You've made a wedding supplier website, spent a lot of time writing about your chosen subject, designed graphics and tweaked the layout so it looks good in Internet Explorer and Firefox but it's just sat there on the hosting server, you keep checking the web stats but no one's visiting?
Getting visitors to a website can cost huge amounts of money, you can put adverts in the press, spend out on click based advertising or sponsor a boat in a transatlantic yachting race. Many of us simply don't have that kind of money; the website could be a few pages about your family and pets or a local wedding photography and portraiture site you're trying to get off the ground. This is the situation we'll deal with, it's possible to spend no money and get your website lots of visitors.
Probably the best way for most of us to get traffic to our websites is by using search engines. Literally millions of people are searching the internet on a daily basis, they're looking for everything from Cleaning Aquatic Hamster Cages to hiring a Wedding Photography in Dorset and the New Forest (more on this later!). Getting your website listed in the search engines isn't too hard but getting your pages anywhere near the top for a particular search term takes time, effort and a little know-how, the latter is the subject of this article.
Some of the things we'll touch on are listed below:
Understanding SEs (search engines)
SEs from a user of view are simple, their aim is to provide the most relevant results possible based on the few terms entered into the search box (e.g. "Profesional Photographer in Hampshire or Dorset" Just how they go about determining which results to show is far more interesting, knowing a little about how they do this can help us get our website near the top of the results and get more visitors.
Most of the large SEs use a number of methods to determine a site's placement in the search results. There's really only three main ones we need care about; popularity, content and keywords. All three can be determined when a SE looks at your website, all SEs spend a great deal of resource spidering the web. They send out page requests using automated page viewing software (or robots) and analyse the content of millions of web pages daily.
Popularity of a website can be measured in a lot of different ways, most peoples idea of popularity is how many visitors a site regularly gets, this is not always easy for SEs to determine so they use a different method. The most important measure SEs use is to work out how well linked up your website is in relation to other websites which are themselves linked up.
Think of it this way, a city like London has 1000's of roads leading into it as well as many train tracks and airports, it's well connected in lots of different ways. A sleepy village in rural Dorset has perhaps one main road and no railways or airports, from a SE point of view the equation is simple, London is far more popular. If we wanted to increase the popularity of our Dorset village we could build a railway link directly from London. SEs calculate the popularity of a website based on how many links it has from other popular sites. If Ebay placed a link on their front page to your website not only would visitors click on the link but the SEs would see the Ebay front page, follow the link and determine your site was popular simply because another popular site linked to it directly.
The other important factors taken into account by the SEs are page content and keywords. If your page is about people photography then the chances are you're going to mention those exact words a few times within the page, you might even make it part of the title or use a related term such as "Portrait Photography". The amount of times you mention a specific term and where in the page that term appears tells the SEs what the page is about. Of course SEs can be fooled but in general a page about weding photography is going to mention that term in various places. Using a term in the title of the page and spreading the term around the page will determine the keywords, you can further hint to the SEs what the page is about using a meta keyword tag (see example later).
You may have noticed that some hosting and web design companies talk a lot about submission to SEs, heck some will even try and make you pay them to submit your site to 1000's of SEs. They are selling snake oil; submission of your site to multiple search engines is free, of little value and can actually harm your site's position. There's perhaps only one place you should try and actively get your site listed and that is dmoz.org. DMOZ is an editor maintained directory of websites, many SE robots use DMOZ as a starting off point for spidering the web. To submit your site; find the relevant section of the directory fill out the form and wait, don't bother to keep re-submitting. DMOZ will only accept sites they feel are relevant, useful and of a certain standard.
There is no quick easy option, this is where the effort has to be put if you really want to get near the top of a SE for a particular search term. A good way to get linked up is to have a quality website that is useful to people, anyone who finds it may like it enough they add a link to it on their site or perhaps link it from a forum in response to another users question.
One way you speed up the process is to create a links page, find other sites with topics related to your site and email asking for link exchange. They put your website onto their links page and vice versa. This can be a long process but it does pay off over the medium term, finding the right sites to swap links with will not only give your visitors a valuable resource but get your site improved SE results.
Example: Modern Wedding Photography in Dorset
A good friend asked me to help get their website listed in the SEs, I've written a few websites in the past and I know something about making a website easier for visitors to find. The site is for a husband and wife team who specialise in event and portrait photography based on the Hampshire Dorest borders.
The first thing to do was change the site slightly, putting keywords into page titles and page content as well as using meta tags. I also included some mis-spellings of words on purpose. SE users are often in a rush and mis-type words, sometimes you can take advantage of this. A lot of sites spend time spell checking and removing any errors but introducing them deliberately is a way to get to the top now and again even if your site is not as well linked up.
Once the site was pretty much completed I submitted it to dmoz.org in hopes it was good enough for them to list.
I'm currently in the process of creating a Dorset Wedding Suppliers Page and emailing other sites which are in related businesses locally.
Getting the site linked from well known sites is really the key to getting near the top, try to include some keywords in the actual link text. You are very welcome to take a look at the page source at Contemporary Wedding Photography.