So you want to increase traffic to your site. In the long run, as I am sure you are aware, the cheapest way to achieve this is through the organic search results on Google, that is the main results that are displayed along the left hand side of the screen, as opposed to the paid 'AdWords' results that appear along the top and right hand side of the screen.
I recently saw a very interesting study done on the eye movements of internet users as they scan the Google results page for information. I have attached a link to this study to the end of this article so you can see for yourself what a difference it makes to come in the top 3 results, and if you can make it to the top position, the number one result, and you can stay there above your competition, well then you probably won't ever need to pay for advertising again!
Let me tell you a little about myself. I run a magnotherapy company which sells magnetic bracelets for help with arthritis, circulation problems and other pain relief. Not the biggest market out there, but not without its competition. Now I know that our product is probably the best one out there as it was developed by the inventor of the world's only clinically proven bracelet and the current model represents a significant improvement on the old design, but it's tough getting attention to our site because it has only been live a couple of months. So what course of action is open to me?
After doing a lot of research into SEO, I can draw two main conclusions. Firstly that there is no quick fix, and secondly that no-one really knows the best way of going about it!
So what can we do? The first thing to do is learn and understand a little of the theory. Google does not really disclose how it works out the order it which it displays results, and it changes the criteria all the time, so it is wise not to try and be too specific. But the basic principle is this: the more links there are to your site the better it will do, the higher quality those links are, the better it will do. So SEO is primarily about link building.
But what constitutes a 'quality' link? This is largely based on Google's 'page rank' system, where web pages are ranked from 0 to 10, 0 being the lowest and 10 being the highest. The higher the page rank of the page that contains your link, the higher quality the link. You should ensure you have something on your browser than can tell you the page rank of the page you are on so you have an idea about how good the links you are building are. There is one of these included in the Google toolbar for Internet Explorer and Firefox.
The first thing to look at is web directories. These are sites that organize a list of sites into categories to make them easier to browse, although more often than not this is more of a system just to allow people to gain more links to their site. Search Google for a list of high ranking directories and apply to the higher ranking sites, but don't forget to check the page rank yourself as the data quickly changes as some lists will unfairly promote their own sites.
Be careful to avoid what are called 'link farms' these are unedited lists of sites, blatantly created with the express intention of nothing more than gaining links, and are looked upon by Google as an underhanded attempt to manipulate their system. The worst case scenario for your involvement in these sites is the removal of your site from Google. Game over.
Business directories are also a useful place to get links, and usually allow you to paste a web address.
The other technique primarily used to gain links is the writing and posting of articles of article submission sites and including a link to your site. Now theoretically these sites provide amateur journalism to magazines, websites and other mediums, but in practice they are pretty much another way of getting links.
Again, check the page rank of the sites you submit your articles to. What should you write your articles about? Well, Google takes into account the relevance of the material on the page your link is coming from to the page it is linking to. For instance, I would have a better link from a page / article containing important keywords for my site like magnetic bracelets, arthritis, and pain relief than one about something irrelevant. On the other hand, more people will read an article I write about sex, shopping or football, so it's worth striking a balance and trying a few different things.
Think about your target audience. I can recommend a program that makes posting articles much easier-go to download.com and download the m8 free clipboard. Search engine optimization can be a daunting task for the beginner and any attempts to research the topic invariably encounters endless tech-speak. Here is everything you need to know, explained in a simple and straight forward way.
You can also try posting some links on forums, but most of these are policed by administrators who remove links to commercial sites.
In conclusion, it's boring, time consuming, and you don't even know if what you are doing is working until the links show on the site you posted on (a long time for popular web directories like dmoz) and then Google finds those links , which could take a couple of months on top, but ultimately if you put the hours in you should get the rewards. (I hope).
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