If you’re just starting out building your own business or personal web site and have little or no budget, you can still get high search engine ranking. You can do what the professionals do. You’ll simply be exchanging the money you would have spent for time doing research and then implementing the changes and steps it takes to get your site ranked.
First of all, there is a little secret that you generally don’t hear from people who own web design firms. A visually stunning site is not always necessary. Now, before you go slapping up a pink and orange site with purple text, let me explain. You can have a good, clean design without all the bells and whistles. The important thing is to make clear what your business provides and make your site easy to navigate.
CSS and Validation
Some design firms have found that sites created with cascading style sheets (css) get better search engine ranking. There are tools you can download and try to check if your code is up to current standards, like the validator.
Once you have your structure in place, you need to determine what the most effective keywords are for your site. This is not as easy as it sounds. If you choose common keywords such as “landscaping” or “jewelry” you will be competing against hundreds of thousands of other businesses. They trick is to choose a keyword that is less popular, but still has thousands of searches per month. I found a tool that tells you how many searches have been performed on Google and Overture for the keywords you enter. It also offers suggestions for alternate keywords to use.
Don’t load your entire site down with one or two keyword phrases to the point where your site doesn’t make sense to your visitors. In addition, don’t “spam” the search engines by adding similar keywords over and over again at the top or bottom of your page. That will get you booted out of the search engines quicker that you can say “spamming is bad form”. There is a better way to use these keywords that will help you more in terms of getting new business which I will explain in a minute.
Sitemaps and Web bots
All of the major search engines have “web bots” which “spider” your website for inclusion in their directories. You can help them out by creating a sitemap. Notice the small XML AUTOSITEMAP graphic beneath the menu and quotes? Auto Sitemap is a free tool you can use to create a Google bot friendly sitemap for your site (http://www.autositemap.com/). It’s highly recommended.
Finally, once you have your structure in place and are ready to advertise your website, comes the fun part – announcing your site. With a small budget, you can boost traffic to your website through programs like Google AdWord. Some hosting companies offer free Google or Overture coupons when you host with them. Now that you’ve determined the best keywords for your site, use them to gain more traffic for less money.
There is one last tidbit to share that will help you with your ranking. Search engines love sites that are linked to other high-ranking sites, and lots of other relevant web sites. This means if you get your site listed in an article on CNN, you are going straight to the top, baby! I know this is not always realistic, but start advertising your site to other sites that might consider linking to you.
Finally, if all this work makes your head spin and you think the time you’ll spend learning and implementing all these tips would be better spent earning money for your business, then seek out a professional. There is an endless supply of web design and search engine optimization firms out there.
Just understand three things:
1. You usually get what you pay for.
2. You must always, always, always check references.
3. You should know exactly what you are getting for the price you’re paying.
It is not necessary to pay for a great search engine ranking, but it does take lots of time and effort. If you’re willing to put in the time, it will eventually pay off in more leads and sales. Good luck to you!
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, there is a more important aspect of your site design that will help you rank higher in the search engines: the structure. By structure I mean the code behind the site whether it is html or xml or database driven code such as php or asp.