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How to Improve Search Engine Ranking and Increase Web Site Traffic?

It is every web site owner's dream to get a constant flood of free, organic, traffic coming to their sites via the search engines. The $64m question, though, is always how to improve search engine ranking enough to bring in all that valuable free traffic?

There is no simple answer to that question. There are lots of search engine optimization services and companies who will claim to get your web site highly ranked in Google, Yahoo and MSN. Whether they ever do so or not is entirely another matter; I do not know as I would never use a search engine optimization service. However, I do, and will always, want free search engine traffic and higher rankings.

The search engine landscape is changing constantly. Not too many years ago many web masters were using such spamming tactics as key word stuffing and doing so successfully. The search engines got wise, and now ignore such blatant spam. Then came tools to get your keyword density just right to get a high ranking for that keyword; such tools are still sold today. Then it was reciprocal links, link farms, and link buying to give an artificial boost to search engine rankings.

As 2004 went on, and more so in 2005, automated web sites and blogs started to flood the internet; junk sites never touched by human hands, and automated blogs, were being spewed out by the thousand. Content thieves were scouring the internet automatically to steal our content, and use it to reconstitute their own versions of our web sites. A consortium of the dishonest, the honest but impatient, the lazy, and the short sighted, were battering the search engines from all sides, and diminishing the value of search.

In the final quarter of 2004, I decided to get back to some basic marketing, that applies both online and offline, and that is to know your market. Search engines are a vital part of the internet market place; as with any market, you need to know what people want.

Up until then I was using reciprocal linking just as everyone else was. I stopped immediately. Would Google and Yahoo continue to give a web site a high ranking just because of reciprocal links? After all, they wanted the best search results for their customers, not to present them with the best webmaster for using tools and effort to get reciprocal links. I was spending an hour a day on that nonsense, and it had been working. But it would not continue to work, so I stopped altogether, and spent the extra time on creating content.

It takes little marketing skill to see what search engines want; I decided to focus on content. I resisted the temptation to use automation in extreme, and shifted my emphasis to writing fresh content every day. By April 2005 that shift had been made, and as the year went on more "experts" began to say that reciprocal linking was becoming of little value. Recent changes in the Google search algorithm confirm that. Additionally, Google can spot link buying now, so that is a waste of money, and another short term strategy bites the dust.

Google seem to be confident of weeding out all the spammers and content thieves, and I must say I have noticed a reduction in junk sites ruining my search activity of late.

So, what about search engine optimization? Can that not get us a top ranking? A Google spokesman is reputed to have said in 2005 "SEO doesn't work." Having already come to that conclusion, I was pleased to read that quote, even if it was a misquote or just a rumour. I did not care ; it helped reinforce my belief that what search engines just wanted was the most appropriate web pages for their customers search word or phrase.

However, just writing content is only one part of the answer to higher rankings in the search engines. There is much more to it. You can write a lot of content for a highly competitive market, and just a hit a brick wall of little or no traffic. Eventually you may succeed, but you need patience before your web site matures.

Over the past year I have gradually refined the way I build a web site, and am relatively satisfied with the way it is going. This is the way I go about it, but of course there is no guarantee of results. All I am doing is trying to avoid spamming pitfalls, and to provide good content that is search engine friendly. Here are some of the main tactics that make up my search engine ranking strategy:

The simple answer is: just good original content, no SEO, and no automated sites and tools.

  1. I now ignore all SEO tactics and tools, and just write content for my web sites as regularly as I can, occasionally using third party articles from Ezinearticles.
  2. When choosing a topic for a web site, I take into account keyword research and whether or not something I feel I would enjoy writing about. If it is too competitive I ignore it, although I do keep a couple of web sites going in very competitive markets.
  3. My web sites are simple and search engine friendly. I have recently spent 6 months converting all my web sites to CSS, far easier for search engine robots to navigate. New web sites start out in CSS format. I am not really a web designer, but I get by and I do like CSS now I understand it more.
  4. My main source of external inbound links is articles I write which get distributed. I started doing that in January 2005, and have been pleased with results.
  5. When I start a web site, and regularly thereafter, I use keyword research to guide me on what to write and in what priority. The least competitive keyword phrases trigger off the first pages of the web site. Later, I look for spin off subjects and keywords. You may be surprised, there are whole topics, and many keyword phrases, where it is still uncompetitive, and you can quickly get your pages ranked quite high.
  6. My keyword research tool is in action every working day, and it is invaluable. Without keyword research, it is like trying to shoot a mosquito from half a kilometre, with a shotgun, in the dark, and with your eyes closed.
  7. I regard putting up a new web page as a fresh competition. You are always competing on your chosen keyword phrase, so it is important to remember that. Just throwing on someone else's already published article is not likely to win a top rank, though it does. It is best to write some sort of introduction in your own words, a paragraph or two which revolves around your target keyword phrase. But remember not to overdo it on the keywords.
  8. I always use the basic meta tags for title, description and keywords. The first two are important, but Google at least ignores the keywords.

None of the above is likely to be new to you, but there is a chance you have been diverted from simplicity by hype. I have found that by focusing on the above, I have been able to get a few decent rankings quickly, especially in MSN. You will need to be more patient for Yahoo and Google, but even MSN can make a big difference to your traffic with a few top 8 rankings.

Is all the work worth it? I have found since autumn 2005 that it has been. That was about the time had settled into a routine and refined the approach. If you are in a market where an Adwords click will cost you $1 on average, and you can get up to 400 visitors a day from search alone inside three months, then you would soon be getting the value from your efforts. That's an advertising value of $12000 a month. Is that worth it?

Of course, you may not reach that level of traffic; but then you could reach a lot more. It is certainly possible and realistic, unlike a lot of the get rich quick hype that you may read.