A search engine strategy should aim to encompass three broad areas:
- Content research and creation
- Structuring content within the site
- Building inbound links
There is no correct order in which to undertake these areas - some people prefer not to have any inbound links until their content is "finished", whereas others start with link building as it takes so long to both do, and to have an effect.
My approach varies with the project, but ideally I would aim to create content and build links in parallel, within a site structure which allows for a large volume of content to be added over time. With a successful site, content creation and link building will probably be an ongoing process which will continue for the lifetime of the site.
Content Research and Creation
The first job is to research keyphrases which people may be searching on in order to find your product or service. Three useful tools are:
Each tool has strengths and weaknesses, I tend to use all of them for serious research.
It is unlikely that you will find a finite number of phrases, generally the more you research, the more avenues you will find which will require further exploration as time allows.
It is important to keep in mind that over half the searches made on Google are unique!
You will need to create a page for each keyphrase you decide to target - one keyphrase, one page. This usually means creating a lot of pages!
When creating a page of content from your keyphrase, there are a number of things that a search engine will look at to determine what that page is about:
- Inbound link text
- Title tag
- Heading tags
- Meta tags
- The rest of the text on the page
Each of the above is an opportunity to tell a search engine what your page is about - but if you overdo it, you may be penalised!
As a rough rule, if it looks and reads ok to a human, you're probably alright.
Structuring Content Within the Site
The aim here is to distribute the PR that your homepage will have as efficiently as possible throughout your site.
PR (page rank) is related to the number of inbound links you have, and the quality of those links. A higher PR can increases a page's position in the results.
To see the PR of your site, and other sites, download the Google Toolbar.
In an ideal world, each page will have it's own inbound links and PR, but in reality this is often neither possible nor necessary.
Google suggest that you have no more than between 50 and 100 links per page. Simplistically speaking, a page's PR will decrease with each click from the homepage, so you are looking for a structure which will give you the least number of clicks to each page, whilst staying within the links per page limit.
Competitive terms will require more PR to get to the top, so you may want to introduce a degree of irregularity in your structure to allow you to distribute more PR to specific pages at the expense of other pages.
For more on how PR is calculated, see this document.
One of the easiest ways to distribute PR without disrupting your site is to use a site map linked off the homepage. Obviously, this will add another click in the journey to each page, when compared with a structure that is actually incorporated within the homepage, such as DMOZ's.
Remember that it is within this structure that you are using link text to reinforce the subject of a page through internal links.
Building Inbound Links
This is the most challenging part of the strategy, and the part where you either have to put in a lot of hard work, or think creatively!
There are a number of ways of getting inbound links:
- Exchanging reciprocal links with other sites
- Buying one way links
- Having something so novel about your site that people link to it anyway
At the moment I would speculate that inbound links from authority sites such as DMOZ and the BBC are essential for competitive terms. Even for non-competitive terms, you may need a few good links in order to get things moving.
See Hilltop for more on this.
From Google's point of view, they are looking for links from sites which don't hand them out unless a site is worthy, i.e. not for money, or as the result of a link exchange.
Hence, getting some media coverage in the online media is possibly the best way of kick-starting an inbound link campaign.
However, for your particular niche, there maybe lots of other ways of getting inbound links from quality, related sites.
If you have any questions or comments relating to this document, please get in touch.