Writing for the Web

by John Almberg, Identry LLC, May 2007

A robot visited your website today.

In fact, there was probably a crowd of them. They've even got names like Slurp, CazoodleBot, SBIder, and Googlebot. And unlike many nasties on the Internet, you want these robots to visit your site.

They are the legions of robots sent out by search engines to find your web pages and rank them against your competitor's pages.

Their mechanical 'thumbs up' can push your page to the top of the search engine results; a thumbs down can kick it to the back of the pack, where no collector will ever find it. That can cost you real money.

So what can you do to get these influential robots working on your side?

Don't dis the bots!

A search engine robot's job is to help people find the best pages. They are programmed with high 'ethical standards' and are easily offended by attempts to scam them. You might fool them for awhile with optimization 'tricks', but when discovered, they can ban your site completely. So the first rule of thumb is “Don't dis the robots!”.

The second rule is your #1 audience is collectors, not search engine robots. When robots compare a page with lots of useful information written in a natural way for people, against a page that has been unnaturally stuffed full of keywords, they'll rank the natural page higher than the obviously 'optimized' page.

The third rule is that the fundamental units of data on the web are pages and links, not websites. Robots rank each page of your website individually.

The reason is simple. If you were a collector searching for a “Scott #330 plate block” where would you rather be sent? To a dealer's home page, where you'd have to start hunting through his on-line catalog? Or to the exact page in the catalog where the block is displayed?

Try searching for “Scott #330 plate block”, yourself. As I write this, the 4th result on Google is one of my clients (plateblockstamps.com) and the link brings you not to Dick's home page, but to the page where you can buy his #330 plate block.

The robot's focus on individual pages makes your job easier. Instead of struggling to cram 20 keywords onto your home page (potentially raising a robotic red-flag), you can write 10 different pages, with their own topics and keywords.

So the fourth rule of thumb is use two or three keywords for each page. I recommend one high-competition keyword and one or two low-competition keyword. You want to rank high for the highly competitive keyword, because that's where the money is. But that can take years. Meanwhile, you can attract traffic with low competition keywords.

Now, what can you do, today, to optimize your home page for the 2 or 3 keywords at the top of your keyword value pyramid? Here are some ideas:

5 Keyword Hot Spots

Page Title Tag: The most important part of a page is its Page Title Tag. It's displayed in the Title Bar of your browser.

The Page Title should contain your keywords, be readable to customers, and appeal emotionally. Titles like 'Home Page', or 'Welcome to Acme Stamps' are common, but don't help your rankings

Say you wanted to optimize your home page for two keywords: the highly competitive 'United States Stamps' and the relatively low-competition 'Graded Stamps'. You want the title to be readable, evoke an emotional response, and include your company name, too.

In that case, a good Page Title might be “Top Quality United States Stamps from GradedStamps.com”. And that's the title of Steve's home page.

Internal Links: These are links that point to other pages in your website. Ideally, internal links should be text, not graphics, and the link text should contain one of the keywords that the linked-to page is optimized for.

A good example would be something like this: “You might be interested in reading our article on Zeppelin Covers”.

Not like this: “To read our article on Zeppelin Covers, click here

Using a keyword in the link text will improve the relevancy of both pages.

And while you're at it, double-check to make sure all the links work! Robots quickly lose interest in a site that's full of broken links. Use a link checker like the free W3C Link Checker to find them.

Wrapping Up

Alas, I am out of space for this month, so we will pick it up next month with the final three keyword Hot Spots: Outbound Links, Navigation, and Page Copy.

In the meantime, you can visit  Identry's Search Engine Optimization Tools page for more details and links to additional resources. And if you have any specific questions about your own website, please shoot me an email at john@identry.com. And have a great month Selling Stamps on the Web!