Australian Shepherd  

How to Boost Your Website's Traffic
by Keeping the Search Engines Happy

Part 1 - On-Page Criteria

I thought I would start with some essential elements for improving your website traffic. After all the key element to any kind of success with your website is getting visitors to come to your site in the first place.

There are many ways to improve traffic but the best way in the beginning is to do whatever you can to bring in free traffic. There are several approaches to generating free traffic such as search engines, article submissions and directory listings.

Much of your traffic will come from people who are searching for information. Likely they are looking for information related to the particular breed of dog or service that you offer. So let's start by looking at what you can do to improve your ranking with the search engines. Primarily, that means Google, Yahoo! and MSN.

Improve Your Ranking with Search Engines

You've likely heard of companies that offer SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services. You can spend a great deal of money having them tweak your pages for you. But most of us don't really have a lot of extra money laying around for things like that. Besides there are many things you can do yourself that will make a big difference.

Since Google is by far the dominant search engine I will refer to "Google" when talking about search engines but the same principles apply to all of them more or less.

So the question becomes, "How do I improve my ranking with Google?".

There is no need to try to get fancy and try to figure out exactly what algorithms Google is using to rate the relevancy of your site to a given search term.

Google is motivated by providing the best search service possible. When someone searches for "german shepherd puppies" Google will take several factors into consideration to decide which websites are ranked high enough to get on the first page of the search results - and that's where you want to be.

I'm not saying it is an easy thing to do, or guaranteeing that you can get into that prized position but there are things you can do to give yourself a fighting chance of at least getting within the first two or three pages.

On-Page Criteria You Need to Include on Your Pages

So there are two areas that Google looks at. On-page criteria and off-page criteria. Let's start with the on-page elements. This includes everything to do with your webpage such as the file name, headlines, body copy and text links.

In order to improve your ranking your entire page should be focused on a particular topic and should provide high quality original content. So if you have a page about "dog grooming" that should be reflected in:

  • The file name: dog-grooming.html
  • Title meta tag - the page title
  • Description meta tag
  • Keyword meta tag, include "dog grooming" and a couple of variations, synonyms or misspellings, but only have about 5 tightly focused keywords or Google will think you are "stuffing" your keywords and may penalize you. (You don't want to be penalized or dropped by Google!)
  • Headline tags (H1, H2, H3 tag) - especially the first one:
    ie. Standard Poodle Dog Grooming Tips
  • Early in the body copy a couple of times including the first paragraph.
  • Peppered throughout the page (but don't overdo it).
  • In the concluding paragraghs.
  • In a text link on the page.
  • Alt tag for images should include your keyword if possible.

The Importance of Quality Content!

The importance of having high value, quality content cannot be stressed enough.

This is not only for the sake of your visitors but search engines can determine the relative value of the information on your site as well and will penalize you for having weak or thin content.

Original content is vital. Using duplicate content that can be found on many other sites is going to cost your site's ranking with search engines.

Besides, your visitors will have no reason to bookmark your site and visit you again if you do not provide real value.


So when someone goes to Google and searches for the phrase "dog grooming" your page will be seen by Google to be more relevant because it sees that from top to bottom that is what your page is all about.

I should add that you don't necessarily want to use just your primary keyword "dog grooming". Include the variations, synonyms and misspellings that you have in your keyword meta tag as well. Just be sure to keep your page focused on the main topic.

However, the phrase "dog grooming" is only an example and that actual phrase would be highly competitive so it would be very difficult to rank at the top just by using these simple optimization tips.

In your case you might be better off to narrow down the search. For example, if you have a site about German Shepherds you might optimize for "german shepherd grooming". There would be much less competition for these keywords and your site could edge out competitors who have not taken the care to properly optimize their pages.

Sometimes you have to go to the road less travelled to find success. You have to think about what people are searching for - the exact words they type into Google - then optimize your pages to match.

You can even try optimizing for common misspellings. Believe it or not I get more search traffic from the misspelling than the correct spelling of the word "shepherd". I've added misspellings to my homepage (second paragraph) just for this purpose. You might have to get creative though so you don't look like you can't spell. :-)

So while the phrase "Australian Shepherd" would be tough to win, my site comes up in the number two position in Google for "Australian Sheperd". That's second only to the United States Australian Shepherd Association and second out of over 2 million results!

Google Results for "Australian Sheperd"

Of course this won't work for all dog breeds but hopefully you can find a keyword that will be relevant to your site that is frequently misspelled.

The trick is in knowing which keywords are just too competitive for you to win in the search engine wars. But how do you know which keywords people are using to find your site? How many people are searching and how many competing websites are you up against?

Keyword Analysis Well Worth the Time and Effort

There are tools you can use such as Wordtracker that tell you which words are being searched for and how much competition there is. (They offer a free trial but they charge for their service after that.) This option might be too expensive unless your site is already making good income but there are alternatives.

I'm fortunate in this area because I use SBI! (Site Build It!) which is an entire suite of tools offered by a company called SiteSell. They provide an all-inclusive set of tools that allows anyone to build their website into a successful online business.

Thousands of people (without technical HTML programming skills) are using SBI! to research, develop and promote successful websites that not only generate traffic but are also earning them an income.

While some are making a nice part-time income others have been able to quit their day jobs and focus on their online ventures full-time using SBI! You might have other hobbies, interests and things that you are passionate about that you could turn into a real and valuable online business.

They offer an incredible array of services (hosting, forms, opt-in email, web page builder (for non-techies), site blog, RSS feeds, traffic stats, link exchange (and, believe it or not, a bunch more) that are all included with SBI - but for the purposes of this article I wanted to mention their "Brainstorm It!" tool.

Brainstorm It! lets you do keyword research and find information about hundreds of keywords. It shows you how many people are searching for a given keyword, how many competing sites there are for that keyword and a "profitability" rating which basically gives you an indication of what your odds are for ranking highly in the search engines. This lets you focus your attention on the exact phrases that are most likely to generate traffic for you.

Why do you need to do this kind of research? Because it can be surprising how just a small difference in keywords can make a huge difference in traffic. For example you might find the keywords "german shepherd training" are too competitive but "training german shepherds" could be a variation that has been overlooked by your competitors. Sometimes just the difference between the singular and plural can be dramatic.

Without SBI! and Brainstorm It! you are left in the dark about which keywords to optimize for but you will still be better off setting up your pages according to these guidelines than not doing it at all. This is a common mistake I see with many websites.

For example a dog breeder site that has a page about their new litters will be named "puppies.html" (or something like that). Of course the word "puppies" alone is almost impossible to win. At least name the page "poodle-puppies.html" or "german-shepherd-puppies.html", and then incorporate that phrase throughout your page. You get the idea.

Next Time: Off-Page Criteria You Need to Keep Google Happy

So we've taken a look at several ways you can improve your "on-page" criteria to boost your ranking with search engines. Next time we'll look at various "off-page" criteria that are essential to keeping Google and the other search engines happy with your site.

Until then start applying the guidelines above to your website, especially to any new pages you create.

All the Best,

Anton Hout

Other Resources:

Site Build It! - All Inclusive Tools for Creating a Successful Online Business

Wordtracker - Keyword Analysis Tools


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