page. In your meta description, you get a bit more room to talk but you should use no more than 200 characters. Just like with your title tags, every page should have a unique meta description.

3. URL and File Names Matter. Now what looks better?

a) http://www.yourwebsite.com/catalog/index.ognc?CategoryID=7497

OR

b) http://www.yourwebsite.com/myproduct

You might have noticed I keep talking about keywords. Your URLs and page names matter for the purposes of generating a click to your site as well as improved search rankings. Several studies, such as a MarketingSherpa’s 2008 Search Marketing Benchmark Guide, clearly demonstrate that short, descriptive URLs like example B increase the propensity of a searcher to click on your search result. Google search engineer Matt Cutts also says that having short, descriptive URLs is a factor in better rankings. Specifically, this means having a URL that has no more than 5 words after the .com/url extension. One of the best places to look for an example besides what I’ve put above is at Amazon.com. Do a search from their homepage for anything and you will see a solidly formed URL.

4. Let People Know About Your Site. Many business owners miss the opportunity to brag about their online home, especially after they’ve spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars to have a site created. Google is the ultimate democracy and works by looking at the number of people who link to you. While there are some caveats to this, you can prime the pump a bit. If I were a business owner, I’d take a couple minutes to create profiles on social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Merchant Circle, InLocal, and Google Maps. These will give you a handful of strong links to your site and let the search engines know you exist and start the process of getting your site listed.

5. Check the Text of Your Site. One of the things OrangeSoda runs into frequently is websites with relatively little text, content that says nothing about the business and/or fails to use keywords related to the business. When the search engines visit your site, they download a page and look at the text trying to make a determination of what the website as a whole is about and where it belongs. If you are trying to get ranked for “San Jose Plumber”, you should have at least a page with that keyword in it a couple times. It’s also important that the copy appear natural and be understandable because after all, a website that captures the interest of the search engines but fails to capture the interest of your customers can hardly be justifiable.

These five methods are a great start for getting your website on the search engine map, but people, this is just the beginning. Since the SEO game is constantly evolving (some go so far as to call it an arms race), it can be difficult to stay on top. Hire a Search Engine Optimization expert, and you'll be pulling in new traffic while smoking the competition now and in the future.

About Alex McArthur

Alex McArthur is the Vice President of Search Strategies at OrangeSoda. Utah-based OrangeSoda specializes in online marketing for small and medium sized businesses.

Comments

With regard to number 3, both URLs look completely identical:

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Web Server at yourwebsite.com

Alex, your list is a nice start for those new to SEO. I'm finding that Google Maps/Local Business Center is immensely important in placing new URLs in local rankings. They will appear in local results well before they gain importance for keywords in the main index.

I find SEO very confusing and feel I am always bombarded with different strategies and ways of improving my web ranking. I've tried blogs, ezines, backlinks but somehow, I'm still lost in the wilderness that is Google! Is there a cut and dry, fully tested no-nonsense, straight to the point methodology in achieving better ranking with the search engines. If there is, please let me know. J Khanna aka Mary Jameson

Gotta say, Alex is right. I've done almost all of the above, and have great ranking in google. when searching for face painting nj. I found the best way to figure out the best key words for your title page is to set up a google adwords account, enter in a bunch of different keywords, and then wait a month or 2 and you'll be able to see what specific keywords people search for the most.

I work for a Jewellery shop in London called Official Watches and I must say, I found the tips here very interesting and very useful indeed. I went through every page and improved all the titles and meta descriptions as mentioned in the blog and ensured that keywords like watches, new watches, used watches etc. were featured in these tags and in the content of the site. Thanks very much for the advice.

I have also found Google Local/Business to be really powerful. I think it's definitely a first stop on the SEO tour...

Very informative Alex, I will definitely use these tips to increase my site offering. Thanks a bunch!

Thank you for the tips, Alex. With the constantly changing world under Google's thumb, it's sometimes confusing to know which step to take. These are great steps.

I loved the article, Alex. However, do you really think that if somebody just follows these steps without digging deeper into SEO or hiring someone to do it for you, they will actually succeed in even indexing their site?

Regards,
Ana Hoffman/What Is Your Net Biz

Great read. While just starting out in SEO, I've added Titles, meta tags, description, & use tags have so far gotten good ratings in Google. Of course, we've created a unique product so that might have helped. -David, 

hi!
what to do when one's company name is bit common...and there are smaller biz occupying top search results...
and where can i get seo budgets of firms.