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Spiders And Your Website

By Bob McElwain
Posted Saturday, July 12, 2003

An effective website must have a clearly defined purpose. And it must lead visitors to the action you want them to take. Nothing can be allowed to interfere in this. The chance of a search engine spider liking such a site is slim to none.

Your presentation may be pointed at making a sale, generating a lead, obtaining information, etc. But it is a sales pitch. This is not what spiders are looking for; they want content. While it is unwise to ignore search engines, all must be focused on the site purpose.

To turn this around, suppose all your pages make every spider happy. And suppose all are in the top ten on most search engines. Then you would expect a ton of hits. But not a one of them would do you any good if the site fails to do its job.

Once the site is functioning as required, then the game changes. You can now think about adding great content pages that do rank well. And you can consider professional services that generate more hits. But hits to a site that don't work are meaningless.

In what follows I will use the term site to mean a new site, or a new sub site within an existing site, or simply a new page. While there are exceptions, it is unlikely such pages will rank well.

Define Your Perfect Customer

The best approach is to define every feature of your product. Then derive all benefits each feature provides. And through all this, consider all possible people who may respond to these benefits.

From this set, define the potential customer most likely to buy once your benefits are presented. Regardless of other possible buyers, focus all attention on your best prospect, your perfect customer.

If you need assistance with the above, pick up a copy of Joe Robson's book, "Make Your Words Sell." Nobody makes this task clearer than Joe does.

Targeted Keywords

This is the set of phrases your perfect customer is most likely to enter when looking for your product or one similar to it. Each must be a phrase that comes naturally to your prospect's mind.

Generic words such as music simply won't work. Even jazz is not sufficiently specific.

Building Great Pages

From the headline on each page to the last word on the last page, every single word must seek to compel your visitor to take the action you want. This is *not* the time to be thinking about search engine spiders; they are not buyers. You write with a total focus on your perfect customer and let nothing distract you from listening to whatever he or she can share with you.

Preparing For The Spiders

When the site is as ready as it can be, there are a few things you can do to help increase the ranking of these new pages. But be sure no change diminishes the effectiveness of the site in any way.

The Meta Statements

The keyword meta statement is no longer of any use in search engine positioning. Only AltaVista and Excite bother to read the tag. And it appears you get little, if any, boost from it. Some have suggested omitting it entirely. I include only those keywords that appear on the page. But I do include the tag. Search engine algorithms change constantly. Who's to say this tag will not again become relevant.

But the title and description tags do matter. Most search engines use them as you wrote them to create the listing for your page. Some do not consider them in ranking the page.

Think of the title as the headline of an ad that draws attention to the ad copy. And think of the description as the ad copy that compels the reader to click to your site. And above all, be certain a visitor who clicks on your listing finds what was expected on the page.

Back To Keywords

You may be able to do some tweaking of your pages relative to keywords. Since the keyword set evolved along with your definition of your ideal customer and the features, then benefits of your product, chances are some of these keywords are included on some pages. Or a minor change can bring this about.

Suppose you are working with a page upon which "fly fishing" occurs five times as an integral part of the pitch. While this is not sufficient repetition for a top position on any search engine, the page may rank reasonably well.

You can improve the chance of a higher ranking by including the phrase in your title tag and meta description tag, as close to the beginning of each statement as possible. Remember the title is the ad headline and the description is the ad copy; be sure rewriting does not weaken the ad. And while it may be ignored, include it first in the keyword tag as well.

Try To Add Keywords To The Page

Suppose you have the following sentence on the page: "The secret to fly fishing is the rod."

Consider adding "fly" so that it now reads, "The secret to fly fishing is the fly rod."

Adding this word does not help the pitch. But so long as it does not detract from it, we're good. If "fly rod" now occurs four times on the page, add it to the meta keyword tag. And it may be possible to slip it into the description some way, but avoid forcing it. The title and description must bring a click. It's easy to clutter them up to the point where they don't do the job.

Other Things

If you are using heading tages, it helps if keywords for the page are included in them as close to the beginning of each as possible. Some have reported good success with including them in ALT tags.

While there is only a small bit of fine tuning that can be done with a well designed site, it's worth the effort to do so. For even a small gain can improve ranking substantially.

What Matters Most

The performance of the site is the key. Rankings on search engines is way down on the priority list compared to site performance.

Only when the site is up and doing the job, is it appropriate to consider generating more hits. As suggested, content pages work. And there are those who can generate hits for you. Advertising works, but takes some time to master. Link swaps are very effective, and often overlooked.

There is literally no end to what can be done to generate more hits. But until site performance is maximized, more hits mean next to nothing.


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