For those of you with search engine optimization (SEO) experience, move on. This post is dedicated to the “average” site owner with very little exposure to the world of search engine marketing.
In the summer of 2008 I decided to create a community site for Cedar Creek Lake with a goal to reach the #1 organic search result for “Cedar Creek Lake.” By late 2009, roughly 12 months after the launch, I had become the top organic listing searching for Cedar Creek Lake, Cedar Creek Lake Real Estate and Cedar Creek Lake Rentals. While there are hundreds of variables to search engine rankings, below are the 5 most important factors that pushed CedarCreekLake.com from nowhere to the top of the listings.
Choose Your Keywords Wisely – Optimize your site around the wrong keywords (search terms) and it’s like taking a wrong turn in a foot race. I suggest using a tool such as the Google Keywords Tool to determine the most popular keywords for your content. Choose 2-5 keywords and optimize individual pages for each. Once you see results then you can add more target keywords and pages.
Select a Domain that Utilizes your Target Keywords – Search engines give higher rankings to domains with the keywords embedded. Fortunately, I was able to secure CedarCreekLake.com which was perfect since the top search keyword for this lake is “Cedar Creek Lake.” At the time, CedarCreekLake.com was listed on the 2nd page of “cedar creek lake” search results but unranked for any other cedar creek lake keywords.
Optimize URLs and Page Names – Whenever possible, utilize your target keywords in your page name and URLs (or links) to your site. For example, the page I optimized for “Cedar Creek Lake Real Estate” utilizes the keywords “Cedar Creek Lake Real Estate” in the page title and the URL is www.cedarcreeklake.com/real-estate.
Create Great Content – Search engines prefer sites with many pages of quality content. Fortunately, CedarCreekLake.com is mostly user-contributed content so I’ve been able to submit over 800 pages in the search engines within a year. It is also important that search engines can “see” all your pages through sitemaps and site navigation that the search engine can spider. Check the number of pages that the search engines see in your site by searching “site:domainname.com” such as my example atsite:cedarcreeklake.com.
Get Links to Your Site – To build credibility with search engines you need credible sites need to link to you. Work with other sites in your industry to cross link or submit content for other sites in return for links to your site. I suggest using Yahoo Site Explorer to see which pages are linking to your site as well as other sites in your industry.
Again, this just scratches the surface of Search Engine Optimization as there are literally hundreds of variables that search engines use to rank sites. However, these simple steps will help push your site up the rankings and generate a great deal more traffic. The first few weeks we launched CedarCreekLake.com in October of 2008, we generated an average of 3 visitors a day from organic listings. This month we are generating 150 visitors a day from organic search listings.
Use the comments section below to let me know what is working for you or ask any questions related to your site.