by Jimmy Marks
I'm here today to confess something about the Internet. I've already admitted the Internet is eating me by taking up more of my non-work time and invading my world more and more each day. The thing that still throws me is the sheer size of the beast itself.
According to a survey from April 2009, there are around 232 million websites online. Our websites - the home site for the company and both outsider blogs - make up about 500 pages. I gave up trying to find out how many exact web PAGES there are online, but the Wayback Machine holds the records of 160 billion pages. Our 500 out of 160 billion means we're occupying .00005 % of the Internet. Wow. That ain't much. And part of my job is trying to get our site(s) noticed at that size. *Gulp*.
Not to fear - I resolved when I started this job a year ago that I'd bring our search results up and drive our loss-rates down. Our overall traffic and bounce-rates have improved, but our results could always be better. Search engine optimization and higher search returns for everything within my domain (pun intended) have become my white whale. I have the means and the knowledge to make it work for me, it's just a matter of making smart changes in the way Google and other search engines find and account for my sites. I've vowed that, in the coming months, I'm going to slay this whale...or die trying.
Hit 'em where they live
Part of boosting your search traffic is knowing how Google looks at your pages. If you sign up for Google's webmaster tools, you can start verifying your site right away and finding out what Google sees when it peeks in on your day-to-day operation. Some big things to consider that Google can expose:
1) What Keywords is Google associating with my webpages?
2) What Meta tags are blank, or duplicated, and need changing?
3) Are any of my pages suffering duplicate titles?
4) How often is my site being "crawled" by Google's crawl-bots?
5) What kind of HTML improvements can I make?
Ask yourself these questions and let the webmaster package guide you to your answer.
Obviously, other search engines offer their own set of tools to improve search results. I run to Google because they're still the big cheese in terms of usage. That, and their tools are pretty easy to use.
You need to start generating a Sitemap of all your sites and links to them. Sound simple? It can be. Go here , to sitemaps.org, to learn the basics. The important thing to remember about your Sitemap(s) is that culling your old pages out when you do away with them is important and that not every page will be indexed perfectly. But you ARE showing Google and the other search engines what means the most and is updated the most frequently. That helps them place your pages when it comes time for someone to look for you.
Google can create a Sitemap for you if you are willing to install their Python script on your server. I use this website, then go to work customizing my results. That's a good start. But really pay attention to which pages are getting picked now and which ones aren't getting enough attention. Some services will help you map things out for as little as ten bucks, that's not a crucial loss for you...at least I hope not.
There's a great article about online marketing and SEO that highlights the importance of a strong Sitemap in search results. Click here to read the article from CNN Money Small Business.
Meet the Beast Eye-to-Eye
Pay attention to your analytics! Look out for your search keywords! How'd people get to your site? How do you keep appealing to them. Can they find what they're searching for when they get there? Getting and staying on top of the problem can be time consuming and frustrating, but it's important to keep refining for the sake of your website. It takes a willingness to read more, to understand how the engines are presenting you to the world and to keep on working at it.
It's a big task. Sharpen your harpoon and fire away.