How to get more web traffic
The Point: Search engine tweaking has three goals – to enhance the link’s rank in search engine results for people who are specifically querying for our services, to get the link to appear in search engine results for people who are in our target market, and to make the link more attractive to query-ers in general.
1 – Meta Tags
Description – Most search engines display the first sentence or so of text on the linked page. Some search engines will present text in the description meta tag instead if it is available. NOTE: this can be as small as 130 characters. Wording matters.
Keyword – Most search engines will index based on text characteristics (see below). Some will use keywords in a meta tag as well, or preferentially. NOTE: We probably don’t want to use “sex” as a keyword just to increase our hit count. Things like “non-profit” and “information,” on the other hand, will target our market. It appears that there is a 1000 character limit on the meta-keyword field.
2 – Text Characteristics
Engines index differently, some index based on all the text on the page, some on the first x number of words, some only on things in header tags, etc. It is critical that relevant keywords appear early in the text on the page, and that we use header tags.
3 – Title
Some search engines will look for search words in the title before looking in the page text. Some engines show the title of the page (the text enclosed within <title></title> tags) as part of the search result. We should have a different, relevant title for each page on the site.
4 – Separation of page function
If different pages are of explicitly different function, and that information is clearly taken into consideration when applying the methods above, the site’s search-find probability as a whole should be substantially enhanced. The new site map I created for www.tcn.org does delineate function sharply.
5 – Site promotional features
Some search engines rank found pages by how many times they are linked to by other pages. Site features that are not directly related to our business, but that are likely to be linked to by other sites, will enhance the site’s search-find ranking. (This is not the only reason to have site promotional features – others are discussed below).
The Point: While web directories and search engines co-exist on many of the same portal sites, links in web directories are chosen by editors and have to be explicitly registered. Links are put in relatively rigid classifications in the directory tree, and include a site description. The issues are similar to those for search engine results.
1 – Explicit registration
Some services offer registration to many directories simultaneously. I recommend against using them – different directories have different requirements and different trees, we will do better to tailor the entry to the top dozen sites than to scattershot to the top hundred.
2 – Clarity of page focus/different focus for
Most organizations register their top level page and that’s all. There’s no reason not to register several more pages, however, if they would fit naturally into different categories. This increases the likelihood that some page link will be seen. The new site map for TCN does separate functionality to facilitate this. It is critical to have navigation links back to the top level on all pages (except spawned response windows).
3 – Site promotional features
As with registering different pages with different functions, registering a promotional page will increase the probability that some page from TCN’s site will be seen. With promotional pages, however, we can tailor the page topic itself to target our market. (“links of interest to fund raisers”, for example, or “evaluate your NP website”)
The Point: Search engines are not the only way to get traffic to the site. Crosslinks from other related sites, news stories, advertising are all other avenues.
1 – Site
Mentioned above. Site promotional features also generate links back to the site.
2 – Press releases
News stories will generate site traffic and potential links. These can be project based (the “client stories” that are already being written), event based, or promotional feature based. The last, promotional feature-based, is most costly time-wise but potentially most fruitful. If the promotional feature is really useful enough to be recommended in the press, the back links will be permanent, not temporary.
3 – Advertising
We’ve already explored banner advertising on Lycos and thumbnail advertising on PNN. Other avenues exist, including the potential for paying for keyword placement on some search engines. These options cost serious money and should be the subject of another memo.
4 – Link swapping
We can create a list of links of interest to our target market and encourage linkees to link back to us. Those sites that charge for advertising will probably refuse – the rest will be relatively low traffic. On the other hand, it doesn’t cost much.
The sites below are search and/or directory sites. This is not a complete listing, but includes the most popular. Some are driven by the same search engine, some share directories. Note that even search-only sites have a form to add your URL explicitly, so all should be visited when registering www.tcn.org. Note also that some sites have European or Asian satellites – we need to register with ALL of those.