Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Optimize your business web site for search engines


How do you get your site to come up when people search the Web for a pet sitter? Without buying advertising, your site will come up higher on the list if your site designer follows a few simple rules. Even if the designer knows what to do, you should provide some input as to what "key words," titles and descriptions are important to your business. 

Key Words
Key words are the phrases that people type into Google (or whatever search engine they use) when looking for your business. For example, "pet sitter, San Diego." This is more important than your business name because someone who doesn't know you will not search for the business name; they will be looking for the service they need, probably based on the area served. Other key words might be "dog walker," "dog boarding" or "cat sitter." Use lower case for your keywords. If you use upper and lower case, only sites that also do the same will come up. Use lower case, and search engines will give you both upper and lower case words. NEVER use all caps in key words or on the site.

Try entering different search terms into Google and see what comes up. The results will give you an idea of what are the best words to use. Remember, the first four or five entries are paid advertisers – companies who pay for their name to come up when someone uses those specific key words. You can pay too, but optimize your site before you even think about buying words.  

Headings and alt tags
Once you figure out what your most important key words are, what do you do with them? Incorporate them into your site. The main headline on your first (index) page should include your most important keywords. For example: "Poway Pet Care: pet sitter, dog walker in Poway, CA." The secondary heading, or subhead, might be "Dog and cat care in your home while you are on vacation." Then the following paragraphs could include key words like birds, fish horses, etc. 

I will assume there is a graphic header at the top of each page (The blue box at the top of my page shown above with script type is a graphic). If it's a graphic, the search engines can't read it, so you need to add an "alt" tag in the hidden code. The alt tag will restate what the graphic shows, like "Poway Pet Sitting by Terry Albert." You can't see it, but the search engines can. Also, visually impaired visitors to your site will have an audio set-up that reads the alt tags to them. You sometimes can see the alt tags if a photo doesn't load, or while a page is loading.

Give every photo on your page an alt tag that helps sell your business. "Floppy is eating carrots" doesn't cut it. "Poway Pet Sitting cares for rabbits" gives the search engines some useful information. 

Meta description and key words
Every site should have meta tags embedded in the code. This is an approx. 75 word description of your site that comes up on the search engine listing, under the name of your site. If you don't do it, the first couple of sentences on your index page will come up. Also add meta listing of key words in the header of your page code. Meta tags don't show on the actual page, but they help describe your site. Write these yourself, and have your designer incorporate them into every page of your site.

Yes, I said every page. Optimize every page of your site so the search engines will list more pages and give you more exposure. You can use different meta tags on every page. 

Page titles
Another trick is to name each page carefully. "aboutme.html" tells nobody anything. "about-terry-albert.html" is more descriptive, and can increase your rankings. Each page also has a unique title that shows in the tabs at the top of your browser, and across the top of the browser window. Look at each page of my site; the title tells you what each page is about.

Site map
One page of your site should be a site map. Mine is at http://www.terryalbert.com/site_map.html This list helps the search engine figure out how your site is organized. 

Use links to your advantage
Use text links to other pages on your site as well as graphic links. If you simply must have cute little graphic dog bones with the name of each link, add text links across the bottom of every page. Give the links a descriptive name, for example: "Dog boarding," "Dog day care," "Pet sitting prices" rather than "Boarding", "Day Care" and "Prices." And of course, add an alt tag for every dog bone graphic link. 

The more outside links that come into your site, the higher you will rank in the search results. Get other people to link to you: friends, family, your site designer (on their portfolio page :). Better yet, get listed on some referral pages through whatever pet sitting associations you belong to. Start a blog or post on other people's blogs, and include a link to your site. Include your site address at the bottom of every email you send so you'll get more visitors and gain credibility.

Last, and most important, submit your site to the different search engines so they will find you, review the site, and include you in the rankings. Here is a link to Google's: http://www.google.com/webmasters/start/

Click on the title at the top to see the search results and where my site comes up in the listing. I'm very happy to be on the first page of the results.

1 comment:

Kris said...

Thank you very much for this useful information. You made it clear and simple to understand. I am anxious to incorporate some of your tips into my own website. Thank you also for your dedication to helping your fellow comrades in this industry. It is pet care providers like you who add the capital "P" to Professionalism. ~Kris

Kris Elig, P.P.S.
Professional Pet Sit, Inc.
& Healthy Pet Products
(619) 287-0027
Note_from_kris@hotmail.com
www.ProfessionalPetSit.com
www.Holistic4Pets.com