You’ve finished your web site, uploaded it, registered with various search engines, given them enough time to find it…

…but nobody’s finding you.

So you try Googling on some obvious search terms, and discover that you’re waaaayyyy down their list — something like the 23rd page of results, with some pretty dubious company.

The fact is, when I counted this morning, there were about a zillion web sites and a gazillion web pages online. So hoping that your next site stands out in that field can feel pretty hopeless.

Enter the world of search engine optimization, or SEO.

There are people out there who, for a fee, promise to boost you to the top page of every search engine’s results. The bad news is, a lot of these folks rely on shady tactics to get those results. For instance, they operate phony web sites called “link farms”, whose only purpose is to fool search engines into thinking a particular site is more popular than it really is. And they’re engaged in ongoing warfare with the search engines themselves, which do their best to detect such shenanigans. So any boost you get from the less honest SEO practitioners can be strictly temporary. (Not to mention what it does to your karma.)

Fortunately, there’s a second route to search engine success: give Google what it wants.

It turns out there are a number of easy-to-follow rules that help search engines track you down and see what you have to say. Better yet, many of these rules make your web site easier to use for your visitors — making it more likely they’ll link to you, which also helps to increase your search engine rankings.

There’s some great information at ProBlogger, with advice that applies well beyond the field of blogging. Among the sugggestions:

  • Settle on a few keywords that you think your potential visitors are likely to use as search terms. Use those in the address of the web page, the title, the headings, and the first few sentences of the page.
  • Don’t duplicate a lot of content. That can be a warning to search engines that you may be trying to artificially inflate your rankings. (Which you aren’t, right?)
  • Update frequently. Google seems to like sites with fresh content, and lots of it.

Since there are so many people trying to cheat the system, Google and the other search engines tend to be very cagey about just what ingredients go into the recipe for a highly-ranked site. As the blog’s author, Darren Rowse, points out,

People often ask me “how do I get ranked number one in (((insert favourite search engine here)))?”

My answer usually starts with – “I don’t really know what I’m talking about… but…

You see whilst some of my blogs rank very highly on different search engines – I often don’t really know why. Much of what I do is educated guessing and experimentation. I do read a lot of other people’s advice on the topic, but the more I read the more I realize that I’m not alone in my guess work – virtually every article I read is a “best guess” of some kind.

My main advice to people wanting to optimize their blogs for Search Engines is to keep it simple. Start with quality content on a specific topic and then tweak it using the best current advice going around.