How to get to the top of search engines

It’s not enough to just have a Web site these days. Successful businesses have to actively work to achieve top search engine rankings for desired keyword phrases that will drive targeted traffic to their site.

Promoting your Web site online requires several related tracks. It involves making sure your site is full of lots of great content (content refers to the text, photos video — the “substance” of your site), optimizing the code and text for the correct keyword phrases, maintaining a presence on social media sites and getting other Web sites to link to yours. So how do you get started?

Start with your keyword phrases. If you’re going to invest time and money into optimizing your site, you want to be sure you know you’re targeting the correct phrases. Are more people typing in “nh web designer,” “new hampshire web site design” or “nh web design?” Use Google’s Keyword Tool ( to find out that the term “nh web design” was searched for NINE TIMES more often than “nh web site design” during the month of June. Use this tool to research keyword phrases for your Web site and make a list of your top 10.

Then it’s time to do some competitive analysis. Search for each of these phrases in Google, and print out the top 10 results for each phrase. Make a note as to which of your online competitors appear in these search results. Does your site show up for any of these searches? If it does, that’s great, but your goal is to be number one because the number one position gets about 42 percent of all the clicks. Visit each of the competing Web sites that show up in the top five. Spend some time looking at their site and their content. Compare your site to these sites. Does your site look better? Is it easier to navigate? Does it offer more content?

If your competitors’ sites offer more content and have a more polished look and feel, you should focus on improving yours to make it the best site relevant to your industry.

Make comparisons

Assuming your Web site is on par with your competitors, it’s time to look at some more factors that have put your competition on top. A major factor that raises a site’s ranking is the number of other Web sites that link to it. If your competitors have 10 times as many Web sites pointing to them as you do, then it’s likely their site will rank higher. Think of each of those links as a “vote” in the eyes of the search engines. More votes ultimately mean more potential traffic.

Use a free tool called Yahoo Site Explorer ( to research two things about your site and your competitors. Enter in a domain name, yours or a competitor, and see how many Web pages are acknowledged or indexed by Yahoo. In addition, notice how many Web sites are linking or voting for that domain name. You’ll get a list of Web pages with two buttons with numbers at the top of your screen. The Pages button tells you how many Web pages have been discovered by Yahoo, and the Inlinks button tells you how many Web pages are pointing to this domain name.

Compare your competitor’s Web site to your site, and if you’re short on indexed pages and links, look for additional opportunities to generate more content and more Web sites to vote or link to your site.

If you have ever searched for something with a geographical factor like “nh hotels,” then you may have noticed that a small map with pushpins appears in the search results. This is called Local Search. If you’re a business with local customers you want to make sure you’re listed in the Local Search directories. A free site at will help you ensure your listings are accurate.

What about social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook? They undoubtedly offer more value to some businesses. For consumer-centric businesses, however, they’re a great way to connect with current and future customers online.

There is no silver bullet to move your Web site to the top of the search engines. It takes time and hard work, but the results are well worth the effort. If you’d like to learn more about search engine optimization, there are plenty of Web sites and books like “Search Engine Optimization: An Hour a Day” by Jennifer Grappone and Gradiva Couzin to help you learn more.

<font size=1>Richie O’Brien is owner of Mirror Lake Interactive. She can be reached at 888-619-6627 or mirrorlake </font size>