Improved search positioning means greater exposure to targeted traffic, but few E-Biz owners really understand how to run an effective search engine optimization (SEO) campaign. According to Andy Jenkins, founder of online business forum StomperNet.com, “Your web site ranking is determined, in large part, by the quality of your content – it must be both compelling to your visitors and consumable to the search engine spiders.”
A Matter of Substance
Jenkins reveals two key practices that can help you cooperate with the search engines and give them the kind of useful information they’re after:
• Avoid Duplicate Content
When pages living on separate domains are extremely similar, the engines will classify them as “duplicate content” and rank them very poorly. One page will go in their normal index; the other will be relegated to their supplemental index, where none its value is manifested. This often poses a problem for eCommerce stores selling numerous similar items.
Every page of your web site probably has some design elements that are the same, like your navigation bar, header and footer, and any special messages, like “In Stock” or “Money Back Guarantee”. To keep from ending up in the supplemental index, you should strive to have at least more original content in your product descriptions than exists in the permanent template layout of your pages. In other words, if you have two hundred fifty words of repeating content on each page, you should also have at least two hundred fifty-one words per page of new and different content.
If writing interesting, witty descriptions of your products seems difficult, it may help to try manifesting your copy in some form of ownership. For instance, if you’re selling a box of tortellini, talk about how simple it is to cook, how good it tastes with pesto sauce, how wonderful it is to enjoy with your family around the dinner table. You’re simultaneously engaging your customers, sharing the benefits of using your product, and avoiding the mire of the supplemental index.
• Implement Latent Semantic Indexing
Search engine algorithms have grown increasingly complex over time. Optimizing your copy is no longer a matter of stuffing it with keywords: “This pasta site is the best pasta site for the pasta lover’s pasta needs.” Now, in fact, repeating a keyword or phrase too often will raise red flags, and may even cause your site to drop in the rankings.
The engines have learned to recognize the relationships between many words. So to rank well for a keyword, you need to talk about things that relate to it, also know as “latent semantic indexing”. For example, if you’re trying to rank for the keyword “pasta”, you might talk about carbs, marinara sauce, fusilli, linguini, and so forth. It’s okay to sprinkle “pasta” throughout your copy, but concentrate on using latently related words. You’re generating copy that’s interesting to the users reading it, and palatable to the engines ranking it.
(Tip: To discover keywords latently related to your keywords, perform a Google search with a tilde in front of the keyword – like “~pasta”. You’ll bring back results containing latently related words: noodles, recipes, Italian, etc.)
While the search engines regularly revise their algorithms, the basic principles of SEO remain the same. You don’t need to play games or try to trick the engines to show up in their results. Advises Jenkins, “The engines want to give users the information they’re seeking. So if you create a user-friendly site with good, valuable content, you’re going to do well – period.”