As part of our on-going Wednesday series on the 2 problems that prevent websites from producing significant online sales, today we’re discussing the first website design problem, limited traffic.  Let’s face it, without traffic, you’re not going to see significant sales.  So how do you get more traffic?  Let’s get into it.

How to get more traffic

There are many ways to get more traffic to your site but hands down, Google is the number one driver of traffic on the Web.  You can pay to have your ads listed at the top of the Google search results or you can optimize your website to get your site ranked in the free organic listings.  Or, you can even create a Google Places page to help your site be found on the map.  Over the next few months, we’ll cover each of those parts of the Google results and how to get your site into them.

Today, we’re going to begin discussing Search Engine Optimization or SEO for short.

So what is SEO?  It’s the process of making your site search-engine friendly.  There are a number of things that search engines look at when determining which sites to rank at the top of their results and which ones to relegate to the bottom.  In fact, there are more than 200 factors but some of them are more important than others.  Some things carry a lot of weight and can help you to move up significantly while other factors may only have a small effect.

No matter which factors you’re considering, the most important thing to pay attention to is the keyword research.  You see, Google will actually tell you which phrases people are using in their searches.  You can easily determine which phrases are popular and which ones are not.  Plus, you can discover new phrases that you may never have thought of.

Keyword selection is so important because if the phrases that people are searching for on Google don’t appear in your site, then your site won’t appear in the search results.  Doesn’t that make sense?  If someone is looking for “website design companies” Google is going to look into their database of all of the sites in the world that they have read through and see which ones mention “website design companies.”  The sites that don’t mention that phrase are obviously discarded and only the ones that have that phrase are returned.  The trouble is, there are millions of sites in the world that contain that phrase.  Somebody is going to be at the top of the pile and someone is going to be stuck at the bottom.

So how does Google decide who to place at the top?  That’s where the 200 factors come into play.  Their primarily concerned with providing relevant results.  Remember about 10 years ago when Google first came onto the scene and all of the results came back with questionable results.  I recall searching for something like “restaurants” and the results would come back with lots of sites that you wouldn’t want your kids to see.  What happened to the restaurant sites?  There were mixed in there.  It’s just that the other sneaky webmasters were really good at cheating their way into the listings.  Google had to clamp down.  They had to find a way to clean up the results and provide only sites that were legitimate restaurants.  Otherwise, people would have quit using Google.  Imagine where we’d be today if everyone had switched to Ask Jeeves because of the questionable results.  The world would be a very different place if Google hadn’t become what it is today.

So how did they clean up the results?   Basically, they made their mathematical formula that they use to rank site much more complicated.  This algorithm used to be fairly simple.  Initially, they’d look to see if your site had the right words in it.  If it did, they’d then see who mentioned the words the most.  That guy would win and be at the top.  But how easy is that to cheat the system?  Just add repetition.  Webmasters stooped to low levels.  It was common to do things like putting white text on a white background.  That way you could fill the site with your keyword phrase without having your readers see all of that garbage.   The problem with this simple method was that it was so easy to cheat.  You could have a website with questionable content on it and fill the background with innocent phrases like “restaurants.”  That would make Google think that the site was all about restaurants when in fact, it was about something much worse.

That practice was soon banned and the sites that engaged in those so-called “black hat” techniques found themselves at the bottom of the pile, if not completely kicked out of the results.

Since 2000, we’ve seen a number of big updates to Google’s algorithm.  Each time the sneaky webmaster figure out a way to cheat the system,  Google stays one step ahead by changing the rules.  The sites that may have ranked well before the change may fall dozens of pages.  And those that weren’t even found might be at the top overnight.

That’s a brief history of where we’ve been and why today we have so many factors to pay attention to.  Every time there’s an update, the rules get tougher and tougher and ultimately, there are more factors that Google pays attention to.  As they refine their algorithm, the process of search engine optimization gets more difficult.

Tomorrow, we’re going to delve into one of the most important factors and each week we’ll tackle another of the most important factors.  We’ll probably go through about 25 or so and then we’ll conclude the series with a number of pointers on how to create a website that converts more visitors into customers.  Until next week…

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The 2 Most Common Problems with Website Sales: Part 1

When you really think about it, there are two places where a website design can really fail to perform: The site isn't getting enough traffic or The site isn't converting its traffic into sales. Solve those two issues and you'll have a winner.  Okay.  Maybe it's not that easy, but it's true.  If you look […]